Siesta Key Round Up

| February 1, 2014

By Stan Zimmerman

SKA board opposes dredge
After spirited debate the Siesta Key Association’s board of directors is on record opposing the City of Saraosta’s plans to dredge sand from Big Pass to renourish South Lido Key. The board did not take a position on another part of the project that would build groins at the south end of Lido.

However the organization did not close off further evaluation of the plan. An amendment to the motion said the position reflected current information. With the amendment, the motion received unanimous approval.

Big Pass has never been dredged, and Siesta Key residents fear that “messing with Mother Nature” could imperil the world-famous public beach. Siesta is not immune to the need for renourishment, with areas in the center and southern ends benefiting from prior re-sanding.

The $22 million project is part of a 50-year plan proposed by the Army Corps of Engineers. Their carrot for the effort is a near-guarantee of a half-century of future federal money for recurring renourishment. The corps will pay 62 percent of the project cost, with the remainder coming from the state and local tourist taxes.

The city argues the economic benefits from a wide and white beach far offsets the cost of the project. However pristine white sand is getting harder and harder to find, making the ebb shoal of New Pass a very attractive donor site. Offshore donor sites are close to exhaustion.

Trolley to begin Siesta service
Don’t run out to catch the trolley now, because it won’t show up until July. But the years-long wait is over. The route will run from Westfileld Southgate Mall down Siesta Drive through Siesta Village with stops at the public beach and ending at Gulf Gate. That should run every 20 or 30 minutes.

Another route will service Turtle Beach on the south end of Siesta Key hourly.

The state is kicking in $1 million for the service, and patrons will need to pay a fare. But the park-and-ride amenity to get to the beach from the malls at Southgate and Gulfgate will be a godsend to lovers of the sand and sea.

In the meantime, don’t ask your beach bunny to stand in a parking spot at the public beach while you circle around. A county ordinance approved almost a year ago provides a $100 fine to the “standee.” Your bunny won’t be very happy with a citation in her bikini.

Beach brides beware! Vows tough in ’15
Rumors were rife last month the county was turning people away when they applied for a permit for a beach wedding on Siesta. Not true, the county says, but things are going to be tough for wedding parties when construction begins on a $21 million rehabilitation of the public beach. The work will last nearly two years.

Parks and Recreation Director Carolyn Brown says permits are available, and weddings will still be possible. But large sections of the beach will be off limits in 2015. In fact the area could be noisy, muddy and wet.

Weddings are big business for Siesta Key merchants, who provide accommodations to members of the party, and cater the after-vow celebrations.

Beach ratings game
Gosh, remember back in 2011 when Dr. Beach said Siesta was the Numero Uno Beach in America? Ah the joys of being the best.

But once you get to Number One, you fall off the good doctor’s chart, well, for good. Never again can you be top dog. Fame flees.

Meanwhile other beach raters are fingering Siesta’s sugary sands. Last May  the website TripAdviser rated Siesta as Numero Dos, based on the quality and quantity of reviewers and raters. Only Ka’anapali Beach in Lahaina, Hawaii was better, they said. I’m sure it was just as packed as Siesta, all those thousands of people texting TripAdvisor. Sure.

Now Dr. Beach – actually Stephen Leatherman, a professor at Florida International University – says he is going to revise his haughty standards and make beaches re-eligible for top dog status. In 2015 he’s changing the rules, and putting everybody back in competition.

Beach Road roundabout at Midnight?
Be careful what you ask for. Back in 2011 condominium residents complained about difficulties crossing Midnight Pass Road safety. When the Florida Dept. of Transportation investigated, they agreed with the residents and six fancy crosswalks were installed in 2012, flashing lights and all.

But during their study, the FDOT also decided a roundabout at Beach Road and Midnight Pass Road would improve pedestrian safety and improve traffic flow. And they put it on their project list…without telling anybody. Between 2014 and 2015 they plan to spend about $300,000 on preliminary engineering and design.

It caught county commissioners by surprise. Look for a community meeting in the near future.

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