Siesta Key Round Up

| July 1, 2013

by Stan Zimmerman

Even plovers have enemies

As Ian Fleming once wrote in a James Bond book, “Once is happenstance, twice is coincidence, third time is enemy action.” For the snowy plovers of Siesta Key, it’s looking like a war.

The birds are one step up from endangered, as a federally protected species of concern. And this spring, they have faced a suspicious wildfire, numerous attacks on the signs and stakes urging people to stay out of their nesting area, and most recently a piece of heavy equipment plowing a nine-foot wide path directly through their conservation easement.

It happens at night when volunteers from the Audubon Society are not monitoring the area. It’s all happening near Beach Access Nine, upland of the beach in the scrubby vegetation zone.

The latest violation was called in by Siesta Key Association President Catherine Luckner, who said somebody tipped her that a large tractor was scraping away the vegetation.

County officials confirmed the violations, and are talking with nearby property owners. A new three-story condominium is under construction at 610-612 Beach Road. bordering the upland side of the conservation easement.

Half-price beach camping for residents

Camping on the beach used to be common…a hundred years ago. But between condominiums and property rights, beach camping is a thing of the past. Except at Sarasota County’s Turtle Beach.

The county campground is one of a handful of spots in Florida where tents and RVs are only a few steps from the beach. And this summer, Sarasota County residents can enjoy the historic-but-now-rare opportunity for half-price. Two nights for the cost of one is the deal.

Campers will have to show proof of residency and stay two nights in the same space to qualify. Call 349-3839 for information and reservations. The park contains full hook-ups for RVs, plus Wi-FI, showers and a laundry point.

Volunteers keep Key clean

The quarterly Adopt-A-Road cleanup gathered 22 “bags of junk,” according to Michael Shay, vice president of the Siesta Key Association. Shay thanked the 16 volunteers who scoured Ocean Boulevard from Beach Road to Higel Avenue, as well as Higel itself and Siesta Drive back to the northern bridge.

Before embarking on the cleanup, the volunteers were treated to a free breakfast at the Village Café by owners Tom and Kay Kouvatos and their staff. Members of the Siesta Key Association and Siesta Key Merchants Association participated.

Tiny bump in parking at Access 7

The parking at Siesta Beach Access 7 along Beach Road has been reconfigured after a fence was moved. The adjustment produced two more spaces in the lot.

There is more county property available for parking near Access 7 for 40 or 50 more spaces, but staffers are holding off because of nesting snowy plovers. The area near Access 7 is favored by the birds.

As additional parking is developed in the area, the regular access may be closed or modified to accommodate the nesting plovers. Foot traffic may be diverted to other beach accesses, if the main route has been commandeered by the birds.

In an email, County Commissioner Nora Patterson observed, “[The] agreement was that the parking would be gradually developed and we would work with Audubon and as plover nesting developed there at the access, the path to the beach would be closed and foot traffic diverted to other access. I think we are still doing that and I know that many people have devoted  a lot of hours to trying to protect baby plovers.”

Andrea gives pop quiz

Ready for hurricane season ’12? Tropical Storm Andrea put the preparations to the test in the first week of the storm season. On Day Two a bag of disturbed weather formed over the Yucatan, and by Day Five was deemed a tropical storm with 40 mph sustained winds and a central barometric pressure of 29.59 inches of mercury.

On Day 6, Andrea made landfall in the Big Bend area north of Cedar Key with sustained winds of 65 mph and central pressure of 29.32. These winds and pressures are very close to hurricane intensity.

Because Siesta Key was south of the center of the storm, the brisk west and southwest winds piled water into Sarasota Bay and waterfront canals, causing some yard flooding. Rains meanwhile contributed to street flooding.

Forecaster Rob Lightbaum with Crown Weather Services noted some early June storms are followed by stronger hurricanes later in the year along nearly identical tracks.

Andrea held its tropical characteristics up the eastern seaboard bringing heavy rain. It did little damage here, unlike Tropical Storm Debby in June 2012 that caused considerable erosion on Siesta Key.

Summer tourism omens are strong

Hotel and motel bookings through summer remain strong, following a record spring tourist season. The summer is up primarily due to a series of sporting events like June’s Pan American Masters Swimming Championships.

Other events include the Fourth of July Super Boat Grand Prix, and the U.S. Rowing Masters Championship in August. Summer soccer and tennis events at Lakewood Ranch and Bradenton’s IMG Academy will also boost visitors.

Meanwhile Floridians are also hitting the road for a summer vacation. One AAA survey indicated about 70 percent of Floridians will take a summer holiday this year.

Plus August is the month for Europeans to arrive. Sarasota has long been a favorite destination for them. Last year saw a 21 percent increase in European visitors to Sarasota County.

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