Friday, March 28, 2008

Rainy Easter Weekend and Pompano Beach Pier Renovation drags on and on and on

Wow how time gets away from us. We were gone only 4 days and and now we feel like we are two weeks behind. Easter came and went, and we left South Florida for Louisiana where we had absolutely fabulous weather for the long Easter Holiday, sunny, in the 70's and no humidity, while our fellow Floridians unfortunately were soaking it up, but not in the sun. It rained and blew for the whole Easter weekend here in South Florida. We always feel badly for the tourists that are spending their hard earned dollars for some sun and sand and instead are getting rain and wind. But that is Florida for you, it is a real crap shoot. And we can certainly help with that too. We have the casinos here, so one can gamble what there is left of their bank account. The Seminoles and Broward County are more than happy to accommodate them.

Not too long ago we wrote about some of the nice fishing piers here in South Florida. Well, the one in Pompano Beach is having its share of political fallout and fall in the ocean. Seems that the pier is under renovation and was supposed to be finished in December, but the last news has not been good. The Pompano Beach pier that closed sometime last Fall did not reopen at year's end as scheduled.

Commissioners postponed renewing Dania Pier Management's contract in early January to temporarily manage the parking lot and the still-to-be-rebuilt bait shop and snack bar. Dania Pier Management paid the city $36,000 for rights to those concessions for a year, ending in December 2007, when those buildings and a separate shuttered restaurant were demolished.
At the meeting it was decided that the city manager would review the procurement process for the concessions. If the commission requests another round of bids, it could be months before baited lines are dropped into the sea. Word is there is no deadline, but the city is supposed to be moving quickly. Ever heard of a government body moving quickly? More like Quick Sand!

Finally on March 20th the pier was partially opened for fishing and strolling. The bait shop and the restaurant are still in the planning stages, but the restroom will be open and free parking temporarily while the construction continues. Thoughts are that the work on the pier alone will be in progress thru August. So a restaurant and bait shop will certainly be a long time coming. City officials are still negotiating with representatives of MCK Restaurants Inc., which is affiliated with Bonefish Mac's grill of Lighthouse Point regarding a restaurant. Who knows about the bait shop? For the time being, bring your own.

Here is a quote from a grieving local,
"Was Fisherman's Wharf run down? Yes. Was the clientele a problem? Maybe for some. Was the restaurant/menu good? Not really. Was the music good? You bet. Were the patrons friendly? Yes. Was the staff friendly? Yes. Was it a great place to meet up with friends? Absolutely. Did the pier attract customers from all walks of life? Definitely. Was the pier a busy place most every day of the week? For sure. For me Fisherman's Wharf was a great local place, and I'll miss the diversity of the people that visited there."

This is what the pier is supposed to look like when it is finally finished.

C'est La Vie in South Florida

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Birch State Park

Hugh Taylor Birch State Park is located just between the ocean and the Intracoastal right on one of the most popular beaches in Fort Lauderdale.

The land was given to the city by Hugh Taylor Birch to preserve the natural environment for the future. He has quite a story. He was a lawyer in Chicago and came to Fort Lauderdale in 1893 looking for a secluded place to build his retirement home. He bought ocean front property for a dollar an acre and ended up owning 3 ½ miles of ocean front land. By the time he built his home in Fort Lauderdale, he was 90 years old. The house that he built is a simple two story sort of Art Deco style. I don’t believe that he actually ever got to live in it. Now it is a small museum called the Terramar Visitor Center.

There is a pedestrian tunnel running under A1A that goes from the park on the West side of the road to the beach on the East, or you can risk your life crossing A1A by foot. A1A is a 4 lane street with parking and sidewalks on both sides so there is a lot of traffic both on wheels and foot.

Until recently parking was free on this strip of the beach. Can you imagine, free beach parking?? But alas greed won out and the city installed “Smart Park” meters where you purchase a ticket and place it on your dashboard. The price, a hefty $1.75 an hour! To appease the local peons, (we were in an uproar over the meters) the city offered parking passes if you lived in the city limits for $5.00 a year. Guess they don’t feel guilty about sticking it to the tourists or the western suburbanites. In order to get one of these prized passes, one has to bring proof of residency, a Florida drivers license and take a blood test, no just kidding about the blood test. But they are rigid about the proof of residency.

Funny Beach Pass story; a friend of ours got his beach parking pass and went to the beach to walk with us one morning. First he had trouble using the machine, lucky that we were there to give him a crash course in parking meter manipulation. When we returned from our walk, he discovered that he had a parking ticket. What the hell? Guess what. He put the ticket on his dash like you are supposed to do, but with the time stamp facing down. Guess this system is just too complicated for us. He had to go to the parking ticket office with his proof of purchase and they finally let him off the hook. I wonder how many of these incidences they face each day?

Oh well back to the park. There is a 2-mile paved loop that is perfect for walking, jogging, skating, or riding a bike or our scooters. Also several hiking trails run through various native habitats. There are 3 different pavilions for picnics and the part of the park that runs along the Intracoastal is great for watching boats and cooking out. There are picnic tables scattered all around. And dogs are allowed so people have their hounds and their kids; it is a great family place.

The West side of the park borders the Intracoastal and lots of people picnic there and watch the boats. One sees everything from big sail boats to yachts to fishing boats to the functional water taxi. Somedays it can seem like a traffic jam on the water. But the boats are not allowed to stop at the park. Guess they don't have anyone to take their money, so no docks on the Intracoastal side of the park.

There is a PDF brochure at this link

One of the neat things that we discovered on the Florida Park’s website was that they have a photography contest every year and show some of the winners. You will appreciate the beauty of some of these images. They are quite spectacular. Check it out.

You can rent a canoe and paddle along a mile long fresh water lagoon. The coastal hammock trail provides an up close look at many exotic plants and an occasional wild inhabitant. We have been living here for many years and never realized all the different activities that go on in this park. They just opened a concession at the main beachside entrance that rents Segways, and gives a Segway tour, been wanting to try one of those. They also rent bicycles and tandem bikes.

Camp Live Oak is an educational environmental day camp for children ages 5 to 13. The next camp event is called “Leave No Trace” spring program that will run from March 31st – April 4th. The kids get to experience hands-on environmental science projects while canoeing, fishing, hiking, swimming and having fun at the park. They have their own website:

So if you find yourself with nothing to do one weekend, a trip to the Birch State Park is a great bang for your buck. In fact Florida has a State Park’s Pass that allows you free admission to any Florida State park and costs only $40 a year for an individual and $80 a year for a family. There are 160 parks in our state covering 700,000 acres and 100 miles of white sandy beach.

Since July the state has made available a Florida State Park Passport. Each of Florida’s 160 award-winning state parks is represented on a page of the passport and visitors document their state park visits with a stamp. They are hoping that once you get one stamp you will be motivated to visit many other state parks and fill up your passport.

Saturday, March 8, 2008

Josh Rogers, of Scoot Magazine injured....

On March 2nd Josh Rogers, publisher of Scoot Magazine. was injured in a collision with a Lexus during the Vespa Club Los Gatos' (Calif) monthly ride. He was airlifted to a local hospital and is being treated for multiple serious injuries. They say he is looking at about a 9 month recovery period. , a wonderful organization, has created a Josh Rogers Accident Fund to which you can donate, and made code available to embed on your web site or MySpace page. You can also get updates on his condition there on Gregory's blog. Amy the Hearse Queen has posted pictures of the accident aftermath on her MySpace blog. All help is appreciated. I got this information thanks to Orin O'Neill of the Scootin Old School blog. You can get updates on his condition at the Scoot Magazine blog. NEW..Silent Auction to benefit Josh Rogers..Check it out..there are some neat things being offered and you may have something to offer yourself. Let's all lend a helping hand.

Monday, March 3, 2008

Tennis Anyone?

We have a famous, world renown, public tennis center right near downtown Fort Lauderdale inside Holiday Park. The Jimmy Evert Tennis Center (JETC) is located just minutes from the world famous Fort Lauderdale Beach in the lush tropical setting of Holiday Park.

The Jimmy Evert Tennis Center was managed for 49 years by none other than Jimmy Evert, the father of former # 1, Chris Evert. We have to say that he is one great gentleman and is loved by all who come in contact with him. His love of tennis and this facility made for a very special place for all of us to enjoy the sport. We can remember when he would walk the courts with towels in hand after a rain delay to soak up puddles so that players could get back on the courts as soon as possible. No job was beneath him. When he retired in 1997, the City of Fort Lauderdale honored its “Patriarch of Tennis” by renaming the former Holiday Park Tennis Center to its present name, the Jimmy Evert Tennis Center. Since his retirement there has not been one person who could come close to his dedication to the center, the sport and it’s membership.

Since the JETC is a public facility, membership fees are kept low due to the fact that property taxes contribute to the maintenance of the center. Since the majority of the courts are clay, there is a hefty maintenance bill. If you live in the city limits of Fort Lauderdale an adult membership is only $212.00 per year for all the tennis you can physically play. And if you are a Senior then it is only $185.50. Couples are only $365.70 and Families are 418.70 for the year. And added to that benefit is the fact that you can also play at George English Tennis Center with your membership. Tennis is really a bargain in our area and we take advantage of it, playing several times a week. Imagine playing on clay courts all year at that rate, it is amazing when you think about it.

The Jimmy Evert Tennis Center has 18 lighted clay courts and 3 hard courts, while George English, which is within a mile east, has 7 lighted hard courts. Both of these centers are close to the beaches. The Center hosts several tournaments each year, like the USTA National Open Clay Court Championships coming up in May of this year. Both the Boy’s 14 and Girl’s 12 clay court championships are hosted here. The Girl's 12 was just held last weekend. And these tiny tots taking lessons are the future of tennis in our area.

There is such a warm atmosphere here at the JETC. Some people have been coming here for many years and even when they no longer play the game, they come and visit with everyone and watch the tennis. This is one of the few tennis facilities where you can walk up with your racket in hand and pick up a cordial game of tennis in a matter of minutes. Many times there are players looking for a 4th for their doubles game and will welcome you in. Tennis is such a great social sport and the Jimmy Evert Tennis Center is a prime example of how wonderful it can be to play the game of tennis.

The club house was built new around 1996 and is still a rather simple homey building. Inside the club house you can browse the photos of all the famous tennis players who have graced the halls here. You hope that just a tad of that skill will rub off on you as you pass. JETC is called the “Home of Champions”.