Editor’s note: Former readers of the Pelican Press who enjoyed Rachel Brown Hackney’s “Island Beat” column, which kept all apprised of goings-on on Siesta Key, will be pleased to know that her new column — “Siesta Seen” — will be a regular feature in The Sarasota News Leader.
A visitor who sparked a lot of interest on Siesta Key in February and March has relocated to St. Joseph State Park and found himself a “lady friend,” according to reports from a Florida Park Service biologist.
This particular visitor is a snowy plover with bands on its legs. His first Siesta sighting was logged Feb. 1 by Jeanne Dubi, president of Sarasota Audubon.
Thanks to help from Marianne Korosy of Audubon Florida, Dubi learned the bird had disappeared from St. Joesph State Park, which is southwest of Panama City, following the 2009 nesting season.
The park service biologist, Raya Ann Pruner, learned about the bird through the Florida Shorebird Alliance. Catherine and Bob Luckner of Siesta Key had posted the photo on Facebook. Pruner then posted a query to them about where the photo had been taken.
Pruner added that the male was paired up with a female that had been banded at Eglin Air Force Base, about 60 miles east of Pensacola. “However,” she wrote, “he showed up at the park recently, so I have suspected that he may have attempted [mating] elsewhere nearby.”
The Luckners responded that the male hadn’t been seen for the past two months on Siesta. “Maybe he’s a ‘snow bird’ and winters here on Siesta Key,” they wrote Pruner.
The news about that plover has been one of the brighter notes this season regarding the endangered plovers. Catherine Luckner, the Siesta Key Association president, reported during the June 7 SKA meeting that, so far, the nesting season had produced no chicks on Siesta Key. The biggest culprits had been crows, she said.
However, the crows are attracted to trash, which people leave on the beach, Luckner added.
Sarasota Audubon volunteers were hopeful, she said, that, as birds usually stay on the key until September, some chicks still might be hatched.
The volunteers don’t count nesting success until a chick reaches the fledgling stage, when it can fly on its own.
After five weeks out of work with health concerns, Sarasota County Code Enforcement Officer John Lally received a warm welcome back during the SKA meeting this month.
“My to-do list is stacked up this high,” he told the audience, holding his hand at a level about 3 feet off the floor.
Needless to say, members had a number of questions for him.
The first discussion focused on the valet parking provided by Chris Brown, owner of The Hub Baja Grill, The Cottage and The Beach Club, as well as the property where Blu Que (formerly Blu Smoke) Island Grill sits.
“[Brown] paid $1,000 for [a] letter [from the county] to be able to do that,” Lally said.
The Lobster Park uses the same valet service, Lally added. It and Blu Que’s owners also paid $1,000 each to the county, he said.
Referring to the valets, Lally continued, “They perform the service for tips only. … They’ll park anybody. … They don’t ask where you are going.”
It is legal for drivers to queue in the right of way, Lally added, while awaiting a valet to take their vehicles.
The valets use three different areas to park the cars, Lally said. Two of the locations are the parking area by Siesta Key Hardware and the one in front of The Broken Egg on Avenida Messina. He couldn’t recall the third place, he said.
The valets can put 20 cars in an area that three vehicles normally would occupy, Lally said.
Without the valet parking, Lally asked, “where are … people going to park?”
In Davidson Plaza, Lally said, Pietro Migliaccio, the former owner of Café Gabbiano, “used to have ’em all towed if they didn’t go to his restaurant, and that put a bad taste in everybody’s mouth.”
“That means that anybody can get valet parking to go into the Village,” Luckner said. “That’s a good piece of news.”
“If we don’t ever build a parking garage [near the Village], we’re going to be talking about parking 20 years from now,” Lally said.
Illustrating the problem
Some time ago, Lally told the SKA audience, he had seen a man stopping a vehicle in the turn lane in the center of the Village. The male driver and others proceeded to leave the car, Lally said. When he asked what they were doing, the man told him they were going to the beach.
Lally told the man it was illegal to leave the car in the turn lane; if he did so, it was going to get towed, and it would cost the man $338 to get it back.
Obviously feeling some sympathy for the man, Lally suggested the man move the vehicle to a side road. It was also illegal to leave the car there, Lally told the man, but the fine would be only $25.
The man thanked him and moved the car, Lally said.
That’s also illegal …
During the June 7 meeting, SKA Director Beverly Arias asked whether Sgt. Scott Osborne, leader of the Community Policing Station on Ocean Boulevard, ever receives calls about people fishing off the north Siesta bridge or jumping off the small bridge near the Commonwealth Drive intersection on Midnight Pass Road.
She added that a prominently displayed sign says, “No Diving” at the small bridge.
Osborne replied that his office does get a number of calls about people diving off that bridge; “not so much about fishing.”
When SKA Director Joyce Kouba asked whether anyone ever had been injured after diving off the bridge, Osborne replied, “I am not aware of anyone getting hurt.”
Then Director Joe Volpe said, “I did come across a girl who cut her foot wide open” from jumping off the bridge. She refused to allow him to call for medical attention, Volpe said, but she finally let him call her parents.
Some comic relief
During his presentation about illegal fireworks during the June 7 SKA meeting, Don Damron, the senior fire plans reviewer and inspector for the Sarasota County Fire Department, drew laughter when he told the audience about his term for the people who launch fireworks: shooters.
“It makes Scott Osborne a little uneasy,” Damron added with a chuckle.
Damron also pointed out that the fireworks used for the big July Fourth show on Siesta are bigger than those used for the downtown show on the bayfront.
The fire code specifies that for every 1 inch of shell size, the launch area must be 75 feet from structures. Therefore, Damron said, the shells shot off from City Island cannot be larger than 6 or 8 inches, while those on Siesta can be as big as 10 inches.
By the way, Damron added, the July Fourth crowd on Siesta is always bigger if the holiday falls near a weekend. He estimated the crowd size in that case to be 100,000.
“At least,” Osborne said.
With the Fourth falling on a Wednesday this year, Damron said, the crowd should be much smaller.
Ready. Set. Fire!
Speaking of shooters, the Siesta Key Chamber of Commerce once again is holding a raffle to determine who will have the privilege of launching the July Fourth fireworks on Siesta Key Beach.
The chamber held the first such raffle last year, to help raise money to cover the approximately $35,000 cost of the fireworks.
Tickets are $5 each, or five for $20.
A big TNT plunger — reminiscent of those Wile E. Coyote used in the Roadrunner cartoons — will be set up on the beach for the winner, SKCC President Mark Smith told the SKA audience.
The chamber office is located in Davidson Plaza on Ocean Boulevard. For more information, call 349-3800 or visit www.siestakeychamber.com.
And for another bit of comic relief, Smith noted, “Believe it or not, we have had people ask, if it rains, will we move [the fireworks] inside?”