Guy Harvey project presented to OEC

OKEECHOBEE — The Guy Harvey Outpost RV Resort and Marina on Lake Okeechobee was the featured topic at the monthly meeting of the Okeechobee Economic Council (OEC).

Mark Ellert, president of Guy Harvey Outpost, made a presentation Wednesday, Oct. 7, on the proposal to convert the Okee-Tantie recreation area into a destination resort on Lake Okeechobee.

This is the concept plan for the development of Okee-Tantie in Okeechobee, Fla., that was approved by Okeechobee County Commissioners at their July 9, 2015 meeting. The property will be leased from the county and developed into a marina and campground through Elite Resorts Managers LLC and Guy Harvey Outpost.

This is the concept plan for the development of Okee-Tantie in Okeechobee, Fla., that was approved by Okeechobee County Commissioners at their July 9, 2015 meeting. The property will be leased from the county and developed into a marina and campground through Elite Resorts Managers LLC and Guy Harvey Outpost.

He said the Okeechobee resort will be a full Guy Harvey Signature brand complete with lodges, an outfitters shop, guides and fishing services, a Tiki Bar and other amenities.

Mr. Ellert spent Wednesday working with the county’s planning department and other county officials to continue work on the project.

“It has been well embraced by county staff. We continue to move our efforts forward to try and create as exciting a plan for this property as the property itself,” he noted.

The project plans to be fun, safe, very angler centric and a fun fishing site for the entire family. It’ll also include tournament fishing, RV camping and camp sites that accommodate big rigs, resort campers, eco-campers and even motorcycle campers.

They also plan trade shows, festivals, race events and more fishing tournaments.

“As Guy Harvey would say, it’s a great canvas on which to paint but there is a lot of work ahead,” noted Mr. Ellert.

The work will be extensive as all of the infrastructure in place now will have to be replaced with new utilities.

The resort will be basically four different concepts: A marina, a river resort area and two sections for an RV resort.

The marina plan includes 86 boat slips with expansion up to 120 slips. The current Lightsey’s Restaurant will be converted into an outfitters shopmarina section-OkeeTantie plan.

Nearby will be a boat barn where golf carts can be rented to visit the property. The projected plan is to expand the marina; add a new pier while shifting the existing pier about 50 feet to the north; reintroduce a fuel dock; and, put in a new Tiki Bar at the point.

The river resort concept will include a 10,000-square-foot lodge and restaurant with a new river house grill. The old bait shop will be turned into a kids camp and equipment area. There will be new river-front cabins to rent, and a lazy river pool experience.

A 10,000-square-foot banquet hall is also in the future.

The plan is for 75-park model units to be used as overnight rentals. About 130 units and cottages will also be available.

There will also be an observation tower at the south end of the property where families can overlook the marsh area.

Other amenities include tennis courts, shuffle board and other recreational areas.

While plans are still being finalized, the goal is to preserve many of the trees already on site.

“Our goal is to really try and take the natural beauty of the site and protect it to the greatest extent possible,” Mr. Ellert added.

The current restaurant building will also house fishing guides.

The site will also include new utilities, streets, bath houses and shade structures.

The club lodge will serve as the administration building where visitors can check in. The River Grill and Anglers Bar will include 250 seats, and an outdoor patio with 100 dining seats and a bar.

Permanent cottages will be mostly located along the riverfront and upland areas, with some sprinkled around the marina and a couple near the pool.

Mr. Ellert said they want to increase business in the summer.

“I don’t think it’ll be a challenge to fill it up in the winter. We want to make it fun in the off-season when it is hot, so we’ll just put some water in there and make it fun for the kids,” he said.

Guy Harvey art will also be prominently displayed throughout the resort with a ship mural planned on the side of the boat barn. Conservation messages will also be plentiful.

Mr. Ellert emphasized the company’s commitment to turn Okee-Tantie into a signature destination that will be an asset to Okeechobee for many years.

“It won’t be fast money, it will take a while to bring this thing together. The good news is our arrangement with the county is in place,” he pointed out.

“The county made an investment in us and we made an investment in the county and community.”

The 50-year lease includes a 49-year renewal clause.

Mr. Ellert also predicts a big lift in the local economy.

This will be the only Guy Harvey project on Lake Okeechobee, he added, and every eye in the company is on this project.

A ribbon cutting is planned for the summer of 2017.

“It’ll be as public as any hotel in Okeechobee. We need a lot of support from the community. It will not be successful without the community embracing the project,” he added. “We have to have a long-term vision. If all this comes to pass, we’ll look back proudly on the decisions that we made.”

In two videos presented to the crowd, the company showcased their conservation efforts and their interest in freshwater fishing.

In other actions, Florida Power and Light officials said they filed for a petition in September for a certificate of need for the Okeechobee Clean Energy Center project with the Florida Public Service Commission.

This process will determine if the power generated is needed by the state. A public meeting on the project is anticipated in December.

The Florida Department of Environmental Protection (FDEP) is also reviewing two permit applications for this power plant. Letters of explanation are being mailed to every resident that lives within a 3-mile radius of the plant.

The Economic Council also stopped to remember the contributions made by founding member Frank Altobello, who died earlier this week.

County Commissioner Frank Irby said the county continues to prioritize negotiations with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) on mitigation needed at the airport so more of the facility can be developed. Another priority is improvement of drainage in the southern end of Okeechobee County.

Major Noel Stephen, from the Okeechobee County Sheriff’s Office, said 43 of 44 suspects have been arrested in connection with an alleged methamphetamine ring. He noted the jail has 66 female inmates.

Superintendent of schools Ken Kenworthy said tougher state standards will have a dramatic impact on school grades this year. He said the schools are looking at programs to get parents more involved in the academics of their children. He said the state is trying to limit school grades to proficiency only, and not consider learning gains made by the student.

The state committee that will determine if Okeechobee High School needs to be replaced should visit that campus in the next two months.

Indian River State College plans to hold job readiness workshops by the end of the year.

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