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Date of Issue: February 20, 2008

Palma Sola gets 'big-ticket' trees

The landscaping of the Palma Sola Scenic Highway corridor likely will be done by late April, when supporters hope to hold an Arbor Day ceremony to mark completion of the project.

The landscaping began several weeks ago with the planting of sabal palm trees along the highway known by various names - Manatee Avenue, State Road 64 and, from 75th Street westward as the Palma Sola Causeway.

Gumbo limbo trees and oaks are next on the list of more than 700 native Florida trees to be planted, project designer Bev Burdette of Burdette & Associates, told the Palma Sola Scenic Highway Committee on Feb. 13.

“We put in a lot of sabals at the bridges,” Burdette said. “We’ve done a lot of field adjustment with Florida Power & Light. And now you are going to start seeing a lot of canopy trees out there - gumbo limbos and oaks.”

“We will make our deadlines and everything is just great,” said Seth Kohn, a committee member and city of Bradenton employee.

Kohn and Burdette said a goal was to plant the most expensive trees first to meet a requirement in a state grant that at least $90,000 of the project be completed this month. The total landscaping cost is about $250,000.

Ingrid McClellan, chair of the Palma Sola group and executive director of Keep Manatee Beautiful, asked whether the landscaping would be completed in time for an April 25 Arbor Day celebration.

“I don’t see a problem with that,” Kohn said.

The vision for the state-designated scenic highway goes beyond the landscaping to include new bus shelters, a new boat ramp, a new rest room and even a new modular-style newspaper rack to house varied publications.

The committee’s meeting agenda included discussion on these projects, as well as plans for the Kingfish Boat Ramp area - the westerly culmination of the scenic highway is at the intersection with East Bay Drive in Holmes Beach.

The new rest room is planned for the south side of the eastern causeway so visitors will no longer need to cross the road to reach an existing rest room on the north side.

The new boat ramp also is planned for the south side of the causeway on the west end of the Palma Sola beach and eventually will replace the ramp at the northeast end of the beach.

County officials approved an agreement with the city of Bradenton on the boat ramp last week that provides for the city and the county to share responsibilities for the amenity, which will be a 15-by-60-foot concrete ramp with parking for 11 trailers and four cars.

Manatee Countyconservation lands management director Charlie Hunsicker praised the agreement as a “nice move between the city of Bradenton and county commissioners. Working together has made this boat ramp a reality.”

However, the plan for the ramp still needs formal approval from Bradenton’s planning commission and city council. If approval comes this month, construction on the ramp can begin in March, said Kohn. If construction does not begin next month, the ramp may be delayed until next December and the winter tides.

Two bus shelters, which will be modeled on Holmes Beach’s trolley shelters, will be placed along the highway on Perico Island and a third shelter may be constructed near Flamingo Cay.

Manatee County Area Transit director Ralf Hesler said his agency reviewed ridership statistics and decided there wasn’t enough use of the bus stop at the Palma Sola beach to build another shelter.

McClellan added that a shelter on the beach might interfere with the vista.

But a newspaper condominium - a series of modular boxes for publications - will be built outside the Palma Sola rest room facilities. Several weeks ago, Bradenton city workers removed an array of publication boxes from the right of way on the causeway. The assignment had been to take away non-newspaper publications, but the box for The Islander was inadvertently picked up, said McClellan. The box was discarded.

She said weekly newspapers, as well as a number of dailies and other publications, would have the opportunity to use the newspaper condominium, which city of Bradenton officials are planning to install in partnership with the Bradenton Herald.

“So, what color do we want?” McClellan asked the committee. A consensus was for “sand,” similar to the color of some Island racks.

Plans also call for creating a mural depicting the history of the village of Palma Sola on the wall of the causeway rest-room facility. KMB recently partnered with the Manatee County Sheriff’s Office and the Manatee County School District on an anti-graffiti program, Leave Your Mark. Artists involved with the program will paint the mural, if the project gets approval from county commissioners.

“Murals,” McClellan said, “are a graffiti-prevention strategy.”

Regarding plans for Kingfish, Hunsicker said the county has asked the Florida Department of Transportation to consider changing its plans for a sidewalk there - to OK the placement of a sidewalk on the south side of Manatee Avenue in that area instead of, or in addition to, a path on the north side.

Hunsicker said the county would also like to see the construction of a walk-around under the Anna Maria Island Bridge.

The county commission is expected to take up the issue at a meeting in March.

The next Palma Sola committee meeting will take place at 3:30 p.m. Wednesday, March 12, at the Manatee County administration building, 1112 Manatee Ave. W., Bradenton.