By Suzy Kridner
NEW SMYRNA BEACH - The new floating dock at Riverfront Park has been completed just in time for a water taxi to stop there as it comes down the river from Ponce Inlet.
Assistant City Manager Khalid Resheidat said recently a license agreement was worked out with Matt Dvorak of Daytona Beach Aqua Safari and it will be on the Oct. 16 New Smyrna Beach City Commission agenda.
Pending approval, Mr. Dvorak said he hopes to begin operating the water taxis as soon as possible.
Later this month, New Smyrna Beach and Volusia County elected officials and others from the Florida Inland Navigation District will cut the ribbon on the Riverside Park seawall, pier and lighting improvement project. The event will be at 10 a.m., Monday, Oct. 29, on the east side of the Brannon Center, 105 S. Riverside Drive.
One of the goals of the Riverside Park project was improved boater access to the park from the Intracoastal Waterway, according to Tony Otte, Community Redevelopment Agency director.
"Today the dock and park are accessible to all recreational boaters by way of a 50-foot, ADA-compliant floating dock and gangway," Mr. Otte said.
Anglers also will notice new handrails equipped with rod holders. New sidewalks and lighting fixtures also have been installed throughout the park.
The total cost of the Riverside Park project, including design and construction was $1.068 million, Mr. Resheidat said.
It was funded by the County of Volusia and the City of New Smyrna Beach through the CRA and navigation district.
The water taxi service could be operating by the day of the ribbon-cutting ceremony.
"In lieu of fees, we are using the boats for advertising for the city," said Mr. Resheidat. Advertising also will be on the company vans.
In addition to loading and unloading passengers at Riverside Park, which is at the foot of Canal Street, one of the city's two major business districts, other areas for water-taxi stops are being considered in the city.
Wayne Heller, owner of the Riverview Hotel, said he would like to see a water taxi stop at the end of Flagler Avenue, the city's other major shopping area.
"We are moving forward with the water taxi," Mr. Dvorak said.
"The city has made concessions to help us and we have agreed, in lieu of rent, to give them some advertisement for the Loop."
He hopes it's a mutually beneficial agreement.
Mr. Dvorak said he plans stops in Ponce Inlet at Lighthouse Boatyard, Down the Hatch and Inlet Harbor restaurants.
Director of Operations Paige Stuart recently moved here from Michigan and is ready to launch the Water Taxi Express.
Tickets will be $15 for an all-day pass. Three or four two-hour loops will be made each day. Tickets for children 3-12 are $10 and those under three are free.
She said there's parking at 4936 S. Peninsula Drive, Ponce Inlet, and also ample parking at Down the Hatch and Inlet Harbor.
Parking also will be available in New Smyrna Beach.
Information is available at watertaxiexpress.com.