Red Bug Slough Preserve project expected to get underway next week

New playground, expansion of parking lot and creation of accessible trail part of the plans

Thanks to a unanimous Sarasota County Commission vote, improvements are expected to get underway this month at the county’s 72-acre Red Bug Slough Preserve, which is located primarily between South Beneva Road and South Lockwood Ridge Road in Sarasota.

On March 21, the board members accepted a $50,000 donation from the Friends of Sarasota County Parks for the initiative, and then they approved a $932,058 contract with Tampa Contracting Services of Palmetto.

Materials that Jennifer Slusarz, the county’s Procurement Official, provided to the commissioners as part of the agenda packet said that Tampa Contracting was the only company to bid on the undertaking, but the company met all of the requirements in the county’s solicitation for the Red Bug Slough improvements.

No commissioner offered any comments during the public hearing, and no member of the public had signed up to speak.

A county staff memo explained that the nonprofit Friends organization had applied for and received the $50,000 “from the Selby Foundation for the installation of an accessible trail from the playground to the existing fishing pier.” If the full amount of the grant is not needed, the memo added, then the remaining funds would be returned to the Friends.

Other planned improvements are an expansion of the parking lot, installation of a new playground and enhancements to the butterfly garden. Those “will increase the recreational capacity of the site,” the county staff memo pointed out.

Along with the grant money, $145,000 for the work will come out of ad valorem tax revenue collected through the county’s Environmentally Sensitive Lands Protection Program (ESLPP), while other money will come from North County Park Impact Fees, the memo said.

Although the work was expected to get underway in April, the staff memo had pointed out, “Weather and/or current supply chain issues may delay completion,” which tentatively was expected in October.

An update that the county’s Capital Projects Department released this month notes “TBD” — to be decided — in regard to when the work will be finished.

However, in response to a Sarasota News Leader inquiry this week, county Media Relations Officer Brianne Lorenz said that the Capital Projects staff had confirmed that the initiative is scheduled to begin on May 22, with completion anticipated by the end of the year, “weather permitting.”
The park’s address is 5200 Beneva Road in Sarasota.
The hours are 6 a.m. to sunset, and dogs are allowed on leashes in designated areas, the county website says.