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Intercounty Makes Iron Float for Peanut Island Boat Park Project

Wed January 26, 2000 - Southeast Edition
Cynthia W. Wright

Given its logistics, Peanut Island appeared a hard nut to crack. Intercounty Engineering, the general contractor, was faced with the task of building a boater’s public park on a virtual 32.3-hectare (80 acre) sandbar. Peanut Island, a manmade product of dredging efforts to create canals and an inlet in the early 1900s, rests approximately 500 feet from Florida’s Palm Beach mainland. The solution required originality and imagination.

Intercounty Engineering decided that a Navy-built landing craft, an LCN9, similar to the boats seen in the movie “Saving Private Ryan,” could do the job. Being self-propelled, with a very low draft, and outfitted with a retractable ramp sturdy enough to offload heavy equipment, the company bought this transportation vehicle, ideal for the 14-month project.

Peanut Island had long been a haven for locals who viewed it as their private playground in the intercoastal. The issue of development had been controversial for many years, with strong opposition from residents.

Intercounty Engineering’s task was to execute the eventual pleasing design. The company put in landscaping, campgrounds, picnic areas, pavilions, a pier, dock, bathroom facilities and other amenities. The island became an offshore public park that could be reached by water taxi or private boat.

One of the unexpected benefits of the site was that possible theft was not an issue. Unless someone else had access to an LCN9-type vessel, the equipment was secure.

There was some vandalism, but nighttime security guards easily solved that problem.

Mother Nature however, was another matter. Several major hurricanes took their toll in time lost, and damage to work already completed. As Roberto Fernandez, project manager, explained, “One hurricane had a significant detrimental effect on our completion date. You can easily lose 10-15 days. Then there was erosion with its negative impact. Also, a number of non-native Australian pine trees with their shallow root systems went down.”

Intercounty turned the misfortune of the fallen trees into a positive, however. Fernandez brought in a tub grinder.

“The 60-ton machine was the largest piece of machinery transported to the island. Fortunately the landing craft was designed to handle the weight. This kind of gigantic wood chipper was part of subcontractor Sitemasters Inc.’s equipment. We used it to remulch the wood and spread it out for paths. You might say we recycled the island.”

During the Cuban crises of the 1960s, President John Kennedy had a secret bunker on Peanut Island. If a national emergency occurred while he was visiting his Palm Beach vacation home, Kennedy could quickly be flown to his fortified hideaway.

The bunker has been refurbished, and is now available for tourists to browse. It is leased by the nonprofit Maritime Museum. Further nearby development may be slated for the park’s Phase II.

A grand opening was held on November 6 for Phase I. Intercounty Engineering will bid on Phase II’s upcoming projects. Snorkeling areas, observation decks and other structures will be added.

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