County awaiting word from FDOT on new No. 1 beach signs

Staff of Visit Sarasota County designed signs resembling beach balls to tout Siesta Key’s No. 1 beach status last year. Image courtesy Visit Sarasota County

Sarasota County Administrator Randall Reid expects to hear from the Florida Department of Transportation by July 16 regarding the type of permanent signage it will allow the county to put up regarding Siesta Public Beach’s status as the No. 1 U.S. beach for 2011-12, Reid told the County Commission July 10.

Members of the Siesta Key Village Association like the idea of a new sign with the design of a beach ball, Commissioner Nora Patterson told her fellow board members during the July 10 regular meeting in Venice.

Kay Kouvatsos, co-owner of Village Café, called it “a wonderful idea” during the SKVA meeting on July 3.

A guest at that meeting, Patterson had encouraged the SKVA to send the County Commission a letter endorsing the concept.

Patterson told the SKVA members she was hopeful the county could get FDOT approval for wayfinding signage incorporating the beach ball design.

“Some reflection back from you guys that you really wish we’d pursue this would be extremely helpful,” she said.

“And we will,” President Russell Matthes told her, adding that he routinely saw tourists taking photos of the current No. 1 beach signs.

Mark Smith of Smith Architects in Siesta Village made a motion to direct Matthes to write a letter to the County Commission in support of keeping up No. 1 beach signage, with the date of the recognition for the Siesta Public Beach on those signs.

The motion passed unanimously.

Patterson told the SKVA members, “I have heard not terrific enthusiasm about the brown signs, which, ugly though they may be, actually are official FDOT-approved signs for locating parks all over the state.”

(County staff added those brown signs to Sarasota County Area Transit signs near Siesta Key before Labor Day weekend in 2011.)

Her fellow commissioners already had said they would have no objection to the beach ball signs, Patterson said.

Lourdes Ramirez, a Siesta resident who is president of the Sarasota County Coalition of Neighborhood Associations, had suggested use of a beach ball as the design for permanent signs, “which is really cute,” Patterson said.

Virginia Haley, president of Visit Sarasota County — formerly the Sarasota Convention and Visitors Bureau — had told her “it probably would be a good idea to take down [the current signs] at the end of the year, because we will get flak from the new No. 1 beach,” Patterson continued.

Nonetheless, Haley also had told her, Patterson said, that Dr. Stephen P. Leatherman of Florida International University, who named Siesta No. 1 in May 2011, had told Haley he had no objection to the county’s keeping signs up.

In a July 10 email to The Sarasota News Leader, Haley said a member of the public had contacted her several weeks ago, furious that the brown No. 1 beach signs were still up.

She had tried to explain to that person, Haley wrote in the email, that although a new No. 1 beach was announced in May, Siesta retained its place on the list of all the beaches that had been No. 1.

Haley added in her email that when she and Patterson had discussed the signs, Haley had told Patterson she “wasn’t sure that it made sense to replace everything now — wouldn’t it be smarter to just leave the current [signs] up and remove them at the end of the year.”

Nonetheless, Haley wrote, “I am fine either way.”

In the meantime, Matthes said during the SKVA meeting, “the beauty of it is that the new No. 1 beach is not near here. … It’s across the country.”

On May 25, Leatherman named Coronado Beach near San Diego his No. 1 beach for 2012-13.