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Siesta Beach Upgrade Poised For Rocket Ride

But only if county staffers can find $21.5 million for the ticket.

Sarasota County’s ambitious plans for the nation’s “number one beach” were put on the fast track Wednesday afternoon, but only if money can be found to pay for it. 

Curtis Smith, the county’s project engineer for Siesta Beach told commissioners last summer the current plan calls for $21.5 million to be spent over the next 12 years. Commissioners sent Smith back to compress the time schedule from years to months. He returned Wednesday with a new schedule, but no new funding.

Director of Public Works Jim Harriott said, “This design contract is based on the assumption we can have a construction project for the next 14 months. We haven’t found the funding. We will come back in January or February.”

Commissioners approved $1.4 million contract amendment with Kimley-Horn and Associates for “final permitting, design and limited construction phase services.”  The entire project is paid for from Surtax III money. 

The improvements will include work at the concession area, increased parking, Beach Road improvements, additional rest rooms, improved playground, a new maintenance facility and new tennis courts. On the existing schedule, little of the work would get started until a year or two from now.

Because of the soft economy, collections of the extra penny of sales tax from Surtax III has been sluggish. The schedule of projects receiving funding has been juggled several times, and will be juggled again to look for Siesta Beach project money.

Commissioner Joe Barbetta said, “I would love to see this project done. This is our number-one tourist attraction.”

“This is the goose that lays the golden eggs,” said Commissioner Jon Thaxton. “Right now the goose doesn’t match up to the expectation of our citizens or the visitors to the number-one beach in the U.S. The facilities are tired and we need to wake them up.”

The “wake up” would start with Beach Road drainage improvements, including a new retention area on the eastern side of the property, starting in the summer of 2012. The following spring, work would begin on the eastern picnic and playground areas, with concessions and restrooms. Both of these phases would be finished before the onslaught of tourist season.

However the next phase – the big parking expansion – would start in the fall of 2013 and be finished in the spring of 2014, bridging across tourist season. The final phase would be the western parking lot and existing concession area. It would be a Spring-to-Fall project in 2014.  

Smith said the telescoped project does not include any work on Beach Road. “That could be a separate contract,” he said.

Rich Unger December 11, 2011 at 08:08 PM
Leave Siesta Beach alone, it just got the "Best US Beach Award" for as it is, why does the county have to ruin it? Leave it, the parking works itself out, always has we don't need more stinkin food concessions, leave this beach in paradise alone. Dr Beach just told you it is fine it is excellent it is premier, why ruin it?
Rick Field December 12, 2011 at 12:42 AM
The parking lot is a freaking rats maze, once you enter you can not get out. While added parking is being developed, please get a better design for the existing traffic flow and pay some attendants to expedite the traffic. Does the beach have a capacity that we should not go beyond, yes! But we are not there yet.
Dan Quarteran January 12, 2012 at 04:06 PM
The fire station, the tennis courts, the storm basin - all areas that could be moved or redesigned to fit the purpose of accomodating more parking to provide access to Siesta beach. What's really going on with the parking is a case of stubborn parties with self interests keeping practical solutions from moving forward. The majority of our community and outside visitors see this parking issue as a significant problem, but a smaller (primarily a local SK constituancy) seem satisfied with the self limiting effects of less available parking spaces (and predictably, most on SK will not support parking on the side streets - a solution that could provide much needed relief.) Beach patrons will choose other destinations or just decide to not visit during the peak season. Some propose shuttles, but I doubt that would take. Simple parking is the answer. Street parking should be part of that comprehensive plan and include areas near all access points. No doubt, the compromise of allowing parking on side streets would cut into the privacy of SK neighborhoods, but that should be the price of choosing to live that close to a popular public treasure. If they were all opened up, none would be overcrowed. I support most of the other objectives to improve the concession and restroom facilities, but question the cost. The money spent on planning alone could have covered half the cost of a decent design off the rack.

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