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Date of Issue: December 17, 2008

Park site of launch party

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Bradenton Beach resident Rick Bisio signs his name as an attendee of a city meeting Dec. 9 at Herb Dolan Park in Bradenton Beach. Paddling enthusiasts and residents gathered to discuss creating a kayak launch at the park as part of a master boating plan. Islander Photo: Lisa Neff

Bradenton Beach residents endorsed, with some caveats, the concept of creating a kayak launch at Herb Dolan Park.

The endorsement took place during a Dec. 9 city-spnsored meeting in the park at 25th Street by the bay.

The city is working with Scheda Ecological Associates Inc., a consulting firm, on development of a recreational boating master plan that likely will lead to the creation of a mooring field, the hiring of a harbor master and the construction of at least one kayak/canoe launch.

“Public access is what we’re about,” said city project and program department manager Lisa Marie Phillips, who led the meeting, along with Scheda scientist Dianne Rosensweig. Mayor Michael Pierce also attended.

Phillips, gesturing toward the shoreline, said, “People already use this spot for launching. But it needs some improvement to make it safe.… Maybe we can improve it, enhance it for non-motorized boating options in this city.”

Rosensweig told the dozen people assembled for the meeting that Scheda associates boated the waters around Bradenton Beach scouting locations for a kayak launch.

“This is the best spot by far,” she said, adding that Scheda also invited representatives from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to look at the site.

“You already have existing parking,” Rosensweig said. “This is already a good location.”

She suggested improvements such as clearing out rocks along the shore and using a metal mesh and spartina grass to provide stability.

“It holds the sediment back and you don’t see the mesh after a while,” Rosensweig said. Kayakers could bring their boats through the grass into the water.

“It’s a very simple ramp,” she added.

Phillips noted the number of kayakers who live in the area, including about 40 kayak owners at the nearby Sandpiper Co-op.

Most of the people at the meeting came from the neighborhood surrounding the park, and no one spoke against the project. A few, however, expressed concerns about the location becoming a daylong destination and also uncontrolled parking.

“I think it’s important to improve the park,” said resident Rick Bisio, who chairs the city’s planning board.

Bisio suggested that part of the improvements involve regulating public parking.

“People are bringing their kayak down,” he said. “They park next to the water … and then you have a wall of cars between you and the water.

“I would really like to see no parking on the bayside of this street and we’ve got plenty of other space to do that.”

Phillips emphasized that the city and Scheda are in the preliminary stages of drafting the plan and that a more detailed proposal would be circulated at a later date.

Kayaking has become increasingly popular nationwide in the past decade, nearly replacing the sport of canoeing.

The federally funded National Survey on Recreation and the Environment estimated that there are about 6.7 million kayakers in the country. The top five states in terms of kayakers are California, Hawaii, Florida, Massachusetts and New York, according to the NSRE.

With the rising interest in eco-tourism, the sport is expected to become even more popular, especially in coastal communities such as Anna Maria Island, according to Jill Redress of the National Sporting Goods Association, which first included kayaking in its annual survey of activities in 2007.

Top five states for kayaking

1. California: 495,000

2. Hawaii: 268,000

3. Florida: 186,000

4. Massachusetts: 144,000

5. New York: 124,000

Source: National Survey on Recreation and the Environment/NOAA