Cooley's Landing Marina might be a little closer to getting moderately safer for drivers. The group leading the cause to have retractable gates placed on the boat ramps to prevent vehicles from accidentally driving into the water met with the Fort Lauderdale Marine Advisory Board on Thursday, and so far, progress is being made.
According to Citizens for Cooley's Landing Safety Upgrade spokesperson Adam Matza, the board was told by Andrew Cuba, manager of marine facilities of plans to put in an order to add signs, reflectors, and rumble strips to the area, though the hopes of getting gates built remain the ultimate focus.
About a dozen of the group's members showed up to speak to the committee Thursday evening. The idea was sparked after their friend, Lisa "Noodles" Hayden-Gordon, had been found dead in her car, which had had to be dredged up from the water at Cooley's. Friends and family believe Hayden somehow drove into the water via the boat ramp.
The group believes had safety measures — such as signs, speed bumps, a gate, or more lighting — had been in place, Hayden might be alive today.
New Times contacted committee head Barry Flanagan, who said that a representative from the Fort Lauderdale Police Department who attended the meeting advised that Hayden's death is still being investigated. It's because of this that the committee is moving forward, but slowly.
"Obviously local citizens came forth to give their opinion and concern, and we listened," Flanagan says. "We’re not looking to circumvent any changes at the marina just yet, but the police sergeant who attended the meeting says the investigation is ongoing. And the order for the safety measures was just put in today, so this is all very early."
Still, the group walked away from the meeting feeling optimistic that things are moving forward.
"Overall, we got a positive attitude and an open mind from the committee," Matza tells New Times. "No pushback. They seemed genuinely concerned."
Matza also explained that the committee will be looking into the safety measures at two other marinas in Fort Lauderdale as well.
"The sense that I got is that the City decided to do this already," he says. "We left that meeting feeling that they know if anything like this happens again and no action is taken, it’s on them, not just morally but legally as well. But we feel like communication with the committee is very good."
Matza credits the New Times report on the group's intentions and says he feels the article played a role in getting the City to take action.
"It was clear that the New Times article made a big difference," Matza wrote on the group's Facebook page. "It felt like the Board gets the importance of improving the safety of the marina. In short, it was a good start, but more needs to be done."
Matza says Cuba promised to keep him and the group in the loop with updates. Matza also says the group intends to be at the city's next commission meeting to bring up its concerns there as well.
Bottom line, the group isn't going away. And while communication with city officials has been good, Matza says they intend on continuing to make their presence known until changes are made.
"If a week passes and I haven't heard anything, I’ll reach out to see what’s happening," he says.