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Decades of the Imperial River's fluctuating tides and abrasive waves have not been kind to the wooden sea wall on the south side of the river just west of the Old 41 bridge. Chunks of the 255-foot-long wall are missing, swept away by the waters the wall was designed to hold at bay. Soon, public officials will finish what the river started. The Florida Department of Environmental Protection has approved Bonita Springs officials' request to replace the deteriorating wall with a more modern ? and high-tech ? structure. "It's in a state of disrepair," Assistant City Manager Barbara Barnes-Buchanan said of the existing wall. "You can see where portions of the sea wall are actually falling down into the water. There are cracks, and there's a perceived safety issue as well. We want to open that for public use." City Council members agreed to buy the adjoining property, called Imperial River Court, for $1 million in 2001. The property's location and history made the site a prime spot for a future park. South Lee County pioneer J.W. Liles built a hotel and quaint cottages to lure winter residents there after the Great Depression. An architectural firm has been drawing up a master parks plan for the city's properties along the Old 41 corridor, which includes Imperial River Court. In the meantime, city officials have set their sights on making what improvements they can to the property. The city has $124,000 in Lee County Tourist Development Council grant money to spend on sea wall repairs and dock improvements, Barnes-Buchanan said. The city contracted with the firm of Hans Wilson and Associates to draft the FDEP permit application. The permit was granted Dec. 18. Right now, city officials are soliciting bids for upgrading the sea wall. Councilman Ben Nelson, who owns a marine contracting business, estimates the existing sea wall is about 20 years old. Although sea walls have a life span of about 30 years, he said, the structures tend to show their age in the last 10 years. "(The existing wall) has been in pretty sorry shape for some time," Nelson said. The new wall also will be constructed of wood, but the planks will include more advanced weather-proofing than what exists. At the toe of the wall, plans call for 2-foot-by-3-foot reef balls to be placed in the water to further stabilize the shore. If the sea wall's budget falls beneath $124,000, the city will use the remainder of the grant money to build a floating dock at the city's boat launch, which is about 50 feet downstream. Jeff Darman runs boat tours for the city from the existing dock. A floating dock would give people better access to his boat, he said. "It's fairly critical to help some of the seniors get on the boat, especially during the winter when you have extremely low tides," Darman explained.


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