End to repairs at Conn Beach boardwalk in sight



Some 15 months after Hurricane Nicole swept across Indian River County, final repairs at the south end of the Conn Beach boardwalk parking area in Central Beach were underway this week, with barricades and orange safety cones soon to be a thing of the past.

Conn Beach is the quarter-mile-long stretch immediately south of Jaycee Park, across from the Racquet Club, where Ocean Drive curves, and diagonal parking spaces line its length.

The Conn Beach boardwalk that runs between the dune and the street, highly popular with walkers as well as beachgoers, sustained damage in the Nov. 10, 2022 storm, and repair work since has moved at a glacial pace.

The current Conn Beach project, says Vero Beach Assistant City Engineer Danessa Chambers, is specifically to repair the storm-damaged parking area that runs along the boardwalk. For months, a large hole in the roadway, as well as orange cones, yellow tape and concrete barriers, have prevented beachgoers from using many of the parking spots.

According to Chambers, the current construction project, “will be complete by Feb. 29, as the work must be done prior to sea turtle nesting season.”

The project, she explains, includes replacement of asphalt parking, concrete gutters and concrete sidewalk. Additionally, beach sand will be replaced along the east side to support and protect the new infrastructure.

The cost of the project is $235,077 under a contract with CK Contractors and Development, a Palm Beach-based firm.

When fast moving Nicole, the 16th and final storm of the 2022 hurricane season, swept through, overall damage throughout the city and county was minimal, and the county’s emergency management director said the Vero Beach area had “dodged the bullet.”

Except for the beaches.

Then-County Administrator Jason Brown said at the time that the “storm surges and waves had battered and undermined the (Conn Beach) roadway and infrastructure.”

The newer boardwalk itself, Brown added, had been “built to last” and, although it too sustained some damage, it remained standing.

As months passed, residents became more and more frustrated, wondering why it was taking so long to get the unsightly damage on the street side of the boardwalk repaired.

In August, City Public Works Director Matthew Mitts and City Manager Monte Falls said they had heard plenty from the public and, said Mitts, city leaders “are as frustrated as the public at the pace of repairs.”

They placed much of the blame on the slow response from FEMA, as well as the complexities and expense involved in maintaining seaside infrastructure in the face of eroded beaches and frequent hurricanes.

But repairs continued to take far longer than many felt they should have. Now, this embarrassment seems to finally be nearing an end.

Photos by Brittany Norair

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