Conflict between residents and kitesurfers ahead of Tuesday’s council meeting | Biscayne Key
Crush sand between his toes, soak up some rays and sip a tropical drink. Well, that scenario didn’t really come up last week when the new Key Biscayne Village Manager Steve Williamson took a business trip to the beach, hoping to ease some recent friction between residents and kitesurfers.
“I was just trying to negotiate with the kite-sailers, that’s one of those things you do,” he said.
After some “back and forth” between the “local group and the concerned citizens, they realized that they were in fact on the same side,” said Williamson, regarding his attempt to mediate on the beach just before the weekend of the Memorial Day. “It was very productive.
Lately, much of the concern has focused on safety concerns for those walking the beach or swimming about 100 feet or more from the shore. Kitesurfers, on occasion, have strayed further within the legal 300-foot zone designated as “ship-less”, some being “aggressive”, according to swimmers, and the lines used may present a danger to the boat. safety when stretched out on the beach, others say.
Speeds are normally between 10 and 20 mph, but can reach 40 mph if the wind conditions are perfect and the water is flat. Some kitesurfers add a foil to their device to compensate for the low wind.
But supporters of the sport like Karen Beber, an island resident for 25 years, mother of three and kitesurf enthusiast, said there had never been a kitesurfing accident “on our beaches”. Not one. Safety is always at the center of our concerns.
Beber was among about 20 residents and kitesurfers meeting Williamson, Police Chief Charles Press and other city officials last week on the beach.
Kitesurfing is allowed on the beaches of Key Biscayne – 300 feet or more offshore – but “you launch and land in the designated kite area,” said Beber, which in this case is the Sonesta Channel (where it is found the old Sonesta Beach Resort) just south of Crandon Park.
Beber said the traditional Key Biscayne kitesurfing or kitesurfing group followed the rules “on how we rig our kites” and all have received Level 3 certification from the International Kitesurfing Organization (IKO) for “the privilege” of performing safely in the ocean. Sometimes an inexperienced kitesurfer could pose a danger, Beber admitted.
So why are concerns being raised now and not 10 or 20 years ago?
“The sport has grown exponentially over the past 20 years,” Beber said. “So many other kitesurfers, not just on our beaches but all over the world. I really understand that anyone is afraid, especially if someone breaks the rules.
Just three years ago, Key Biscayne council members approved a designated area in the area around the Sonesta Canal. The city ordinance defines a kiteboard as a board attached to a kite that harnesses the power of the wind. Beber says she uses a surfboard as her favorite mode, hence the name kitesurfer.
“I thought our meeting (with Williamson) was overwhelmingly positive,” Beber said. “We got to (realize) what the app should look like. Steve did a great job of keeping us all focused on the problem. “
One of the items Williamson will likely address at the June 15 meeting would be the addition of visual identifiers near the beach indicating the ground rules of the sport and one warning people of a designated kite area. near.
“We have a set of rules, we just have to enforce them and have the resources (to enforce them),” Williamson said.
“Everyone is concerned about safety, including us,” Beber said. “We don’t want to hurt anyone and, likewise, we don’t want to be hurt either. Steve does a great job doing what he can to keep kitesurfing alive here.
Other points that should be discussed at the June 15 meeting:
– The application of regulations for drivers of golf carts or slow vehicles, as well as the restriction of access to these types of vehicles on most of Boulevard Crandon.
– Updates on how the search for the new police chief is being conducted and if there is a timeline to replace Chief Charles Press, who leaves on July 2.
– How residents reacted to hearing plans for a new library and if any visual ramifications would delay things.
– The locations and approval of a possible skatepark on the island could come closer to reality.
– Updates on the ability to turn flashing yellow crosswalk lights to red lights on Crandon.
– What to expect on the 4th of July parade around the island.