Island chatter: May

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Several activities slated for Siesta Key’s public beach

An annual amateur sand-sculpting contest will be held from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. May 1 at Siesta Beach.

It is open to 20 contestants with day-of registration being required. There is no fee to participate. It takes place near the red and yellow lifeguard towers.

On May 8 and 9, a beach lacrosse tournament is being held at the beach. It involves 250 participants on five courts and features music and vendors. It runs from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. both days.

May 14 through 16, the Dig the Beach volleyball tournament takes place. Matches run from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m.

Money for gym equipment, dividing wall goes to fire station

The budget for the construction of the new Fire Station 13 on Siesta Key has grown by $69,000, thanks to two donations the Sarasota County Commission has received.

The Siesta Key Fire Rescue Advisory Council has donated $16,000 per gym equipment, while neighboring Gulf & Bay Condominium has donated $53,000 for a dividing wall between the two properties.

During demolition of the fire building last spring, workers cleared out vegetation that featured thick underbrush and non-native Brazilian pepper trees that had effectively created a wall.

“It became apparent some sort of barrier would be necessary to maintain site security, limit trespassing and improve aesthetics,” read a memo from Gulf & Bay to the commissioners.

The proposed wall would be 375 feet long and 8 feet in height.

Construction of the new 10,500-square-foot fire station is expected to be completed this summer. Crew members are operating out of temporary headquarters in the building just to the south of the site.

Breeze trolley sees ridership spike in March

Despite COVID-19 precautions being in place, the Siesta Key Breeze has been ferrying lots of passengers around the island, as documented by Sarasota County Area Transit.

Even with every other row blocked off to create social distancing, the trolley carried 17,271 people in January and 21,182 in February, the county reports. Those figures were down 56.03% and 57.51%, respectively, from the same months in 2020, before the pandemic struck.

However, the passenger count took a big jump in March with a tally of 42,664.

Last March, the count was 31,519 before the service was suspended March 3 in an effort to prevent the spread of the virus. The trolley did not resume its runs between Turtle Beach Park and Siesta Village until June 15.

In March 2019, the Breeze served 62,699 passengers. It began operating in 2017.

Amplified noise on beach complaints addressed   

Sgt. Arik Smith of the Sarasota County Sheriff’s Office addressed complaints from members of the Siesta Key Association regarding amplified noise on the public beach.

Complaints can be addressed under the guidelines of the county’s noise ordinance, he said.

“What we need for enforcement is a victim or a complainant who’s willing to give their name” and sign a Sheriff’s Office form documenting an incident.

A deputy can determine whether a specific noise exceeds the relevant level as noted in a chart in the county ordinance. However, an officer also has to give the person making the noise “a reasonable amount of time to come into compliance with the ordinance.”

That period is 15 minutes, he said.

“If they come into compliance,” Smith noted, “then we no longer have a violation.”

If the person refuses to comply, he said, the officer can write the person a citation.

Red tide warnings posted at Siesta and Turtle beach

The Florida Department of Health ordered on April 16 the posting of red-tide notices on Siesta Key beaches

Beach water samples a few days earlier revealed a medium-range presence of red tide, the state reported, while Sarasota’s health department reported some related cases of respiratory irritation.

While the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission did report a fish kill in the area, no signs of such were present on Siesta Key.

In Sarasota County, notification signs were also posted on Siesta Beach; Turtle Beach; Longboat Key; Bird Key Park; Lido Key’s North, Casino and South beaches; Nokomis Beach; and North Jetty Beach.

For beach conditions, Mote Marine posts daily information at visitbeaches.org.

Siesta Beach was among the locations that posted red tide warnings on April 16. (photo by John Morton)
John Morton
Author: John Morton

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