TAMPA — When four friends bought the popular Tampa area boating destination known as Beer Can Island in December and decided to keep it open to the public, they knew ownership would not be all fun and games.
Still, they admit, they were not fully prepared for one of the cleaning duties: Toilet paper and human feces litter the bushes after busy days.
Owning an island is a dirty job, it turns out. Real dirty.
"You have no idea," said co-owner Cole Weaver, 32, with a groan. "It’s not pretty, and it’s not fun to clean. Sometimes we have 1,000 people here in a day."
So, this summer, the island will welcome a new addition: bathrooms.
But the facilities come at a cost.
Starting July 1, the owners say overnight camping will no longer be free, as was allowed by an absentee former owner.
One-night passes will cost $10 per person and include a free beverage or sandwich.
Initially, season passes will sell for $35 per person. Once 300 are sold the cost will rise, first to $40 and then to $60 after July 1, the owners said. Minors can camp for free with parents.
The passes are expected to be sold weekends at the floating tiki bar parked right off the coast of the 7-acre island.
Passes also include bathroom access. For those who don’t want to camp or use the bathrooms, no pass is needed and access to the island remains free.
"I don’t know anyone who would want to clean those bathrooms for free," said Weaver, who said he and his co-owners will be lugging barrels of waste to shore. The island lacks power or plumbing.
Owners paid just $63,650 for the island, which is legally known as Pine Key and located between Apollo Beach and MacDill Air Force Base.
Pass proceeds will go toward future island improvements, including security, solar power and dock restoration, the owners said.
And all campers will be required to sign a liability waver to protect the owners from lawsuits.
Over the weekend there was online outrage when the owners of the island rolled out the new policies. Initially, the owners hoped they would not have to add any fees to island usage, they said.
"We need to offset the cost of improvements to island and the liability insurance that comes with it," said co-owner Russell Loomis, 40.
And as more amenities and activities are added to the island, the passes will provide discounts.
"Owning an island doesn’t happen often," said co-owner James Wester, 40. "There is a learning curve."
Contact Paul Guzzo at [email protected] Follow @PGuzzoTimes.