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Siesta Beach Park Upgrades Head For Public Discussion

Folks wanting to weigh in on the proposed improvements to Siesta Beach Park will have a chance to do so at a hearing on Tuesday.

Siesta Beach Park improvements costs are rising and so will the conversation about the proposals during a Tuesday open-house meeting.

The design of the Siesta Beach Park improvements will discussed at a public meeting frm 5 to 7 p.m. Tuesday at St. Michael the Archangel Church, 5394 Midnight Pass Road on Siesta Key. There will be no formal presentation at the open-house-style meeting people can come anytime during the event set up by Sarasota County Public Works and Parks and Recreation.

The price tag of the project has long been a hot topic when the park's upgrades are discussed. It started out at $8 million, then to $16.7 million and during a September Siesta Key Village Association meeting, Curtis Smith, the county's project for Siesta Beach Park, acknowledged that the price is now $4 million over that budget, but staff planned to show county commissioners what an in-budget project would look like.

That didn't sit well with Commissioner Nora Patterson who was at that September meeting telling Smith that not only wouldn't he have support for an over-budget project, "Nor do you have a commission vote to spend $16.7 million now."

The project could be close to $27 million, The Herald-Tribune reports, but one commissioner told the paper that the number produced by a county engineer wasn't an official figure. 

Staff from the county and Kimley-Horn and Associates Inc., the design and engineering firm, will answer questions about the 60 percent design plan, which includes new and enhanced amenities at the beach, which was designated by Dr. Beach as the No. 1 Beach in America in 2011. The Sarasota County Commission approved the Siesta Beach Park Preliminary Design Plan in September 2011. The project has continued to evolve with input from the commission and the public.

The project is designed to increase and improve parking and pedestrian access, upgrade and expand recreational opportunities and facilities, and rehabilitation of the historic pavilion built in the 1950s.

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 multiuse shelters
  • relocation of several buildings and rehabilitation of the historic pavilion.

The design of the new and upgraded beach park facilities incorporates many 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.

Comments about the beach continue to pour in to the commissioners, such as from a Toronto couple who own property in Siesta Key and downtown Sarasota. William and Anna Pereira emailed Commissioner Joe Barbetta Nov. 8 urging him to mainting progress on getting the park upgraded:

Many of our fellow Canadians have spent considerable tourism dollars in Sarasota(as well as purchased vacation homes there) & feel that Siesta Beach is its CROWN JEWEL.Often we have heard many of our Canadian friends disappointed by the facilities(esp.the restrooms) on this incredible beach. 

Our appeal to you is to please push hard to proceed with the Siesta Beach Improvement Project. We understand current financial restraints but certainly a prime tourist destination such as Siesta Beach that surely generates many many millions in tourism dollars deserves a spectacular renovation even if it breaks the budget by a few million dollars .Surely the longer the delay (with the economy improving in Florida) will result in even higher construction costs.

Project design and construction will be funded through the infrastructure surtax, also known as the penny sales tax.

ed longobardi November 12, 2012 at 11:39 AM
Its not up to the canadians or any other tourists its up to the people who live and work here and pay taxes.
Betsy Meyer November 12, 2012 at 11:24 PM
I agree...also, please remember that it's a BEACH. Mother nature, the fabuluos water, gorgeous sunsets, early morning walks along the beach looking for shells and checking out birds, catching up with friends, family and acquaintances in a laid back, non-commercial atmosphere is what our beaches are about. Just give us our great lifeguards, good parking, adequate garbage control and clean rest rooms and most of us will continue to be happy. Keep it SIMPLE...don't raise taxes!
Elizabeth March 26, 2013 at 06:25 PM
I totally agree with Ed; residents must decide the fate of Siesta Beach, not tourists.....who will come anyway because Siesta Beach is beautiful, none like it. I totally agree with Betsy; lifeguards, expanded parking, adequate garbage control & clean rest rooms PLEASE - Do not spend millions on a project that we do NOT NEED; people will always come to Siesta Beach......we don't need modernization! Too many environments have been commercialized and, therefore, lost much of their natural beauty. A small Venice beach was upgraded a few years ago......it became MUCH worse for it.....the natural beauty that existed was decimated.......it does not look like the same beach......heartbreaking. City planners & architects can find other projects that would put our tax money to better use. Plus, the economy is still vulnerable.......KEEP IT SIMPLE.......for sooooo many reasons.

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