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Clearwater sticks by offshore markers

Published Oct. 1, 1996|Updated Sep. 16, 2005

Jim Martin likes to vent his frustrations by running along the beach.

On a recent afternoon, the Clearwater lawyer decided to veer from the street and run along the sand. That's when he saw them.

"I look up, and I see all these sticks out there," Martin said. "They're sticks; they're awful-looking."

Martin's complaints concern a line of wood pilings the city has sunk about 300 feet offshore to separate swimmers from boaters.

Jutting 12 feet out of the water, the pilings stretch north from the jetty at the Adam's Mark Caribbean Gulf Resort to about Somerset Drive, said Bill Held, the city's harbor master. Each piling has two signs alerting people to the swimming area. They are marked with reflective tape so they can be seen at night.

"If I were a foreign tourist, there's no way I'm going to understand what that means anyway," Martin said of the signs, which are written in English.

Held said the pilings were installed to replace a line of buoys that used to rope off the swimming area. The buoys had been difficult to maintain because they were often destroyed by the surf and would break loose in rough weather.

Missing buoys, or buoys that had been pulled out of place, blurred the line between swimmers and boaters, making it easier for them to wander into each other's paths, Held said.

"These pilings, they don't move," he said. "As far as we're concerned, it has made the swimming area safer."

Fred Bruder, the supervisor at Sand Key Park, said the pilings are being considered there for the same reasons Clearwater Beach uses them. The buoys off the key are difficult to maintain. The city of Clearwater is responsible for them.

Like Clearwater Beach, Sand Key Park is a popular spot for sunset watchers and people who want to play on 95 acres of unspoiled beachfront. Bruder said no decision on the pilings has been made because of one chief concern.

"We're just not sure yet of the aesthetics," he said.

Martin, an avid sunset watcher, said the poles have ruined his view.

"I don't care where you stand, one of them is going to be in your field of vision," he said.

He is upset that Clearwater has the pilings when other beaches, such as St. Pete Beach, don't have them.

"You don't see sticks down there," Martin said. "Why is it any more dangerous on Clearwater Beach then it is on St. Pete Beach?"

Martin has written a letter to the city about the pilings. Held said he hasn't seen it.

Held said the city bought about 15 pilings for $130 each. Putting them in didn't require City Commission approval, but the project was reviewed by City Manager Betty Deptula and the city's seven-member Marine Advisory Board, Held said. The pilings were installed during the past three months.

"Personally, I don't think it destroys the view," Held said. "It makes Clearwater Beach safer."

Deptula said the poles aren't an eyesore. Recently, she was at Pier 60, where the city is spending more than $1-million to build a park, and looked right past the pilings.

"I can't say that they were obvious in my view," Deptula said. "I was not concentrating on them."

Other people have missed them, too.

"I haven't noticed them, they don't block any view of mine," said Diane Anderson, a weekend vendor on the pier.

Cheryll Wing of Crystal Beach, a regular visitor to the beach, agrees. "(The pilings) are too little. It's telling you where it's safe to swim and I think it's a good thing."

Martin said he wants to strike a deal with the city.

If it takes down the signs, Martin has offered free legal services if the city is sued for not warning people about where to swim.

"I am serious," Martin said.

Martin's opinion about the poles is not to be swayed.

"I tend to be a relatively calm person and one of the joys of living in Clearwater Beach is the serenity of the water," he said. "I look at this gift that has been given to us and now what I see is bureaucratic stupidity with sticks."

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