Turtle Beach Park improvements should be completed by late fall

County Commission unanimously approves contract with Magnum Builders of Sarasota to create new parking spaces and playground, as well as a rain garden, among other features

An engineering drawing shows the plans for Turtle Beach Park's improvements. Image courtesy Sarasota County
An engineering drawing shows the plans for Turtle Beach Park’s improvements. Image courtesy Sarasota County

Turtle Beach Park is expected to have a number of new amenities by late fall, thanks to a unanimous vote of the Sarasota County Commission on May 24.

The board’s approval of a $694,296.69 contract with Magnum Builders of Sarasota came as it voted on a multitude of Consent Agenda items entailing routine business when it met this week in Sarasota.

Plans call for a new parking lot with 35 additional spaces, a new playground and shade structure, a kayak launch, sidewalks, drainage system improvements, pedestrian crossings, a rain garden and extra landscaping throughout the park, according to a memo provided to the board in advance of its May 24 meeting.

Residents in the immediate area are to be notified by postcard at least two weeks prior to the start of construction, the memo notes.

Although the County Commission voted on Jan. 10, 2012 to approve an amended contract for design and permitting of the project, a variety of factors contributed to the delay in reaching this point in the process, the memo explains. Among them were the following, the memo says:

  • Incorporation of a low-impact development design in the form of a rain garden, which will serve as the stormwater facet of the project. It will include “native landscaping and aesthetic park enhancements,” along with habitat for wildlife. The decision to incorporate the rain garden into the plans necessitated design modifications for the parking lot drainage system, the memo explains.
  • Delays in gaining permitting approval from the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (FDEP). The county needed state approval for work seaward of the Coastal Control Construction Line, the memo adds. FDEP staff issued the permit on April 8, 2015.
  • Coordination of the Turtle Beach initiative with the South Siesta Beach Renourishment Project, which was concluded in late April.
  • The need to avoid “seasonal tourist activity from November through March at a popular County beach,” the memo points out.
A graphic shows the area where construction will take place. Image courtesy Sarasota County
A graphic shows the areas where construction — including new pedestrian crossings — will take place. Image courtesy Sarasota County

While the County Commission unanimously approved the concept plan in January 2010, the May 24 staff memo notes, and also unanimously approved the contract with CPH Engineers of Sarasota for the design and permitting of the project by a vote in March 2011, the board members split on the January 2012 vote on revising the CPH contract, which changed the scope of services. During that last meeting, Commissioners Carolyn Mason and Christine Robinson were in the minority on the decision. Both said they felt the public had not been involved adequately with the plans for the project. However, then-Siesta Key Association President Catherine Luckner told this reporter at the time that because the project manager for the county, Curtis Smith, had been a frequent presenter at the organization’s meetings over the previous three years, her board was comfortable with the contract modifications.

The May 24 staff memo to the commission notes that the development of the concept plan for the improvements included a stakeholder’s workshop on Nov. 13, 2007 and a public meeting at St. Boniface Episcopal Church on Siesta Key on Dec. 10, 2007. Overall support was offered for more parking spaces, a kayak launch separate from the boat ramp, replacement of the playground, a pavilion near the boat ramp (which did not end up in the project), better connectivity for pedestrians throughout the park and the removal of non-native, nuisance vegetation and the use of native plants in the landscaping, the memo points out.

The playground area will be replaced. News Leader 2013 file photo
The playground area will be replaced. News Leader 2013 file photo

During the County Commission’s Jan. 10, 2012 meeting, James K. Harriott Jr., then the county’s executive director of public works, explained that the plans needed to be scaled back because of budget concerns.

Brenda Bair, a manager in the county’s Public Works Department, pointed out during that session that staff in what was then the Parks and Recreation Department identified amenities in 2009 that could be done right away. For example, Bair said, the meeting room at the park was remodeled, and the landscaping at the adjacent campground was upgraded.

Because of the Great Recession, however, Bair added, staff had agreed to postpone until later “the bigger, grandiose improvements” for the park.

Magnum was one of three firms to bid on the Turtle Beach Park project, the Procurement Department document shows. The other two were Jon F. Swift Inc. of Sarasota and Douglas N. Higgins Inc. of Naples. The Higgins bid originally was the lowest, a Procurement Department breakdown shows, but because Magnum qualified as a local firm under county solicitation guidelines, and its bid was within 10 percent of Higgins’, the Procurement document explains, Magnum was recommended for the award.