Beach-Building Basics

Think your beach isn’t exciting enough to attract visitors? Well, think again. Making your beach the place to go can be done with minimal effort. “All you have to do is give people the space and not get in their way,” advises Tom Fox, President and CEO of Harbor Experience Companies, who has three “manmade” beaches at his Water Taxi locations at Long Island City, South Street Seaport and Governors Island in the New York Harbor area.

Built on vacant parking lots (yes, you read that right), the beaches are created with some imagination and thousands of tons of sand, leveled to roughly 6 inches deep.

“Each of our locations has a beach where we have taken in hundreds of tons of sand for people to hang out and enjoy the sun,” says Fox. Participants are only permitted to bring water onto the property. All food and other beverages must be purchased from the WaterTaxiBeach’s themed restaurants and bars. People also can enjoy plenty of sand and sunshine as well as volleyball, ping-pong and concerts.

“Nothing is fancy. It is all temporary, there is no major construction,” says Fox. “The bars are trailers. The kitchens are trailers. It is a nomadic park, if you will, as it can be moved from place to place.” For the last six years, the Long IslandCity location offers beach-time fun on its 44,000 square feet, including three volleyball courts, two bars and a grill that focuses on grilled chicken, ribs and award-winning hamburgers. Group activities include DJ concerts and volleyball leagues.

The South Street Seaport covers roughly 20,000 square feet with a nautical-themed nine-hole golf course, four ping-pong tables, bars and fish shack. The Governors Island location hosts bars and restaurants, including one that features organic and regional produce. Forty concerts are planned in 2010 with entertainment such as the B-52s, 50 cent and the Dark Star Orchestra; each concert attracts between 2,000 and 3,500 attendees per evening.

A similar idea was incorporated when the Floating Pool Lady (a retired barge redesigned as a pool) was harbored at BrooklynBridgePark. More than 1,300 tons of sand was used to fill an old parking lot to create a beach to entertain people while they waited for a turn in the floating pool. The beach was made complete with lounge chairs, umbrellas and sand volleyball. The sand--trucked in from the public JonesBeach on Long Island--naturally included plenty of seashells, which kept young and old alike busy for hours.

A “Real” Beach

For municipalities lucky enough to actually have a beach, the CrandonPark in Florida’s Miami-DadeCounty is perhaps one of the best examples of including amenities. This 1,100-acre area offers a great deal of everything to more than 1,000,000 visitors per year, including:

· Eco tours

· A park

· A tennis center considered the fourth in the world for major tournaments

· A 18-hole golf course consistently rated in the top 10 public golf courses in the country

· Deep-sea fishing charters

· Kite surfing

· Sail boat and kayak rentals

· Shelters, cabanas, beach chairs and umbrellas

· Bicycle tours

· Snorkeling and scuba diving.

Something For Everyone

Utilizing the natural surroundings, CrandonPark’s eco-adventure tours help people understand and appreciate the area’s habitat and history. “We offer bicycle tours that combine heritage tours and ecotourism,” says Ernie Lynk, recreation specialist supervisor for Miami-Dade County Parks. “We have the kayak and snorkel tours and various nature walks, but one of the most popular programs is the sea-turtle programming.” This programming is done in compliance with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission’s regulations.

“We help monitor nesting activities, and teach people about these remarkable animals we share the planet with,” says Lynk. “The scientific duties and programming begin in March with hatching in late July through October, but the timing is dictated by the nesting patterns of the turtles.” The scientific duties include monitoring nesting by surveying the beach every morning, capturing stragglers for same-day evening release, marking nests, and recording scientific data such as the number of eggs that did not hatch, hatchling deformities, etc.

Other tours include the popular kayak and snorkel trip. “Our program was developed in order to give a broad range of opportunities to let people snorkel,” says Lynk. “The full trips take people up the beach to an area that is unique geologically and good for snorkeling, and then they paddle back.” The fee for this program is $55 a person with eight to 10 people per trip.

Nature walks explore the large nature preserve on both the ocean and bay sides. At the north end on the ocean side, the tours explore the rare habitats of coastal scrub, coastal hammock and dunes and mangrove forests. “We educate people about the land, the type of environment and how much it provides for us, such as safe harbor for the juvenile stages of the fish we eat, and protection from storms,” says Lynk.

A Day At The Beach

Beach-goers also can take advantage of the 77-room cabana. The rooms--with showers but no electricity--are available to rent daily or annually. People who rent for the year tend to use the rooms for storing beach equipment, such as chairs, umbrellas and sunscreen; others use the spaces to store art supplies.

“The rooms are very popular since the cabana is adjacent to our recreational area for children, which includes an historic carousel and the old zoo area that is now a garden,” says Lynk. “The cabana rooms provide a place to have more privacy for showering and changing.”

Crandon Park also hosts a 5,000-square-foot nature center, a retired zoo converted to a garden, concrete pad shelters for picnicking and grilling, plenty of biking and rollerblading trails and two miles of beach. Along the beach, there are plenty of rental shade-shelters. “We also offer volleyball and kayak rentals,” says Lynk. “The volleyball rental is a very relaxed system. We have four nets set up, and people can borrow a ball, with our holding their identification as a security deposit.”

Concessionaires offer everything from food and drink, chairs, umbrellas and bicycles to scuba-diving and snorkeling equipment. One old concessions building on the beach was refurbished, and is now used as the kayak concession. “The eco-tours begin right at the building,” says Lynk. During the peak season, there are between 20 and 30 rentals per day at $30 per three hours. “We also have a kite-surfing school concessionaire that teaches on the beach.” Other activities nearby include a marina with several tour boats awaiting deep-sea fishing enthusiasts; sail boats and motor boats also are available for rent.

So, you don’t need world-class facilities to provide recreation to patrons, and to build revenue opportunities for your agency. “If you find an open space, all you have to do is create the canvas, and people will paint it with their activities,” advises Fox.

Tammy York is the owner of LandShark Communications LLC, which specializes in media and public relations for outdoor recreation businesses. Her book, 60 Hikes Within 60 Miles: Cincinnati, is available online and in bookstores. You can reach her at