By Mary Thurwachter
The hunt for the best material to repave the walking trail at the Lantana Nature Preserve isn’t over yet.
Since September 2017 when Hurricane Irma left the 6.5-acre park in shambles, the town has been wrestling with how best to restore the pathway. Concrete, pressure-treated wood, pavers, asphalt and gunite sand — similar to the material originally used at the preserve — have all been considered.
Last year, the Town Council settled on asphalt — much to the dismay of Friends of the Lantana Nature Preserve, which urged the council to choose any other option.
During the Feb. 24 town meeting — before a scheduled vote on whether to approve a $71,690 contract with M&M Asphalt Maintenance to pave the trail with asphalt 1,800 linear feet by 6 feet wide — another option was brought forward: crushed concrete. Hypoluxo Island resident Media Beverly made the pitch during public comments.
“I have in hand an estimate quoting the entire pathway of 2,500 linear feet by 8 feet of finish-grade crushed concrete screenings for a total of $37,774,” Beverly said. “That’s a savings of $48,636” over the asphalt estimate. The original pathway is 2,500 linear feet.
The town had chosen asphalt because it is cheaper than other options and it’s ADA compliant.
Estimates for the asphalt work includes an additional $14,720 to convert the pathway before paving and leaving 700 linear feet unpaved and in its original condition, pushing the total to $86,410. The 700 feet is on the north end of the preserve in a wetland area and would require an additional permit to replace.
“I found no language in any of the documents in your package tonight that requires M&M to install the paving in compliance with ADA regulations and there is no guarantee it will outlast shell rock or another material,” Beverly said.
Beverly said that from what she had read, “as long as the surface is ‘firm and stable,’ packed crushed stone, gravel finely compacted with a roller, packed soil and other natural materials bonded with synthetic materials, can provide the required degree of stability and firmness for ADA compliance.”
A savings of $48,000 would go a long way toward replanting the overgrown and neglected preserve, Beverly said.
While council members said they were eager to have the Nature Preserve, at 440 E. Ocean Ave., renovated, they agreed to postpone a vote on asphalt until they had staff look into a crushed concrete option.
Council member Ed Shropshire, a proponent of asphalt, said “we need to entertain other possibilities again” because the price for asphalt “has gone up so much.”
Council member Phil Aridas agreed: “$37,000 compared to $80,000 — if you want to put a $37,000 path in a nature preserve, I have no problem with that.”
Council member Lynn Moorhouse agreed to looking into crushed concrete, but said he hoped it would be done expeditiously since the town had been struggling to resolve this issue for more than two years.
But Town Manager Deborah Manzo made it clear that if the town had to go back to the state Department of Environmental Protection for another permit if the surface is changed, it would take time.
The town has applied for a second extension for a $5,000 FEMA grant that was awarded toward repairing the path after the hurricane.
Manzo also said residents of the Carlisle, next door to the preserve, are unable to use the park as it is now and are eager for renovations to be completed.
As a result of a deal struck when the Carlisle was built on land the town owned at the time, the senior living facility pays Lantana for preserve expenses. The Carlisle contracts with the town to do the maintenance work.
Beverly thanked the council for considering her suggestion.
“Although restoring the Lantana Nature Preserve pathway has been an ongoing topic, I appreciate that the Town Council members gave thoughtful consideration to my presentation and directed our town manager to explore better-suited materials before a final vote to contract for asphalt,” she said.