Waterpark lifts fees on Aug. 11 for Martin residents

For the second time in less than a month, Martin County residents will get free admission into the Sailfish Splash Waterpark in Stuart.

STUART - Images from the Sailfish Splash Waterpark on a recent Wednesday.
STUART – Images from the Sailfish Splash Waterpark on a recent Wednesday.

Martin officials said they are lifting fees for county residents and their minor children on Thursday, August 11.

Martin County offered a similar promotion on July 20, citing the “algae crisis” that has impacted some Treasure Coast waterways.  The event drew 1,200 residents within the first hour. By the end of the day, more than 1,600 residents had entered the waterpark, the county said.

“Due to the huge success and popularity of Sailfish Splash Waterpark’s free admission day for Martin County residents held earlier this month, the Waterpark will host an additional FREE admission day to Martin County residents,” the county said in a news release announcing the Aug. 11 event.

According to the release, park staff will admit Martin County residents (and their minor children) who present a valid photo identification card showing a Martin County address.

“At any point in time, should the Waterpark fill to capacity, staff will defer additional admissions until patrons enjoying the Waterpark depart,” the county said.

Sailfish Splash Waterpark operates from 10:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily.

 

 

 

Martin County businesses hurt by algae outbreak can apply for disaster loans

Martin County officials are encouraging businesses impacted by the algae outbreak that turned some Treasure Coast waterways a blue-green this summer to apply for state and federal disaster assistance.

Water full of algae laps along the Sewell's Point shore on the St. Lucie River under an Ocean Boulevard bridge on June 27, 2016.  (Richard Graulich / The Palm Beach Post)
Water full of algae laps along the Sewell’s Point shore on the St. Lucie River under an Ocean Boulevard bridge on June 27, 2016. (Richard Graulich / The Palm Beach Post)

U.S. Small Business Administration has set up a “Business Recovery Center” at Martin County Fairgrounds. Since  opening on July 13, 40 local businesses have visited the center to get information on disaster loan assistance, the county said.

The Center is open from 9 a.m. – 5 p.m., Monday thru Friday, and will operate until further notice, the county said.

Small businesses and nonprofits can borrow up to $2 million, with interest rates of 2.625 percent for private nonprofit organizations and 4 percent for small businesses, according to Martin officials.

Applicants may apply online at https://disasterloan.sba.gov/ela, the county said.

Martin County officials are also encouraging business owners to complete the state’s business damage assessment survey.

“The information provided in this survey will be shared among various state and local agencies to expedite implementation of appropriate disaster relief programs for businesses,” the county said in a news release. “This survey assists the State with determining if relief services for businesses should be activated.”

Algae warning did not hurt hotel bookings over July 4th weekend

The blue-green algae sightings that prompted Palm Beach County officials to close the public swimming areas at both Peanut Island and a popular municipal beach on Singer Island at the start of the July 4th holiday weekend had no impact on countywide hotel bookings, local tourism officials said.

The no-swim advisory was issued on July 1 —  the eve of the summer’s largest beach and boating weekend. The Friday afternoon announcement blindsided Palm Beach County tourism leaders who just hours before had declared Peanut Island and the county’s beaches safe for swimmers.

» RELATED: Complete coverage of the blue-green algae bloom

Discover The Palm Beaches, the county’s official tourism marketing destination, said despite news coverage of the algae, the closures had no impact on local hotels over the Fourth of July weekend.

Peanut Island water was closed July 1 after blue-green algae was spotted.  (The Palm Beach Post / Meghan McCarthy)
Peanut Island water was closed July 1 after blue-green algae was spotted. (The Palm Beach Post / Meghan McCarthy)

Both popular swimming areas were closed for less than a day.

“We should be thankful that proactive efforts to rectify customers confusion on Palm Beach County beach conditions, and the strength of our brand helped the destination maintain a sound tourism performance during the holiday period,” said Jorge Pesquera, Discover’s President and CEO.

The countywide hotel occupancy rate grew to 70.4 percent over the 4 day period that began on July 1, a 3.4 percent increase over the same time period last year.

The cost of a hotel room in Palm Beach County also grew over the Fourth of July holiday weekend.  The average daily rate for the 4 day period that began July 1 was $139, up 1.4 percent over last year, according to Discover.

 

Waterpark lifts fees for Martin residents because of “algae crisis”

Martin County residents will get free admission into the Sailfish Splash Waterpark in Stuart on July 20 because of the “algae crisis” impacting some Treasure Coast waterways, county officials said Tuesday.

STUART - Images from the Sailfish Splash Waterpark on a recent Wednesday.
STUART – Images from the Sailfish Splash Waterpark.

“We want to do something for the community,” said Kevin Abbate, Director of Martin County Department of Parks & Recreation. “This seems to make sense for Martin County families who want to cool off without worrying about water quality.”

According to a press release, park staff will grant free admission to Martin County residents (and their minor children) who present a valid photo identification card showing a Martin County address.

“At any point in time, should the Waterpark fill to capacity, staff will defer additional admissions until patrons enjoying the Waterpark depart,” the county said.

Sailfish Splash Waterpark operates from 10:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily.

 

Water releases from Lake Okeechobee to stay the same

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers on Thursday said it will not change the amount of water that it is releasing from Lake Okeechobee into the St. Lucie Estuary and Caloosahatchee River on Florida’s west coast.

Blue-green algae in inlet to FPL cooling ponds. The locks connect the ponds to the L 8 canal just west of Wellington, Florida on July 6, 2016. (Allen Eyestone / The Palm Beach Post)
Blue-green algae in inlet to FPL cooling ponds. The locks connect the ponds to the L 8 canal just west of Wellington, Florida on July 6, 2016. (Allen Eyestone / The Palm Beach Post)

The Corps typically announces on Thursdays whether it plans to reduce, increase or keep the lake discharges at the same level for the following week.

There has been mounting outcry over massive water releases from Lake Okeechobee, since blue-green algae blanketed beaches and waterways in Martin County last month.

The Corps is currently releasing  756 million gallons per day into the St. Lucie Estuary — a 35 percent drop from last week’s level, when the discharges totaled roughly 1.1 billion gallons.

“The lake remains high for this time of year,” said Jim Jeffords, Jacksonville District Operations Division Chief.  “Wet conditions during our normal dry season tested the water management system in south Florida. Working with our state and federal partners, we’ve used any flexibility we could find in the system, but the lake level on July 1st was the highest for that date over the past 10 years.”

On Thursday, the lake stood at 14.93 feet, up more than a foot since the lake hit its low for 2016 of 13.64 on May 17.

“Conditions in both estuaries have shown some slight improvement,” Jeffords said.  “This is primarily the result of drier weather in the area and the reduction in flows that we implemented last week.”

 

UPDATE: Riviera’s city beach, Peanut Island closed to swimming because of algae

UPDATE: Riviera Beach officials have closed the city’s municipal beach for swimming after a lifeguard found blue-green algae near the shore, a city official said.

The closure came about an hour after Palm Beach County officials said they were closing Peanut Island to swimming because algae was found near the popular swimming and snorkeling spot.

UPDATE: The blue-green algae bloom now has spread to Peanut Island, and officials have made the decision to close the beaches and waterfront around the popular swimming, snorkeling and boating destination.

Blue-green algae sits in a lagoon on the east side of Peanut Island on Friday afternoon. (Kristina Webb / The Palm Beach Post)
Blue-green algae sits in a lagoon on the east side of Peanut Island on Friday afternoon. (Kristina Webb / The Palm Beach Post)

A Palm Beach Post reporter and photographer spotted the algae Friday afternoon along the east side of the island, near a bustling area where people continued to swim and snorkel.

Lt. Dylan Owens, a lifeguard on the island, said staff was told the water would be closed throughout the holiday weekend, and a state official would come to the island Tuesday to test the water.

The amount of algae spotted in small waves that were lapping against the island’s eastern shore was minimal, about enough to fill a 1-cup measuring cup.

Owens said people may still visit the island to walk its paths, visit the historic JFK Bunker and sit on the beach — just don’t expect to get in the water.

Tourism officials have added live web cams for residents and visitors to monitor beach conditions: http://www.palmbeachfl.com.

This story will be updated.

EARLIER STORYAn algae bloom was spotted Friday in the Intracoastal Waterway near West Palm Beach.

Algae coats the shoreline of the Inracoastal Waterway along the Lake Trail near the Flagler Museum in Palm Beach Friday, July 1, 2016. (Lannis Waters / The Palm Beach Post)
Algae coats the shoreline of the Intracoastal Waterway along the Lake Trail near the Flagler Museum in Palm Beach Friday, July 1, 2016. (Lannis Waters / The Palm Beach Post)

Palm Beach Post photographer Lannis Waters found the bloom along the Lake Trail near the Flagler Museum in Palm Beach, which sits on the eastern side of the the Intracoastal.

West Palm Beach’s waterfront, a tourism hot spot where out-of-towners and locals can rent paddle boards and kayaks, sits to the west.

The spotting comes on the eve of the summer’s largest beach and boating weekend.

Palm Beach County tourism and environmental officials are set to meet with the media on Friday afternoon to discuss algae blooms in local waterways.

So far, the blooms have been limited to the water in and around the C-51 Canal, which is used to dumped runoff from inland Palm Beach County into the Intracoastal Waterway.

Staff photographer Lannis Waters contributed to this report.