TREASURE ISLAND — About $25,000 in landscaping is ready to be installed next to the city's beach trail, but it appears some hotel owners are dragging their feet, reluctant to commit to taking care of trees they think might disturb their gulf view.
The city wants to install clusters of palms along with ground plantings in the 5-foot area often referred to as "no-man's-land" to the west of the 3-foot-wide beach trail. The Treasure Island Islettes, a women's civic club, has donated the money for the project.
Years ago, the city went to court claiming it owned the property behind the hotels on Gulf Boulevard despite the fact that the hotels had said it was private property. The court ruled in the city's favor but said improvements hotel owners had made prior to the ruling could stay.
Over the years, the area has sometimes been described as an eyesore and people like former Mayor and City Commissioner Julian Fant, now on the city's vision stewardship committee, have wanted to improve the property.
"It's a jewel in the rough," Fant said. "It would be a tremendous asset to property owners to improve that area."
Fourteen clusters will be planted in the next few weeks in front of 10 to 12 properties where owners have agreed to irrigate, said Jim Murphy, director of public works. Money is available for approximately 30 clusters.
The city doesn't have the equipment to provide irrigation for the landscaping until it becomes established and is asking hotel owners to do it.
Right now some businesses like Sloppy Joe's restaurant have installed landscaping right out to the beach walk. But others haven't and some properties use the area as storage.
Fant and his wife, Millie, a member of the Islettes, are hoping to meet with reluctant hotel owners to convince them that landscaping is in their best interest.
"This is the front yard. This is what people come to Florida for," he said, looking out at the sprawling white sand beaches to the west of the beach trail.
"They don't want any of their view blocked, but we can put them (palm clusters) between the hotels," Millie Fant said. "Maybe we could put one planting in and let them see what it will look like."
But one beachfront hotel owner, who said he hasn't been asked to participate, isn't sure it would benefit his hotel.
"We have six palm trees and an Australian pine back there, there isn't any room," said Kevin McInerney, owner of the Windjammer. "People call that area no-man's-land but we have maintained it since 1955."
Murphy doesn't think the current problems with the cracking beach trail would prohibit plantings, since there is a buffer area between the trail and the landscaping. He also isn't sure why some hoteliers have an issue with the project.
"The trees are paid for and the city is doing the installation," he said. "It's only going to benefit them."