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Public Informational Meeting Held for Siesta Beach Park

Residents see new designs for the Siesta Beach Park improvement project

St. Michael the Archangel Church on Siesta Key was the site of a Tuesday evening public meeting for residents interested in seeing the improvement plans for Siesta Beach Park.

There was no formal presentation at the open house-style meeting, hosted by the Sarasota County Public Works and Parks and Recreation departments, but the designs for all the aspects of the park were displayed in the community room for residents to observe.

Curt Preisser, of the Sarasota County Communications department, said this style of meeting is one the county had employed in the past.

“This is a model that worked really well for the Gulf Gate Library project,” he said. “The community has had a lot of input into this highly visible and very important project. Now they can take a look at the design plans.”

Staff from the county and Kimley-Horn and Associates Inc., the design and engineering firm for the project, were on hand to answer questions about the 60-percent complete design plan, which includes new and enhanced amenities at the world-class Siesta Beach. The project is designed to increase and improve parking and pedestrian access, upgrade and expand recreational opportunities and facilities, and rehabilitate the historic pavilion.

“There are a lot of great things involved with this project,” Carolyn Brown, Director of Parks and Recreation said, when asked what she thought would be the most popular improvement with the community. “The general public had a lot of input on the restroom facilities, walkways and the parking.”

Both Preisser and Brown said that, especially because the current pavilion and restrooms had been in place since the fifties, it was time for a change.

Siesta Key and other Sarasota residents walked around the room observing the drawings and discussing the designs with one another. John Laskey, who is currently building a home in Siesta Key neighborhood Hidden Harbor, questioned exactly what “pervious” parking meant, in reference to the proposed 317-space parking lot. The explanation from Brown was that it could be any type of surface that allowed drainage, such as pavers.

The $21 million project appears to be rising, and while a new figure cannot be confirmed, two county commissioners said Tuesday the handling of the project could improve, The Herald-Tribune reports:

“This has not been managed well from the county aspect as far as communication is concerned, as far as time line is concerned, as far as information is concerned,” Commissioner Christine Robinson told County Administrator Randall Reid. “I think this needs direct intervention from you to get this back on track because this has gone far off track.” 

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Commissioner Nora Patterson, who represents Siesta Key, attended the evening meeting at the church and seemed in no way distressed by the different numbers.

“It’s a big project,” she said. “Everyone wants it to be perfect. It’s been a little messy.”

What was shown to the community at this particular meeting was a 60 percent design plan. The parking lot surface will not be determined until the 90 percent plan is completed.

Among the possible amenities and improvements the commission will consider for the beach park are: 

  • A pedestrian esplanade connecting the park from east to west.
  • An expanded and renovated parking lot.
  • Improved Beach Road access.
  • Modern and expanded restrooms.
  • Two new concession areas, including one that is elevated.
  • New multi-use shelters.
  • Relocation of several buildings and rehabilitation of the historic pavilion.

Preisser said that it was important, when designing the new park, to incorporate sustainable features, such as more efficient use of space and sustainable materials, expanded landscaping using native plants, and improved stormwater management through low-impact design principles.  The project design and construction will be funded through the infrastructure surtax, also known as the penny sales tax.

Brown said that the planning committee knew that the world-class Siesta Beach needed no improvement, but the goal was to build a park around it that was worthy of the beach itself.

“The project was really to bring the facilities up to modern-day standards,” she said.

For more information about the Siesta Beach Park improvements Project, please visit the website at https://www.scgov.net/ParkProjects/Pages/Siesta-Beach-Improvements.aspx.

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