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Benderson Park undergoes more than $3 million in hurricane repairs

Work at the Sarasota County park is expected to be complete by April 1 in time for the competitive season.

The south boat ramp and southern shoreline are set to be repaired.
The south boat ramp and southern shoreline are set to be repaired.
Photo by Ian Swaby
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While Nathan Benderson Park is expected to finish repair work by the next racing season, a Sarasota County official said it will cost as much as $1.5 million to fix the wave attenuator.

The damage was caused by Hurricane Ian Sept. 28-29.

The wave attenuator is a floating metal bridge where part of the attenuator is above water and part of it is underwater. It is meant to reduce waves that would cause havoc during rowing or paddling races.

The wave attenuator goes from the south end of the lake and runs northward just over a mile.

Nicole Rissler, director of Parks, Recreation, and Natural Resources with Sarasota County Government, said IMG Construction, which built the attenuator, will handle the repairs.

She said the damage to the attenuator involves its connecting sections. 

“It’s like really large Legos,” she said.

She said some connections were mangled and would have to be repaired, while in other cases, the entire piece was destroyed and would have to be replaced. She said in some cases, the bumpers and slopes which stop the waves, were damaged. 

The repairs will require new components to be manufactured and transported to the site. 

While most components of the attenuator are above water, Rissler said some work will need to be performed underwater. She said once the contractor has assessed the situation, more details will be available on how the repairs will be completed. 

Rissler said all the repair work to the park and the race course should be completed by April 1, when racing picks up.

The other expensive part of the project will be the stabilization of the southern end of the lake along with the starting area for races.

Sarasota County, which owns the park, already had budgeted $517,803 for shore stabilization efforts due to damage from Hurricane Irma in 2017. That project began on Aug. 15.

Hurricane Ian then further damaged the south end of the lake with the price tag for repairs now set at $1.6 million.

The original project used limestone rocks and sheet piling along the shoreline to help resolve the erosion, which Rissler said were likely the same materials that would be provided in the new work that needs to be done.

The section of shoreline between the southern boat ramp and the start line will still have to go out to a new bid to be managed in a longer-term fashion as it was not part of the original contract, she said.

While the current situation isn't able to host racing events, recreational users of the park have been able to use the trails in the area along with being able to launch boats from the island.

Missing panels in the wave attenuator resulted in a bridge no longer providing access to the attenuator.
Photo by Ian Swaby

Rissler said the county has been moving as quickly as possible.

“We’re actually very happy with where we stand today as far as repairs being completed, as well as those major contracts being put in place for the bigger repairs,” she said.

Additionally, she said other actions have been taken to improve the park. Landscaping damaged by Hurricane Ian has been repaired, with trees either being removed or returned to their upright positions.

Other repairs

In order for competitions to take place, other repairs as well will be needed to the race course. 

Those repairs will be managed by Timothy Royalty at a price of $78,000. 

One damaged component is the floating launch platform for boats, which Rissler said has been removed from the water and will need to be replaced.

On the course, buoys that serve as competition lanes, have been damaged. Those include a network of cables anchoring then to the bottom of the lake.

Fencing can be found in front of the southern shoreline at Nathan Benderson Park.
Photo by Ian Swaby

Rissler said the mechanism for timing rowers has been damaged. It connects to the start line, with wiring and fiber running through the wave attenuator. Therefore, those components will have to be complete before the use of the course is restored.  

Rissler said that while the kind of erosion suffered from Hurricane Ian was the same type caused by Hurricane Irma, it was much worse this time. As with Irma, she said, the length of the 3.6-mile lake allowed waves to gain significant force as they travelled toward the shore.

Rissler said the county has created an emergency amendment to its existing agreement with Earth Tech Enterprises, Inc.

“If we were originally going to bring 10 truckloads of rock in, now we're bringing 20 truckloads in, so it’s just exponential what they will need to do,” she said.

The original project had called for a temporary sidewalk along World Championship Drive which would fix erosion beneath the current sidewalk. However, Rissler said there are currently no plans for a sidewalk.

Rissler said there is no timeline for the ramp. 

“Every day we get things checked off the list,” she said. “My hope is that we will have a lot of our components ready to go on April 1.”



Ian Swaby

Ian Swaby is the Sarasota neighbors writer for the Observer. Ian is a Florida State University graduate of Editing, Writing, and Media and previously worked in the publishing industry in the Cayman Islands.

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