Three active Bald Eagle nests now sandwich Ted Sperling Park

By: Michael Holderness
“Here’s my belief”

Ted Sperling Public Park was purchased by Sarasota County in 1973 (after the public overwhelmingly voted; 95% of voters demanded the county acquiring the 150-acre park for public use. Sarasota County followed the wishes of the voters, and the park was funded with federal and state grants and was to be “forever maintained in its natural state”. What a wonderful thing!

The park and the surrounding area are home for three active Bald eagle nests. Again, what a wonderful thing!

Well, until now! Nearly 50 years later, the city government is trying to use our Ted Sperling Public Park as a construction site, a.k.a. “staging area”, for the proposed dredging of the critical fish estuary (zoned “Marine Park”). This is to happen with NO county oversite. Sidebar: NO Dredging Permit was obtained from Sarasota County either, as required by Article XX. Section 54-653, so not to destroy one of 28 Estuary of Significance Outstanding Florida Waters (OFWS).

Allow me to be perfectly clear… “OPEN-SPACES and PUBLIC RECREATION” is the ONLY ‘USE’ the Grant funding allowed “Forever Florida.” THERE IS NO OTHER USE AND NO EXEMPTION! This is likely why the City Government is refusing to ask Sarasota County for permission.

NO County oversight when county-owned land is at issue and when the county is required to govern it as a Conservational Public Park? NO exemption for such use when the county is seated as WNCA and this is under county jurisdiction? Does this make sense to you?

WHY… Why isn’t the city using its own designated construction site within the city limits as a “staging area”? Why isn’t anyone from the county or city government considering the inevitable loss to this amazing PUBLIC PARK?

WHY AREN’T THEY PUBLICALLY TALKING ABOUT DESTROYING THE PARK?

Dare I ask… is the City attempting to use PUBLIC FUNDS and PUBLIC LAND to build and privatize their private beach on Lido? Is it that they don’t care about damaging our park?

The problem today is the City (City Manager “Red Tide Tom” Barwin is the driving force) likely working together with county to avoid the permit process? Avoiding the permit process, avoids public input and environmental regulations… side-stepping the fact that a staging area/construction site use is NOT allowed. Please understand, this approach is ILLEGAL as is the use of OUR PUBLIC PARK and their process in attempts to side-step ALL environmental oversite.

The use of this park for a construction site is also governed by a Major Conditional Change to the FDEP conditional permit, which also requires approval.

There is no use the county could approve even if Barwin did apply for a permit. Hence the importance of public due process, which is not possible under a ‘contract agreement’ and why the law states it must be a permit process.

Therefore, they HAVE NOT obtained a use permit, as required by City Zoning Code VII-702. Note: This is inconsistent with prior activities in the same County Park.

That being shared, The FDEP Director can only sign off on the Permit for a Notice of Intent to Proceed (NOI) after receiving verification that the project is consistent with all comprehensive plans, that there are no interlocal government issues with the project permitting, and that the appropriate environmental assessment was completed (County’s requested EIS is still being ignored).

This situation should not have gotten this far, as these things must be in place in order to satisfy the Coastal Zone Management Act. The Act in which allows the State to give a permit to the Army Corp of Engineers, but neither the ACOE nor the city can give it to themselves, and this act does not allow the USACOE to spend federal funds unless the partner (City) complies. WOW! Realize, USACOE can’t spend a nickel of Federal dollars (your money) until in compliance but haven’t been since day one.

*This is insanity. Scientific proof of the destruction will be devastating. An acceptable solution has always been to simply get sand outside the Pass.

By overstepping all authority, it sure appears that the City manager is trying to set a new precedent that environmental regulations no longer apply to the city? If that is the case, then City Government should go ‘pound sand’ out of Cut D3 and use their own city-designated construction site. *D3 was hid from DOAH and is located a ¼ mile or so off City’s own construction area.

DEMAND they WILL NOT CONSTRUCT THE SOUTHERN GROIN. DEMAND THEY LEAVE OUR PARK AND OUR CRUSIAL ESTUARY (Cuts B & C) ALONE.

Does anyone know who is our advocate when it comes to big development and our Local elected Government isn’t?

THE GROINS CANNOT CHANGE DESIGN WITHOUT APPROVAL; NOR ARE THEY PERMITTED

The ACOE has already stated that significant erosion will occur after the groins are placed. WNCA regs apply based on groin construction also. The project scope is significantly modified; ACOE has increased the sand volume for the project despite the number of groins. There is no city ‘insurance’ for damages. WNCA regs apply based on groin construction and ACOE CONFIRMED erosion will happen. * We found no record in the DOAH or any application materials, where FDEP could review the modeling of changes. This is what an EIS could provide and as example which was modeled LBK. It also didn’t model erosion for Bird Key, Bay Isle/Siesta Key, either.

Regardless, Construction of Groins is not permitted, NO EXEMPTION! The unapproved Groin design change (to avoid asking the county for the previous location) shows the new location proposes installing exactly where beachscape negatively affects the downdrift beach?!

The unapproved groin design added will cause all beaches to the south to have reduced sand migrating and the ACOE has already stated that significant erosion will occur after the groins are placed. *For example, 100Kcy of sand is ‘expected to erode in the first 1.5 years. However, the historic erosion is 72K cy and that’s without the groins. The groins are supposed to reduce erosion, not increase it! THEY HAVE NO NET LOSS OF SAND WITHOUT! This is not acceptable for the close proximity of parks, marine park conservation districts, residential shoreline and loss of use for Ted Sperling Park.

Even Mr. Fournier (City Attorney), Alex Davis-Shaw (City Engineer) and “Red Tide Tom” all shared their grave concerns over the city being liable for damages in their 12/25/2019 in-house memorandum. The LAST paragraph was particularly meaningful as a “tell’ about their lack of care of the environment.

“Mr. Red Tide Barwin, your partner can’t spend a penny of OUR Federal dollars until you comply. It’s clear that you can’t comply, and you’ve shown by your lawless actions that you plan to never comply. Therefore, FDEP can never legally issue the notice to proceed. You are NOT entitled; you are NOT above the law and you should have gone to the APPROVED OFF-SHORE DEP HARVESTING SITE IMMEDIATELY AFTER YOUR PRIOR DREDGING PROJECT ERODED ‘YOUR CITIZEN’S’ BEACH ON LIDO!”

Ted Sperling Park is the only reason 3 active bald eagle nests are thriving today. It is designated as a Conservation District as a Park and is required to be Governed as one. “What a wonderful thing!”

Key Stakeholders
Marine Life
Sarasota County
Siesta Key Residents
Private Beach Front Landowners on Lido
Lido Residents
Public Beach Users
Residents & Visitors
(not City Manager RED TIDE Tom Barwin’s special interests)
Donations are important and appreciated, visit skedf.org

This space is paid for by Siesta Key resident and business owner, Mike Holderness