Settlement specifies Beer Can Island must remain natural

skennedy@bradenton.comJanuary 22, 2014 

LONGBOAT KEY -- Officials have signed a settlement agreement to restrict the type of erosion control devices used at Longboat Key's Beer Can Island.

A large permanent groin designed to slow beach erosion will be omitted from a state permit in order to keep Beer Can Island in its natural state, according to former Manatee County Commissioner Joe McClash, who was a party to the settlement.

The Manatee-Sarasota Group of the Sierra Club and the town of Longboat Key were other parties who signed settlement papers late last week about the property, also known as Beer Can Beach and as Greer Island.

The town may build two smaller, permeable adjustable groins in the vicinity of North Shore Drive, but will forego the large permanent one planned

for Longboat Pass, according to the settlement.

"Driving over the bridge, going south, you see the island currently in a natural state," McClash said. "It would have had a concrete structure going out the size of a football field."

The settlement was reached as a formal hearing slated for Wednesday approached, officials said.

Longboat Key officials were at a meeting Tuesday and unavailable for comment.

Sierra Club members were relieved the matter has been resolved, said Sandra Ripberger, chairwoman of the club's Manatee County Conservation Committee.

"We are very pleased this will keep Greer Island ... in a natural state," she said. "We do believe it will not be as harmful to wildlife, including sea turtles and manatees, if that groin is not built."

The permanent groin would have been 300 feet long, she said.

"These groins really should be analyzed and researched, so the efficacy can really be determined before communities invest in such huge expenditures," Ripberger said.

McClash and the Sierra Club challenged the town's plans, arguing the huge groin would have disturbed recreational activities at Bee Can beach, where boaters have enjoyed the water and the glam scenery for many years.

In 1974, the state sold the area to Manatee County for $10, according to legal documents compiled two years ago by the county attorney's office.

"The foregoing property shall be kept in its natural state in perpetuity and preserved as a natural wilderness recreational area and wildlife preserve," the deed reads.

Sara Kennedy, Herald reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7031. Follow her on Twitter @sarawrites.

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