A proposal for trash-bag dispensers at the beach garners attention; the Sarasota Sheriff’s Office substation in the Village will close; and a ceremony is set for Sept. 18 for the formal renaming of Bay Island Park
With complaints having been aired again recently about people leaving lots of garbage on Siesta Key Public Beach, the Board of Directors of the Siesta Key Association (SKA) will consider ideas that have been broached for keeping one of the county’s top tourism assets a cleaner place. Among those is the placement of dispensers at beach accesses stocked with plastic bags similar to those provided by grocery stores. People could grab the bags and use them to store trash they accumulate during their time on the beach.
Then the people could simply drop those bags in the garbage cans at the beach accesses.
However, SKA President Michael Shay cautioned, putting up such dispensers and keeping them stocked would require “a big partner … like a Publix or a Walmart … [The undertaking is] monumental.”
The latest garbage discussion arose during the regular SKA meeting on Sept. 3. Shay pointed out that the organization has received letters, email and phone calls from people concerned about the appearance of the beach and its parking lots. As a result, he continued, he contacted Carolyn Brown, director of parks, recreation and natural resources for Sarasota County, for her comments. She provided them in an email, which she copied to the county commissioners.
In that correspondence, Brown wrote the following in regard to “county efforts to manage litter and trash on the public beach in a safe and efficient manner”:
- A multitude of cans on the open beach would create what she termed “an eyesore.” She noted that when the county used to keep cans on the beach, the receptacles often overflowed and thus became “even more of an eyesore.”
- “Trash cans and their associated litter provide food for opportunistic wildlife,” throwing populations out of balance, she continued, which can have an impact on protected species.
- “State wildlife agencies and [Sarasota] Audubon representatives were asking us to minimize use of utility vehicles on the beach due to the impact on beach nesting birds,” she wrote. Trash cans on the beach also are contraindicated by the Sea Turtle Protection Ordinance, necessitating their removal from the open beach during the nesting season.
- “Each summer, tropical storm events required staff to haul the cans off the beach multiple times per season to avoid loss,” she pointed out, which was another reason a policy change called for the removal of the receptacles from the beach.
- Emptying trash cans on a regular basis would necessitate utility vehicles on the beach at times when the shoreline is filled with beachgoers, she noted, which could create a safety issue.
- “The county’s deployment of trash cans is limited to county-owned or managed lands” and is therefore limited to the public beach and beach access points, she pointed out.
“The county continues to use a beach rake to clean and groom at Siesta Beach,” Brown continued. “The wrack line is left alone to provide foraging for wildlife.”
Staff members will continue to monitor and evaluate garbage and recycling management at all of the beaches and parks,” Brown added, “and are be prepared to make changes as necessary.”
During the Sept. 3 discussion, Shay emphasized that the county’s deployment of garbage cans is limited to the public beach accesses; county staff does not have the responsibility of collecting garbage on private sections of the beach.
Sarasota County Commissioner Al Maio, who was a guest at the meeting, told the approximately 25 people present that he recently took his wife to see the progress of the renovations at the beach park, “ ’cause I was bragging, trying to impress her.” In the parking lot, he continued, “She had a fit just looking at the beer bottles, liquor bottles and the trash just literally dumped” from vehicles.
SKA member Katherine Zimmerman asked what could be done to encourage tourists to take their trash with them when they leave the beach.
The key is to find the best way to educate the public, Shay replied. Among the ideas “thrown out” to the SKA has been that of “providing garbage bag dispensers,” he said. “I have this vision of discussing [this] with the [county’s Parks, Recreation and Natural Resources Department]” and partnering with community businesses to “provide [bags] at the beaches and accesses,” he continued.
For years, the SKA has been providing dog waste bags at dispensers in various locations on the island, Shay pointed out.
Another idea that has been broached, Shay noted, is to start a contest on Facebook, encouraging people to take photos of the garbage they pick up and “send [them] to us.” With audience members chuckling, he said, “If it’s a game and it drives people to do it, maybe it’ll work,” cautioning, though, “I am probably speaking very prematurely on this.”
Zimmerman suggested signage posted with the bag dispensers could encourage people to keep the beach clean.
SKA board member Beverly Arias brought up the possibility of adding signage to the lifeguard stations to explain why no garbage cans are on the beach and to encourage people to take bags from the dispensers. Tourists do not realize that cans are available only at the accesses, she pointed out.
That should be part of the educational process, Zimmerman added.
“It is an education,” Shay replied, noting that SKA members have talked about working with Visit Sarasota County to inform tourists how trash is handled on the beaches.
Perhaps the Siesta Key Chamber of Commerce could assist in the effort, he said, adding, “It’s a big project … There’s also the expense of the bags.”
When I contacted Carolyn Brown on Sept. 11, she had not heard about the discussion regarding the garbage bag dispensers. She would be interested in learning whether any other beach communities have tried that option and, if so, what results they had seen, she told me.
Sheriff’s Office changes
When Sgt. Scott Osborne left his position in April as officer in charge of the Sheriff’s Office substation in Siesta Village, his replacement was Sgt. Chris Laster, who has been a member of the Sheriff’s Office Mounted Patrol since 1994. On Sept. 3, SKA members learned that Laster has returned full-time to responsibilities with the Mounted Patrol.
The Sheriff’s Office will make a decision on Laster’s replacement after the start of the 2016 fiscal year on Oct. 1, Lt. Debra Kaspar announced. In the meantime, Kasper will be the contact person for any matter involving Siesta Key, Wendy Rose, community affairs manager for the Sheriff’s Office, told me this week.
Osborne served 10 years on Siesta. He was relocated to north Sarasota County as a day-shift patrol supervisor; his territory includes the Mall at University Town Center and Nathan Benderson Park.
In yet another change, Kaspar continued, the Sheriff’s Office will not be renewing its lease on that Village substation because officers will be working out of the new Life Safety Building at Siesta Public Beach. That structure is scheduled to be completed by the end of this year on the western end of the park, in the area of the historic Pavilion.
Deputies will share those offices with the lifeguards, county staff has explained. While the facility is under construction, Kaspar said, deputies are working out of a trailer in the beach parking lot.
The closing of the substation is “not going to change the level of service,” Kaspar emphasized.
The Sheriff’s Office made the decision about the Siesta Village substation after Siesta Center, where it is located, was sold earlier this year, Rose told me in an email.
On May 12, Gracen Associates LLC of Sarasota — whose registered agent is Jeffrey Berlin — bought Siesta Center for $4.6 million from 5111 Ocean Blvd. Inc., whose principal director is Dennis J. McGillicuddy of Sarasota.
Honoring a long-time county commissioner
Sarasota County staff is inviting members of the community to a 10 a.m. ceremony on Friday, Sept. 18, that will feature the renaming of Bay Island Park to Nora Patterson Bay Island Park “in honor of former Sarasota County Commissioner Nora Patterson,” a news release says.
The event also will celebrate the completion of improvements at the park. Among them were the construction of a new sea wall and installation of new benches, fishing rails and signage, the release notes.
“We’re honored to rename this beautiful facility after Nora Patterson, a retired beloved commissioner and excellent steward of public lands,” said Carolyn Brown, director of the Sarasota County Parks, Recreation and Natural Resources Department, in the release.
Nora Patterson Bay Island Park is regularly used for recreational fishing and as a temporary landing spot for recreational boaters, the release adds. It also is “an ideal place to take in great views of beautiful Sarasota Bay,” the release says.
Patterson, a Siesta Key resident, served as a county commissioner for 16 years. The current commissioners voted unanimously in May to rename the park after her.
“One of the most important things is to maintain public access to the waterfront, so to have a park like this carry my name is just fantastic,” Patterson said.
Nora Patterson Bay Island Park is located at 946 Siesta Drive, just west of the north Siesta bridge.
For more information, call the Sarasota County Contact Center at 861-5000.
International Coastal Cleanup ahead
Yet another topic during the Sept. 3 SKA meeting was the announcement of Keep Sarasota County Beautiful’s 2015 International Coastal Cleanup, which will be held from 8 a.m. to noon on Saturday, Sept. 19. SKA President Shay said he already had 22 people signed up to collect trash on Siesta Key Public Beach, on Shell Beach and in Bay Island Park.
In a county news release, Wendi Crisp, Keep Sarasota County Beautiful coordinator, said, “It’s really exciting to see individuals and groups of all types coming together to help beautify our county.” She added, “We’ve had an amazing response already from people interested in helping out with this year’s cleanup.”
The volunteer roster has been filling up fast, according to the news release, but Keep Sarasota County Beautiful is still seeking volunteers in a few South County locations, Crisp noted in the release. To register, visit http://www.scgov.net/kscb or call the Sarasota County Contact Center at 861-5000.
Crews will begin hydro-demolition of the concrete decking on the Stickney Point Road drawbridge on Sunday, Sept. 20 at 9 p.m., the Florida Department of Transportation has announced.
An FDOT news release says the contractor “will close one westbound lane from Sunday night until the afternoon of Friday, Sept. 25. During the concrete cure period (Friday, September 25 through early morning on Monday, September 28), there will be two 10-foot westbound lanes open to traffic.” Weather permitting, the release continues, crews expect to have both westbound lanes returned to their original 12-foot width by late in the morning of Monday, Sept. 28.
“Motorists should use caution while driving through the work zone and plan additional travel time,” the release concludes.