- August 19, 2022
Kayakers and paddleboarders now have a designated place to land on Greer Island, though the idea hasn't immediately caught on with powerboat operators.
On a portion of the sand east of the Longboat Pass Bridge, Manatee County leaders added signs to the area affectionately known among locals as Beer Car Island.
“I think it’s a good move in the right direction,” said north-end Longboat Key resident Tom Mayers. “All they have to do is enforce it, and nobody is saying we want (police) to put people in handcuffs and haul them off to the jail.”
Mayers said he’s seen people anchor their boats on Greer Island between the signs that designate the area for nonmotorized vessels, such as paddleboards and kayaks. He said he offered his input to the Town Commission.
“I told them they need to make nice-looking signs,” Mayers said. “It should be like Disney World instead of like downtown Bradenton.”
Powerboat operators are welcome to continue beaching west of the kayak areas.
Manatee County Information Outreach Manager Bill Logan said the county added the signs at the request of the town. Logan said it is the third iteration of signs at Greer Island. It took about a year for the town and county to agree upon the language used for the signs.
Town Commissioner Maureen Merrigan explained the benefits of the new idea.
“It keeps access to that cove open, and it also is pulling boats out of the cove,” Merrigan said. “There’s a lot of seagrass back there. That’s actually where we’ve had manatees breed back there.”
Months ago, Longboat Key Turtle Watch Vice President Cyndi Seamon said she was called about a manatee in distress near Greer Island.
“There was a manatee in the lagoon area, and they would go into that area between the bridge and the sandbar, and of course that attracts boaters,” Seamon said.
A Longboat Key Marine patrol officer had to advise boaters to stay a safe distance away.
“It’s a good thing anytime you can give an area of nonmotorized activity area (of) the manatee to hang out,” Seamon said of the new signs.
Merrigan said the signs also move boats, and the noise that comes with them, away from north-end homes.
“People come with a lot of noise and they’re having a party, it just starts to move them away and moves the boats a little further away from the residents,” Merrigan said. “It serves a lot of things, but it took forever to get done.”
Loud noise coming from boaters prompted the town to make changes to its sound ordinance in January.
The town’s new noise rules are two-fold: establishing a plainly audible standard of 50 feet of distance and developing decibel-level requirements.
For residential zones, mixed-use communities, tourism areas, open space, office institutional zones, waterways or public right of way:
For commercial zones:
The Town Code states anyone not in compliance with the town’s sound rules is given a warning by police or code enforcement. However, Longboat Key Code Enforcement Officer Chis Kopp said the town has the authority to issue citations for failure to comply as follows:
Violations stay on the town record for five years. For example, if someone gets a citation this year for $100, they would get a $250 fine for a second offense in 2026.
The town does allow for noise exceptions, such as property maintenance from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., golf courses, special events with a permit and vessel engines.
Merrigan said she is among the north-end residents who have used the canal to temporarily dock a boat on the weekends near her North Shore Road property.
“(There are) no boats that are there full time,” Merrigan said.
A challenge of navigating the canal is its comparatively shallow depth for most conventional boats.
“To some degree, if you have a house along the canal, if you can’t use the canal, it devalues the house in a big way,” Merrigan said.
Mayers explained how the issues of navigating the canal near his family’s property go back years. In 2021, the town paid $81,755 for an emergency dredge on Canal 1A. Later in the year, the town added several north-end rock groins on the Gulfside of Greer Island for sand stabilization as part of its $36 million beach renourishment project.
“They dredged the channel and now the channel is filled back in,” Mayers said. “They’re right back where they were three years ago, but it took a year or two to get the channel permitted.”
Mayers said he thinks the new signs will help if the town enforces the rules.
“There is a history of people just wanting to say, ‘Hey, this is a public beach, we’re the public, (and) we’re going to do what we want to do,’” Mayers said.
Mayers and Seamon said they have seen boaters with obscenities printed on flags.
“We’ve got kids,” Mayers said. “Our kids, we tell them not to talk like that.”
Mayers said he would like to see the Longboat Key Police Marine Patrol occasionally come by to let people if they’re in violation of the rules so everyone can enjoy Greer Island.
“We just want the police to come by and say: ‘Hey, these are new signs. We understand that you’ve been doing this in the past, but this is what we’ve come up with. Why don’t you put your boat on the other side of the signs and come and use this as a swimming area?’” Mayers said.
Town Manager Tom Harmer said the commission could consider an ordinance to restrict boats and WaveRunners from accessing the canal in the future. The canal is within the town’s jurisdiction whereas the Greer Island sand is Manatee County’s property.
“We’re looking at vessel-exclusion zones in a couple of different areas,” Harmer said. “One in the lagoon area by Greer Island and another actually on the beaches.”
Harmer said the commission has options for which kind of restrictions they could enact.