by Stan Zimmerman
Sacred sand at risk
The sacred sand of Big Pass is on the altar of beach renourishment. Last month the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers proposed – for the first time in history – the dredging Big Pass.
The sand would be used to renourish the beach at Lido Key to the north. The corps also proposes three groins to jut from the southern end of Lido.
Corps officials said the dredging and groins would not affect the Siesta Key Public Beach…in 2011 rated the top beach in the nation.
Siesta Key residents have long believed the natural formation of Big Pass has kept Siesta beach supplied with its gleaming white, sugary sand. Some fear a dredge could upset the balance of nature.
The corps plan stretches for 50 years. The initial dredge would move 1.2 million cubic yards from Big Pass. Then every five years, another 600-thousand yards would be removed.
The destination is a 1.6-mile stretch of Lido Beach from mid-key south to Lido Key Park. The plan would cost $22.7 million, with 65 percent coming from the corps and the remainder from the Sarasota County Tourist Development Tax.
The first chance for local action on the plan could come Oct. 22 at a joint Sarasota city-county commission meeting.
Turtle Beach notches forward
Speaking of beach renourishment, plans to put more sand on Turtle Beach are inching ahead. The beach is located on the southwestern end of Siesta. An earlier renourishment was completed in 2007, but the county hopes to do it again in the 2014-2015 fiscal year.
The county plans to pay for the re-sanding with tourist development tax monies and a grant from the Florida Ecosystem Management and Restoration Trust Fund. Tropical weather last year created significant erosion on the southern portion of the key.
Homeless point the way
A tiny park was quietly created from county right of way along Siesta Beach this summer. Siesta Key Association Vice President Michael Shay noted homeless people camping there, and contacted the sheriff.
When the property was determined to be county right of way, the parks and recreation department moved ahead to create a tiny pocket park on the land, with one parking space and an iconic “totem pole” sign saying “Enjoy Your Park.”
The parcel is just south of the village near the Windward Passage condominium complex on Ocean Boulevard. Total investment for the project was about $5,000.
Crystal Classic Coming
Early snowbirds have the opportunity to join the thousands of people to see the efforts of some of the world’s best sand sculptors. The Crystal Classic is set for Nov. 15-18.
The date puts Siesta in competition with a similar event in Kuwait. Some of the sculptors who had signed up for Siesta are now headed to Kuwait, so organizers had to replace some members of the teams originally committed to the Crystal Classic.
A pass to the four-day event is $10, and a VIP parking pass for the period of $49. All the proceeds benefit the Mote Marine Laboratory’s sea turtle research and conservation efforts.
’Wrapped trolley’ to service key
Starting in July 2014 the Sarasota County Area Transit system will begin offering a trolley service to Siesta Key. It won’t be a real trolley, though. The county will ‘wrap’ a normal SCAT bus in a decal kit that gives the outward appearance of a trolley.
With 17 new buses arriving in mid-2014, the department would have two additional buses to service downtown-to-Southgate Mall-to-Siesta Village-to-Turtle Beach and back. The buses would run every 60 minutes.
The service will run for three years under a deal with the Florida Department of Transportation, which will cover half the cost. The major incentive to use the trolley is a paucity of parking on the key.
Siesta “firetrap” under rehab
The owner of 6537 Sabal Drive on the south end of Siesta Key is now trying to bring his building into compliance with local and federal building regulations. A former tenant described the building a “firetrap.”
A county inspection turned up six ground-floor rooms billed as bedrooms with no windows or sprinkler system, and only one exit out of the building. If a fire blocked the door, the only other way out was a plate glass window in a kitchen.
When the owner did not respond to county code violation citations, the matter was brought before a special magistrate, who imposed a $500/day fine for every day the building remained out of compliance.
The county placed liens on the property to collect the fines. The owner hired a Bradenton construction company to tear down the non-compliant structures and bring the building back to code.
An advertisement last summer for the property said it could accommodate up to 40 people with its 10 bedrooms and five bathrooms. The rent was $4,500/week in season.