And other Siesta Key news
By Stan Zimmerman
In J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit, we are introduced to “Precious,” a mysterious ring that drives a narrative lasting thousands of pages. Siesta Key has a “Precious,” but it is not a ring. It is a bank of sand to which residents give almost mystical powers.
Big Pass, the inlet separating Siesta from Lido Key to the north is unique. It has never been dredged. Its sand never harvested. Its depth never deepened. It’s as natural as a sand spur on the beach.
But the hand of man is groping for that sand spur. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is conducting a study – mostly by computer – to see if Big Pass could be dredged, its sand harvested.
The result would not be a deep-water channel for boats to traverse the ever-shifting shoal offshore of Siesta Key. The result would be gleaming white sand pumped onto Lido Key’s beach. While the earliest date for such a shift would be 2017, Siesta Key residents are already mobilizing to worry the issue.
The issue is made more complex by plans to include groins – hardened structures jutting into the gulf – on Lido. These would be “permeable,” says City Engineer Alex Davis-Shaw.
The Corps of Engineers plans to present its findings to the Siesta Key Association in December, groins and all.
Shell Road parking
Speaking of Big Pass, the only place the public can see the majesty of that deep and fast-moving water from shore is at the terminus of Shell Road. At its western end is a tiny public beach space locals know and love.
Parking along Shell Road is a problem for the ages. For decades homeowners complained of people parking normally or erratically along the one-block stretch leading to the tiny beach. The drumbeat has not ceased.
A new property owner on July 31 emailed County Commissioner Nora Patterson (who lives on and represents the island): “I have counted up to 50 cars at one time, many of which are blocking private drives, mail boxes and [the] fire hydrant.”
Patterson resisted calling for signs banning parking on the south side of Shell Road. Instead she called for county staff to clear vegetation on the north side of the road to allow parking. “That’s pretty inexpensive,” she said. And she sent off new resident’s complaint to Sarasota County Sheriff Tom Knight, asking if “he would have his men stop by occasionally and ticket those who are parked after 9 p.m.”
Baby birds get help?
Regular readers know Snowy Plovers and the Least Tern are having a hard year on Siesta Key, The beach-nesting birds have been hit by vandals and know-nothings on multiple occasions. While the Audubon Society’s “chick patrol” is on the prowl, problems have been on-going in this year’s nesting season.
County, sheriff and state staffers and volunteers have all been focused on providing additional protection. But Audubon volunteer Catherine Luckner wondered why the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation cops haven’t taken action against people who violated the well-marked conservation zone by dragging beach furniture through the restricted nesting area.
Nor has a property owner who hired a tractor to mow the dunes and sea oats to widen a pathway through the nesting area been addressed. In 2011 the county commission approved a variance for the property but commanded the owner “would not use a tractor to rake, remove vegetation or grade the sand along the existing path.”
Trashing the key
Complaints, complaints, complaints. But in the case of dumpsters on Siesta Key, the complaints might be real. Dumpsters left open, trash strewn about them, gates left open, pictures don’t lie. And what about recycling?
The Siesta Key Village Association wants to tackle these problems, but faces the normal problem of paying for bins and recycling collection. Meanwhile county code enforcers will tackle the dumpster issues. The Siesta Key Overlay District of zoning codes demands dumpsters remain out of sight.
If the SKVA wants to get in the recycling business, it will have to select from among a number of qualified vendors. Most recyclables are plastic water bottles and soda cans, because merchants ask customers not to bring them inside. One option might be a solar-powered compacting trash bin used in other areas. But at nearly $4,000 apiece, cost is an issue.
One hot spot is near the Beach Club, which provides water bottles to patrons as they leave for the night. But people need some education. Glen Cappetta, the owner of Sun Ride Pedicab, said: “Cans are in the garbage, and trash is in the recycling….”