Clearwater Beach Association

Clearwater Beach Association History

Minutes & By-Laws






Originally the Beach Association was organized to “look after things in the neighborhood.” Meetings, however, were mostly attended, according to charter member John Cosgrove, “because there wasn’t much else to do.” Another source says the Beach Association was organized to “keep an eye on the erosion of the beach.” At this time Sand Key was Dan’s Island, occupied mostly by pelican, palmettos, sand spurs and stingrays with no access to Clearwater Beach or the mainland except by boat, or very energetic swimming. Island Estates was a line of mangrove islands surrounded by some most productive mud flats where scalloping and fishing were favorite past times.

It wasn’t long before the members began wanting a say in what happened to their community and soon proposed their own candidate for Clearwater City Commission. Without too much difficulty, they got him elected and the CBA has been involved in city politics ever since. In the late forties the Clearwater Commission (in the dark of night, or a smoke filled room, or both.... we’re told) signed a 99-year lease with a developer to build a high-rise motel at the entrance to the Beach. The Beach Association sued and the case went all the way to the Florida Supreme Court where the CBA won and the lease was canceled. (Had that action not been taken, a 50-year-old building would now be at the entrance to Clearwater Beach, paying the City of Clearwater less than $10,000 a year rent with about forty years to go on the lease.)

After the lease was canceled, the Beach Association promptly asked for a civic center at the entrance to the Beach. “We’ll build it, if you furnish it,” said city officials. So, beginning in 1958, working with the Carlouel Association, the Beach Motel Association and the Clearwater Beach Businessmen's’ Group, the CBA collected pledges for over $25,000 (mostly in $25 and $50 donations) to furnish the civic center. The civic center was the first civic auditorium in Clearwater and served the community well for 37 years, providing space for a library, a welcome center and, later a police branch unit, until it was torn down so that Clearwater Beach could have an entryway that gave people a “sense of arrival.”

One of the most lasting things done by the Beach Association began in a quiet and unspectacular way at a Beach Association meeting on January 11, 1949. Mrs. George Atkins, a winter resident from Canada stood up in response to a call for “any further business.” Speaking of the children she had observed in the Beach community, she suggested, “It seems to me we need a community church on Clearwater Beach.” The president responded by suggesting that anyone interested in having a church on the Beach, see Mrs. Atkins after the meeting. A small group gathered around and, two years later ground was broken for the Chapel-By-The-Sea, still the only church on the Clearwater Island.

Also in the early 1950’s the Clearwater Optimist Pram Fleet was begun by Beach resident Clifford A. McKay. Clearwater’s fleet was housed in an old fish processing building on the east end of Bay Esplanade. A fire destroyed the building, and the Pram fleet, but an all night talk-a-thon on WTAN garnered enough donations to build a cement block building in its place. In the new building there was room enough for all the prams, plus more. Now the members of the Beach Association lobbied for a recreation center in the building. The City agreed but said there were no funds to man it. Volunteers from the CBA manned the building for several years until the City found funds to do so. This was the first recreation center in Clearwater.

From the middle 50’s to the early 70’s, the CBA settled into a mostly social organization developing a reputation for having the best, and best attended parties on the Beach. There were Christmas parties and boat parties and even a yearly “day at the races” when a Greyhound bus would gather up a CBA sponsored group and head for the dog races. It was always a sold out affair.

During this period, the CBA began a tradition, which has lasted into the 21st century. At each party “People Bingo” is played with a blank bingo card given each person. These must be filled with signatures from others at the party and, after dinner, the names are called and bingo played. Prizes are always collected from the merchants of Clearwater Beach and, sometimes, members. In the sixties a tradition began of “hatting” the incoming president. It started when Don Winner “hatted” Gil Schutzendorf with a copy of the Beach Views, folded into an admiral’s hat. Merle Roberts, the first female president with an all male board, was “hatted” with a chapeau of roses (as in, a rose between two thorns). This custom died out in the eighties when there was no longer an installation dinner, but not before at least two presidents were “hatted” with combat helmets during the “rezoning wars.”

The rezoning wars began in the early seventies when the City planning department decided to reduce the potential density on Clearwater Beach by rezoning some of the property to a lower density. The CBA went, very rapidly from a mostly social organization to a very active political entity. During this period the lobbying for rezoning was so intense that, on one occasion, there was a tailgate dinner in the parking lot at City Hall where Kentucky Fried Chicken was consumed as then president, Paul Jackson, handed out speaking assignments to the CBA members on hand to lobby for the rezoning. They were mostly successful in their efforts.

From there on, the CBA remained politically active, supporting candidates that advocated their positions on plans for Clearwater Beach – lobbying City Hall on a regular basis and making their voice heard throughout the City. When the City decided to redo the drainage on Clearwater Beach by paving streets and creating gutters on the North Beach residential section, charging the property owners for the project, the Association sued the City and, in the process, persuaded the City to do the drainage projects at Mandalay and Baymont and other areas where it was needed more.

In the seventies, the CBA successfully lobbied the City to build tennis courts on the corner of Mandalay and Bay Esplanade. It also established a committee for Memorial Causeway beautification. Although this effort was not entirely successful, it motivated the City to establish the beautification plan in effect today.

In subsequent years the Beach Association established the Christmas caroling tradition and placed Christmas lights on the trees in front of the Marina each year until they were removed and replaced with the current palms.

A majority of the Blue Ribbon Task Force for Clearwater Beach Planning were active members of the Beach Association.

For a number of years, the CBA has sponsored the fishing classes at the Beach Recreation Center. It has provided recreation center scholarships. It instigated the renovation of the Center and several members served on the advisory committee for that project. In recent years it was the CBA that lobbied furiously for the replacement of the pool, which was removed to develop Pier 60 Park.

Since 1994, the CBA has been chief sponsor of Kids Week on Clearwater Beach, a program that provides a week of free activities for Beach residents and visitors to showcase the activities available for families on the Beach.

And, all along the way, the Beach Association has always provided an opportunity for residents and visitors of Clearwater Beach to work and play together – to get to know each other – to unite in common causes – and to make their concerns for our community known.

This is just a sample of what the CBA has done over the years. Currently the Association is active in social functions such as Neighborhood Day, Octoberfest, and the Holiday Party. They also are working with the city to ensure the residential neighborhoods stay that way and the zoning ordinances against short-term rentals are enforced.

Other civic organizations have come and gone on Clearwater Beach since 1944 but the Beach Association, always ready to cooperate with other organizations, has continued steadily on, and changing as needed to meet the needs of the times as determined by the membership.