Time to slow it down in Turtle Beach Lagoon

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By ChrisAnn Allen

“We bought our condo based on the beautiful setting,” said Michael Gallagher, a Siesta Key resident, “The thing that really sold us on it was this beautiful lagoon, which to us, is a little bit of paradise.”
Gallagher is part of a group of residents that pushed for the Sarasota Board of County Commissioners to work with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission to post an “Idle Speed/No Wake” sign in Blind Pass Lagoon across from Turtle Beach on south Siesta Key.
The measure, brought forward by District 2 commissioner Mark Smith, also a Siesta Key resident, and seconded by District 4 commissioner Joe Neunder, the representative for that portion of the Key, was unanimously approved by the commission during its Jan. 30 meeting.
Smith pointed out there is a sign where people launch at Turtle Beach Lagoon and also Little Sarasota Bay on the other end — but nothing in between — an area frequented by kayakers, stand-up paddle boarders, and wildlife.

So, Gallagher and other residents reached out to Smith and Neunder, who visited the area and observed the boating behavior in question
“I am not, by any stretch, anti-boaters,” Gallagher said. “I like boaters and I love boating. It’s just that while sitting on my lanai or spending time around our condo complex at the end of the Key I regularly see in the late afternoon — early evening and on weekends — folks going much too fast in the lagoon.”
Gallagher said he has boating experience and understands there are times to recognize the importance of taking it slow.
“Having boated for a lot of years, I know when you can put the pedal to the metal or when you should slow to an idle or no wake speed,” he said. “The lagoon itself is only about a third of a mile long and, at times it is as narrow as 30 to 40 feet and so that’s an area where we see great numbers of kayakers, paddle boarders and aggregations of manatees in the warmer weather.
“And, too often, I have seen jet skiers or boaters being a little irresponsible.”
In addition to potentially harming people and wildlife, the structural integrity of seawalls is another factor, Gallagher noted.
“Because of the narrowness of the lagoon, the sides of the seawalls get swamped, and in the last year, our neighboring condo complex to the right had to replace their seawalls and, more recently, we have learned that the complex to the left has to replace theirs as well,” Gallagher said. “Whether there is a direct cause and effect, I don’t know, but it is not helpful when watercraft speed through this area.”
In order to post the sign, county staff must draft an ordinance and present it to the FWC for approval. Additionally, staff must reach out to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and to the U.S. Coast Guard to ensure the area in question is part of the navigable waterway.
“We didn’t realize at the time all the regulatory hurdles that the county will have to go through to obtain a simple sign,” Gallagher said. “There were efforts by the residents to encourage folks to slow down — handmade signs – but not sure how many people pay attention unless there is official looking signage.
“That was the reason for our request; this is a real quality of life issue. I would say most everyone bought in this area because of the proximity to Turtle Beach and because being on the lagoon is really great. It’s just a beautiful area.”

ChrisAnn Allen
Author: ChrisAnn Allen

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