That Pesky Dune Walkover

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(By Kurt Kroemer) I got a smile when I read that statement on BTR’s Facebook page last week, “that pesky dune walkover”….. a dune walkover with life, a dune walkover that can bother someone, a dune walkover that is annoying…. said no one,… ever.

As proven by the countless walkovers up and down Florida beaches, as well as, by the 2.3 mile walkover in Audubon’s Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary, walkovers do not and cannot hurt shorebirds and their environments.

Yet Brad Cornell, Audubon’s Southwest District Policy Director knows better. The dune walkover in my and Eddie Rood’s backyard is somehow different. Somehow, this walkover will cause harm to our shorebirds. Without proof, accusations of the harm this walkover will produce continue to flow, even after five years of lost court battles and permit objections.

Brad Cornell has challenged every step of our permit process. In 2018, he used Audubon’s lawyers to challenge the two required FDEP permits for the walkover project. There was a three-day trial. The complete list of Audubon’s objections and final ruling can be found by reading the ALJ summary judgement HERE.

In a recent public comment campaign at the last town council meeting aimed to rescind the town’s Special Exception approval, a theme could be heard of these same arguments of a wooden walkover could somehow hurt shorebirds. This comes after we have two permit approvals for the project, by two separate agency divisions of the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, approval by the Army Corps of Engineers, a six to one vote approval by Fort Myers Beach own Local Planning Agency and most recently, a three out of five vote approval from our Town Council. Yet Brad Cornell knows better.

Yes, the pesky dune walkover continues to make media highlights because Brad Cornell recently filed a Writ of Certiorari against the town.  This Writ is a complaint about the Special Exception approval meeting process. A meeting which Brad Cornell was allowed to make his objections known, once again.

Most people, including myself, have positive impressions about the work Audubon does to help all of America’s birds. However, this work needs to be in parallel with projects approved by State, Local and private landowners. The groomed sand on the island’s south end is a prime example of private landowners allowing Audubon to promote and protect shorebird nesting areas. However, Brad Cornell of the Audubon Society is now overstepping his authority by continuing to litigate this project already approved by State and Local governments. It is time to call off your lawyer and find new ways to work with our neighborhood landowners for the betterment of all parties of this pesky walkover project.

Kurt Kroemer can be reached by e-mail at info@squeezemeinn.com

We have reached out to Brad Cornell at Florida Audubon and offered him an opportunity to write a column to express his views. We hope to have his column in our Friday newsletter.

EDITOR’S NOTE: The court filing made by Florida Audubon is in the hands of a judge who has to make a ruling as to whether there’s merit to the case. Once that ruling is made all sides will then be given deadlines to make their court filings. Kroemer and Rood have agreed to sign a letter of indemnification holding the town harmless if they build the walkover and a future court case rules they have to remove it. Read that letter HERE. Once the town receives the signed letter it’s expected that Kroemer and Rood will receive their permit. They cannot start building the walkover until after turtle nesting season.

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