$2-million matching grant awarded to The Bay Park in Sarasota by Gulf Coast Community Foundation

Funding dedicated to design and development of Resilient Shoreline

Known as an environmental and community gem, “The Bay Park is a space for families to treasure along Sarasota Bay,” the Gulf Coast Community Foundation says. Photo courtesy of The Bay Park

The board of director of the Gulf Coast Community Foundation (Gulf Coast) has approved a $1-million grant, which has been doubled by anonymous Gulf Coast donors, to make a total of $2 million in matching dollars available for The Bay Park in downtown Sarasota, Gulf Coast announced this week.

“The significant milestone funding will be used to support the design and development of a new Resilient Shoreline,” as well as free park programming, a news release points out. “This is a challenge match opportunity to the community to raise a total of $4 million for The Bay by December 31, 2024,” the release also notes. Donations may be made via The Bay’s website: www.thebaysarasota.org/support-the-park.

“This significant funding reflects Gulf Coast Community Foundation’s catalytic support of The Bay from the beginning,” the Foundation’s president and CEO, Phillip Lanham, said in the release. “We are honored that enthusiastic friends of The Bay, Gulf Coast philanthropists, chose to co-invest in this incredible opportunity for building community and continual expansion of The Bay Park,” he continued. “The Bay is fully aligned with Gulf Coast’s priority areas of water quality and access to green spaces, and there is also substantial research that proves the positive impact of access to green space on our mental health, which is another top priority of Gulf Coast Community Foundation,” Lanham added in the release. “Please join us in support of The Bay, our ‘one park for all’ that is open and accessible, free and welcoming for everyone to enjoy.”

“This important challenge match from Gulf Coast demonstrates the importance of The Bay and its growing positive impact — on the environment and on people,” AG Lafley, founding CEO of the Bay Park Conservancy, which manages and raises funds for the park, added in the release. “Creating and providing access to more, sustainable green space and more high-quality free programming enables the park to continue to be a delightful place that is open and accessible, free and welcoming to the full and rich diversity of the community — now, and for future generations,” Lafley pointed out.

Since The Bay Park opened in October 2022, more than 400,000 people have visited the facilities, and more than 50,000 have participated in free events and programs offered in the park, the release notes. “Immersion in nature helps improve happiness, well-being, and mental focus by reducing anxiety and stress,” the release says.

“Gulf Coast has already made many important contributions to The Bay, including support of Common Ground, a centerpiece in the first phase of the park, which has become a beloved, sustainable outdoor gathering space for everyone in the community to enjoy,” the release continues.

“Extending the Resilient Shoreline as part of Phase 2 will build on the continual environmental restoration efforts throughout the park and will treat millions of gallons of polluted stormwater before it enters Sarasota Bay,” the release explains.

“The Bay is a signature public park along Sarasota Bay in downtown Sarasota,” the release adds. “This beloved gathering place is transforming 53 acres of precious city-owned land into a blue and green oasis — revitalizing what was once a parking lot into a dynamic public park.”

Design and development of Phase 2, the 14-acre, $65-million development, began last fall, the release points out. The completed park will cost an estimated $175 million to $200 million and will take approximately eight to 10 years to complete, over four or more phases, the release adds.

For more information about The Bay and The Bay Park Conservancy, visit www.thebaysarasota.org, subscribe to The Bay newsletter, and follow The Bay on Facebook and Instagram.