SKA board still working out details of pilot trash collection program at Access 7; an SKA member’s holiday garbage pickup initiative needs volunteers; the Chamber is still welcoming sponsorships for the July Fourth fireworks show; Village Café offers an incentive to blood donors for June 26; and the USACE/City of Sarasota seagrass mitigation plan for the Lido project is delayed again
For quite some time, members of the Siesta Key Association (SKA) have been working on a means of encouraging people to throw away garbage they accumulate on Siesta Public Beach. Board member Joe Volpe told The Sarasota News Leader this week that the organization is very close to getting the necessary Sarasota County Parks, Recreation and Natural Resources Department approval for a trial program at Beach Access 7.
During the June 2 SKA meeting, Volpe showed the approximately 110 people present a type of metal container for plastic trash bags that he had found through his research; it seems to be sturdy enough to withstand the Gulf-side environment — and it easily can be attached to a post.
If the structure looked familiar, the added, that was because it is the same type of holder used for produce bags in grocery stores.
In December 2015, the SKA board announced it was at work on a proposal for a dispenser of plastic bags that could be erected at the beach accesses; people could grab bags as they headed toward the Gulf, deposit put all their trash in the bags during their shoreline outing and then throw away the bags at the end of their visit.
Volpe explained on June 2 that the initial idea about using plastic grocery bags — such as those available at Publix — proved unworkable because they do not have much capacity. His further research, he told the News Leader this week, led him to a California company that makes the produce bag holders and the much larger bags it can dispense. Additionally, he noted, one roll has 750 bags, which will mean fewer restocking trips for SKA members.
The cost per bag, he added, is about 1.25 cents per bag. Moreover, he said, he wanted to be sure the holder was sturdy enough so someone could not “yank on [a bag] and the whole thing would come unrolled.” With this device, he continued, “It takes effort to pull [the bags] off.”
During the SKA meeting this month, Volpe voiced excitement because the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) was interested in sponsoring the trash collection initiative. However, he told the News Leader this week that the state agency had established a June 30 deadline for the SKA to win that funding support, and because county staff had not signed off on the project as of that time, the FWC money will not be available.
That means the SKA will pay for the pilot program, Volpe said, though the possibility exists that FWC could assist in the future.
FWC is not the only entity outside the county to show enthusiasm about the SKA proposal for keeping the beach cleaner. When he was conducting his research, Volpe told the News Leader, he contacted Dr. Stephen Leatherman — aka Dr. Beach of Florida International University — to ask whether Leatherman had any suggestions about a trash collection plan. And while Leatherman did not, Volpe said, he was interested in the SKA’s efforts.
As for the county: Volpe said his latest communications with Shawn Yeager, manager of the Beaches and Water Access Division of the Parks, Recreation and Natural Resources Department, made it plain the clear plastic bags would not work. The fear county staff has, Volpe continued, is that turtles would mistake the bags for jellyfish and try to eat them. Therefore, Volpe continued, he is trying to make certain he can get the bags in black.
Of Yeager, Volpe added, “He has to put the final blessing on [the pilot program].”
In response to a News Leader request for a comment, county spokesman Drew Winchester contacted Nicole Rissler, deputy director of the Parks Department, who emailed the following response: “Sarasota County Parks, Recreation and Natural Resources staff have been working collaboratively with the Siesta Key Association (SKA) to determine [parameters] for the pilot program they are proposing. Nothing has been approved yet, but staff is continuing to work through details both internally, and with SKA.”
Volpe pointed out to the News Leader that it took the SKA about a year to get radar signs placed on the island to show drivers how fast they are going, in the nonprofit organization’s effort to reduce speeding. Therefore, he is determined to work through the logistics of the trash collection initiative, so it can begin.
Plea for beach cleanup around the Fourth
In the meantime, SKA member Veronica Murphy is seeking volunteers to help with a different effort to help keep Siesta Public Beach clean before, during and after the July Fourth holiday. She announced during the June 2 SKA meeting that people are welcome to sign up to distribute trash bags to visitors and to help remind the public that garbage cans are available at each of the accesses. “A lot of people don’t know there’s pails there,” she pointed out.
The SKA website explains that Murphy has bought 900 bags to hand out — 800 of which are biodegradable — and volunteers are welcome to buy and distribute their own bags. She told the SKA members on June 2 that she is seeking people to man the accesses for a couple of hours in the mornings on July 3, 4 and 5. The website adds that volunteers also are welcome those afternoons — anyone who is willing to look out for people on the beach who may need a bag for trash.
Persons who would like to help Murphy with her undertaking may email her at firstname.lastname@example.org, the SKA website notes.
Blood drive in the Village
Village Café is offering a free breakfast to anyone who donates blood on Sunday, June 26, at Beach Bazaar, where the SunCoast Blood Bank will have its Blood Mobile parked from noon to 4 p.m., the Siesta restaurant has announced.
The breakfast vouchers are worth $10 each.
Additionally, every blood donor that day will receive a movie ticket, a wellness checkup, and 500 reward points for merchandise and gift cards from the SunCoast Blood Bank online donor rewards store, according to a poster the Siesta Key Village Association (SKVA) has distributed.
To schedule a preferred donation time, call 866-972-5663.
Update on Siesta fireworks
The Siesta Key Chamber of Commerce still is accepting donations and sponsorships for the annual July Fourth fireworks show on Siesta Public Beach, Ann Frescura, executive director of the Chamber, told the News Leader on June 20.
“We’re working on the funding, and we’ve had a very good response from the community,” Frescura said in a telephone interview.
Earlier this year, Chamber President Mark Smith explained during an SKA meeting that the improvements at the public beach, which were completed in February, had led to changes that could jeopardize future fireworks shows. The expense of the annual display on the Fourth is about $45,000, he pointed out, adding, “About $30,000 of that gets blown up.”
“We feel good about the pledges that have been made,” Frescura told the News Leader, speaking of the 2016 fireworks shoe. As for the future: With any community event of this level, she continued, “it’s smart and wonderful if you can get ahead of the game.”
The Chamber has established certain sponsorship levels, she pointed out. Those who participate will have access to a preferred viewing area for the pyrotechnics, as well as a hospitality area provided by the Chamber staff on the beach. The Chamber packages also feature a limited number of parking spaces and name recognition on signage.
Any contribution is most welcome, Frescura said.
For more information or to become a sponsor, visit the Chamber online or call 349-3800.
A delay with the seagrass mitigation plan
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) has informed the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (FDEP) that it probably will be late this month before it submits its revised seagrass mitigation plan for the Lido Renourishment Project, the News Leader has learned.
Earlier this month, Lt. Col. Susan J. Jackson (U.S. Army Reserve), a spokeswoman for the USACE district office in Jacksonville, reported to the News Leader that the new manager of the project for the federal agency expected the plan to be filed with FDEP by mid-June.
However, FDEP spokeswoman Dee Ann Miller told the News Leader in a June 15 email that the latest timeline, based on USACE communications with the FDEP manager of the project, Greg Garis, indicates the plan will be submitted at the end of this month.
That plan is one of the last critical components of the USACE/City of Sarasota application materials FDEP needs before deciding whether to issue the state permit the city and the USACE must have to undertake the $19 million project.
Federal funding has not been awarded through Congress so far for the proposed 50-year plan to keep Lido Key’s beach stable, Jackson has told the News Leader, but having the permit in hand should facilitate getting the money.
In the wake of erosion produced by Tropical Storm Colin, Lido residents are renewing their pleas for the project to get underway as soon as possible. Laura Bryg, vice president of the Lido Residents Association, emailed the News Leader photos of on June 6, which showed “the devastation we are experiencing here on Lido Beach with this tropical depression today.”
Siesta organizations and residents are supportive of the renourishment of Lido Beach, they have asserted over the past couple of years, but they do not want to see Big Sarasota Pass dredged of 775,000 cubic yards of sand for the initial phase of the project — which is what the city and the USACE are proposing — with more sand to be removed in the future.
No SKVA meeting held in June
And speaking of Tropical Storm Colin: It played enough havoc with the weather — including a power outage — on Siesta the first week of the month that the Siesta Key Village Association officers and board decided to cancel their monthly meeting, which had been set for June 7.
The next general meeting will be held at 8:30 a.m. on Tuesday, July 5, at the Daiquiri Deck Raw Bar.