Conservation Clinic helps solve boating issues in Bradenton Beach

Published: March 16th, 2009

Category: News

The University of Florida Levin College of Law continues to find ways to make a positive impact on the state of Florida. With the help of Tom Ankersen (JD 86) and members of the UF Law’s Conservation Clinic, the school was able to help solve an important boating issue in Bradenton Beach, Fla.

“One of the areas that were of particular concern in Bradenton Beach was the anchoring of boats next to the City Pier, which by itself is not a problem, but it often leads to abandoned and derelict vessels, illegal discharges , and safety and “land use” conflicts with shoreside neighbors.” Ankersen said. “We learned a lot about this from the 2004-05 hurricanes.”

Ankersen, legal skills professor and director of the Conservation Clinic at the University of Florida Levin College of Law, said the solution to the problems occurring at Bradenton Beach, Fla., was the addition of a mooring field to the boating area.

The plan was to install moorings instead of relying on anchors because they are safer and will increase the number of boats that can fit in a particular area. Though there are management costs and liability concerns associated with the installation of these fields, Ankersen said it will be relatively inexpensive to the boaters.

Ankersen said the pressure to have mooring fields has increased as the development of the coast has increased in Florida because traditional marinas are being pushed out by what are called “dockominiums”. Dockominiums is a concept where boaters can buy a slip and keep it for the life of the lease, so the ability for the first-come first-serve boater to get access to marina slips was being restricted. This helps justify the need for mooring fields.

William Grant Watson (JD 05) and Cathleen Kenney (JD 06), former students of the Conservation Clinic who are currently practicing law in Florida, were heavily involved in the project with Ankersen. The mooring project didn’t reach fruition though until 2008, well after the students had graduated.

“The real world doesn’t run on semesters or even academic years,” said Ankersen on the length of time it takes to complete projects. “Things usually take longer than the amount of time that the students are here with us.” Watson is currently working in law firm in Lake County. He said he is thrilled to see what has happened at Bradenton Beach.

“There was a lot of hard work and long hours that went into putting together this plan, and as with everything else in life, it’s great to see results,” said Watson.

Kenney, who is currently working for a small private firm in Ocala, was also excited to find out Bradenton Beach was creating a mooring field. She said she really enjoyed working on the project.

“Really, our project was both an opportunity to learn about the preservation of Florida’s coastal communities and continued water access, and an opportunity to disseminate this information to people eager to learn,” said Kenney.

Ankersen said the interesting aspect of this project was the intergovernmental relationship between Manatee County and Bradenton Beach.

Because of the location of the boundary line, the submerged lands beneath the water were under the jurisdiction of Manatee County. That meant that Manatee County had jurisdiction over all of the water, even though the area of importance was immediately adjacent to the Bradenton Beach municipal pier.

Ankersen said through working with Ralph Brookes (JD 84), and a Manatee County attorney, they were able to draft a special act of legislation to change the boundary line so a mooring field could be built at Bradenton Beach. Currently, Bradenton Beach has the only mooring field in Florida enshrined in legislation.

“Most students don’t realize that there are laws in Florida that are never codified in the Florida Statutes,” said Ankersen, referring to Special Acts. “That was a real eye opener for Grant and Cathy.” Though Ankersen is moving on to other projects, maybe it was fate that he ended up working in these boating situations.

“I grew up in Florida and my last name is Ankersen,” he said when asked about his interested in boating. “So I guess I was destined to work on these issues.” Ankersen and the Clinic continue to work with the State Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission on boating law reform, and with the Florida Department of Community Affairs and waterfront communities on water access issues.