Neighbors sue Fort Myers Beach in push for private beach boardwalk

The Town of Fort Myers Beach is putting up a fight against homeowners’ plans to build a private beach boardwalk across a sensitive mangrove and seagrass area.

But two homeowners are concerned about not having a barrier to the beach from their homes if the proposed boardwalk is not approved, so they’re taking their fight with the town to state court.

“We believe that the property behind our yard is now our property,” neighbor Kurt Kroemer said.

Kroemer and neighbor Edward Rood want to build a boardwalk, so they and their neighbors can have direct access to the Gulf. Neighbors must currently walk out of the way to get to the beach that’s right in front of their own homes.

Opponents say construction would endanger what’s known as “Critical Wildlife Areas,”(CWA) which are established by Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.

“Our boardwalk does not go through the critical wildlife area,” Kroemer said.

“We cannot understand why the town is so adamantly opposed to this little project that enables this neighborhood to get to the beach,” Rood said.

Julie Wraithmell, the president of the Florida Audubon Society, said it’s simple: The land doesn’t belong to them.

“That place belongs to all the people of Florida and wildlife, not just to the two property owners that happen to live beachfront,” Wraithmell said.

Kroemer and Rood say they’ve got the experts on their side. They say environmental agencies that matter signed off on their boardwalk.

There is a lot of risk in the lawsuit for both the neighbors and the town. If Fort Myers Beach loses, the CWA could become private property. If the property owners lose, they’ll continue to walk as much as a quarter mile to enjoy the surf in front of their homes.

“They claim they are trying to protect the critical wildlife area,” Rood said. “And by disagreeing with U.S Fish and Wildlife and the Department of Environmental Protection, they are putting the entire critical wild life at risk. Because if we win this lawsuit, which we fully believe we fully will, that’ll be the end of the critical wildlife area.”

Reporter:Nicole Gabe
Writer:Jack Lowenstein
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