MADEIRA BEACH — Renovation of the 1930s-era Snack Shack at Archibald Park began this week, but reopening the building to the public still could be a long way off.
The City Commission has authorized spending $52,500 to renovate the aging log cabin, treat it for termites and bring it up to code, but no decision has been made on how the building will be used.
Most of the work, which is expected to be completed by December, will upgrade the building's interior, including replacement and/or repair of insulation, drywall, doors, flooring and painting.
In addition, some $200,000 set aside in the city's capital improvement budget will be used to refurbish the surrounding beachfront Archibald Park. Work would include a complete redesign and new landscaping, new restrooms, public shelters, beach walkovers and lighting. The parking lot will also be redesigned.
This week, the commission was scheduled to discuss appointments to the Archibald Ad Hoc Committee — a group that will be charged with compiling suggestions on how the Snack Shack could be used by the public.
So far, 10 residents have applied for appointment to the committee.
Among the applicants are Eddie Lee, who led the Save Our Snack Shack referendum drive last spring, and Maureen Cadzow, a staunch opponent of any commercial development of the park.
An overwhelming vote in the March citizen-sponsored referendum mandated that the city repair and reopen the Snack Shack to the public.
That vote culminated a long and politically contentious debate over the future of the building and the surrounding park.
Several years ago, a city plan to renovate the Snack Shack as a "destination restaurant" collapsed when the U.S. Interior Department ruled the building could only be used to support recreational uses of the beach park.
That idea ended up costing the city $500,000 to settle a lawsuit with the concessionaire.
The Snack Shack then sat vacant for years until the commission decided in 2007 to tear it down.
Residents organized to protest the demolition, arguing that the Snack Shack was a historic building.
They eventually collected enough signatures on a "Save the Snack Shack" petition to force the voter referendum requiring the city to protect the Snack Shack and restore the structure for public use.
The referendum also called for the city to consider public-private partnerships in financing future development of Archibald Park and the Snack Shack building.
Archibald Park was originally donated to the federal government in the 1930s.
In 1972, the Interior Department deeded Archibald Park and its log cabin to the city, with the provision that it be used for public recreation.
The city converted the building to a beach-related snack shack for beachgoers and operated for years by the Disabled American Veterans.
Over the years, Alex Archibald, a descendent of one of the original property owners, repeatedly challenged the transfer deed that allowed recreation-related concessions, arguing that the original donation to the Interior Department in 1931 prohibited any commercial use on the property.
Archibald wanted the city to amend its 1972 quitclaim deed to conform to the original 1931 deed. If the city were to do so, it could prohibit any type of concessions on the beach, including the sale of food or beach umbrellas.
The city has shown no interest in making such a deal with Archibald.