■ BY MARCY SHORTUSE
This week someone made quite a bold statement against homeowners who put plants and rocks on the Promenade, and in particular, one homeowner who placed their own version of “Stonehenge” on each side of their property along the walkway weeks ago.
This historic 12-foot strip of land that runs along the top of the seawall between 1st Street and 4th Street has been a point of contention for quite some time, as more and more obstacles have appeared on the walkway.
At some point in the last few days, someone bathed the tops of the rocks in bright orange paint, and it isn’t a crime of vandalism, because the rocks were placed in a “public” right-of-way.
The history of the Promenade originated in 1907, when the Boca Grande Land Company (the original builder of The Gasparilla Inn & Club) was created to carry out the joint venture between Albert Gilchrist and the American Agricultural Chemical Company, and the land currently contained in the Historic District was conveyed to the Boca Grande Land Company. The Boca Grande Land Company in turn conveyed the railroad right-of-way, which is currently the bike path, to the newly formed railroad, named the Charlotte Harbor and Northern Railway Company.
The second of four plats of the town of Boca Grande was recorded by the newly formed Boca Grande Land Company in 1908. The area platted corresponds almost exactly to the current Historic District between First and 19th Street. Most of the north-and- south-running streets are recognizable and bear the same names as the streets we know today. The plat shows a very wide street called Gulf Boulevard between the beachfront lots and the Gulf between First and 19th streets. The paved portion of Gulf Blvd. had been destroyed by beach erosion by 1925.
In that same year, 1925, the revised plat was filed and recorded. On April 12, 1927 an indenture was created between the Boca Grande Corporation and Boca Grande Associates, Inc. that stated for the exchange of $1 Boca Grande Associates, Inc. would maintain and “own” the Promenade on behalf of residents and guests.
It showed the land “… bounded northerly by a line in continuation westerly to the Gulf of Mexico of the southerly line of 4th Street … easterly by line coinciding with the westerly line of blocks 17, 1 and 2 and westerly ends of 3rd, 2nd and 1st Streets, and on the south by the southerly line of 1st Street … and on the west by the Gulf of Mexico” was to be used in perpetuity for bathing and promenading by residents and guests of the island, and that “no fences or other structures of any kind shall be built on said beach except suitable jetties for protecting said beach …”
The indenture document also states, “ … the party of the second part (Boca Grande Associates, Inc.) for itself and its successors and assigns, covenants and agrees with the party of the first part for itself and other owners of lots in Boca Grande that said party of the second part … will keep and maintain in good order the above-mentioned walk so long as said walk shall stand …”
What this means is that the land was conveyed to Boca Grande Associates, Inc. but was subject to certain stipulations and limitations, including the fact it specifically states that the Promenade is to be used by owners of lots in Boca Grande and their families and guests, and that nothing can be built on the walkway that impedes its intended purpose.
Even though Boca Grande Associates was dissolved by proclamation in 1952, the perpetuity of the original document still stands, according to law, unless the property is completely destroyed by some unforeseen circumstance. As it stands right now, the walkway is clearly marked from the ground and from an aerial view, and by all appearances will not be going anywhere anytime soon.
A local attorney who was asked to finalize this interpretation said, “As the revised plat of Boca Grande was made by the Boca Grande Corporation and recorded on December 10, 1925, it is clear that the owners of lots in the Boca Grande plat and their families and guests are the intended beneficiaries of the covenants and restrictions placed on the property conveyed in the deed to Boca Grande Associates, regardless of who owns the underlying fee simple.”
Meanwhile, there is talk that some Boca Grande residents are making inquiries regarding their legal standing in defending the Promenade. Lee County representatives have given conflicting responses as to why they were not following up with and chastising homeowners who have impeded the walkway, as they have done in the past.
Information for this article was taken from “A Title Examiner’s History of Boca Grande” by Michael Ingram, and from the original documentation and indenture created in 1927.