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Holmes Beach ponders smokeless beaches, more shelters

By Mark Young, Islander Reporter

Holmes Beach commissioners took up a discussion at their Sept. 12 work session about getting rid of butts on the beach — cigarette butts that is.

Commissioners acknowledged an uphill climb in having a smokeless beach but, at the same time, they realize something should be done about smokers using the pristine sands of Anna Maria Island as an ashtray.

The Manatee County Public Beach is county-run, and any effort to eliminate smoking there would first have to be brought to the county, but enforcement is a whole other problem — even if the county agrees.

Commissioner Pat Morton said it’s difficult enough enforcing the existing rules of no alcohol and no dogs on the beach.

Commissioner David Zaccagnino said all people have to do is walk a few feet into the water, which is state-controlled.

“They’ll walk out into the water to smoke and then dispose of the butts in the water, which would be worse,” he said.

Police Chief Bill Tokajer agreed, saying it’s the same as the problem with alcohol at Beer Can Island.

“There’s no drinking allowed on the beach, but people just walk out into the water and drink,” he said.

Commission Chair Jean Peelen, who put the discussion on the agenda after receiving complaints from beachgoers, said perhaps the better way to address smoking on the beach is through the Coalition of Barrier Island Elected Officials.

In other matters, officials renewed discussion on a proposed plan to add three to four shelters at various beach access points in the city.

The locations are still being researched by city staff and Mayor Carmel Monti said he was not prepared to provide a report on staff’s progress.

“We are still in the process of looking at access points that don’t have a lot of natural cover,” he said.

Peelen said she has a problem with the standard in which city staff is choosing potential locations.

“I just heard you say that you are looking at locations to see if they are in need of shade,” she said. “My hope was to pick accesses that were impassable because they are so deteriorated. I would like to see us move back toward that concept.”

Monti said he may have misstated his intention, but his goal was to target the accesses that were less attractive, as well as lacking natural shade.

Building official Tom O’Brien said people’s perception of the city’s intent is “way beyond what the intention is. I first got out there looking at the safety issues of the accesses and looked at the possibilities of adding amenities to make them better. That’s all it ever was and we are only in the research phase.”

O’Brien said no proposals are on the table and asked the public to be patient.

“We are only trying to do good things,” he said.

Commissioner Judy Titsworth said that instead of a structure to provide shade, perhaps planting “a sea grape tree might work better.”

O’Brien said he is looking at “all those options and more.”

Commissioner Pat Morton suggested numbering the shelters to give visitors a better landmark of where they are and, if the situation arises, they would know a location where someone could respond to help.

“People who live here know the island,” he said. “But visitors get out on the beach and they have no idea where they are.”

Public comment on the shelter proposal has been largely cautious, if not negative.

Public speakers Sept. 12 took offense at the city’s notion that one access is less attractive than another. In fact, they said, it’s that kind of open, unspoiled beach access that makes Holmes Beach unique to other tourist destinations that are cluttered with amenities and signs.

More importantly, one speaker said, is that the city is assuming one person’s opinion of an attractive beach access is going to be the same as everyone else’s opinion.

Monti agreed and reminded the gallery that the proposal is very early in the research stage and that the majority of public opinion would rule which way the city leans when it comes time to address the yet-to-be-determined beach accesses.

Holmes Beach commissioners took up a discussion at their Sept. 12 work session about getting rid of butts on the beach — cigarette butts that is.

Commissioners acknowledged an uphill climb in having a smokeless beach but, at the same time, they realize something should be done about smokers using the pristine sands of Anna Maria Island as an ashtray.

The Manatee County Public Beach is county-run, and any effort to eliminate smoking there would first have to be brought to the county, but enforcement is a whole other problem — even if the county agrees.

Commissioner Pat Morton said it’s difficult enough enforcing the existing rules of no alcohol and no dogs on the beach.

Commissioner David Zaccagnino said all people have to do is walk a few feet into the water, which is state-controlled.

“They’ll walk out into the water to smoke and then dispose of the butts in the water, which would be worse,” he said.

Police Chief Bill Tokajer agreed, saying it’s the same as the problem with alcohol at Beer Can Island.

“There’s no drinking allowed on the beach, but people just walk out into the water and drink,” he said.

Commission Chair Jean Peelen, who put the discussion on the agenda after receiving complaints from beachgoers, said perhaps the better way to address smoking on the beach is through the Coalition of Barrier Island Elected Officials.

In other matters, officials renewed discussion on a proposed plan to add three to four shelters at various beach access points in the city.

The locations are still being researched by city staff and Mayor Carmel Monti said he was not prepared to provide a report on staff’s progress.

“We are still in the process of looking at access points that don’t have a lot of natural cover,” he said.

Peelen said she has a problem with the standard in which city staff is choosing potential locations.

“I just heard you say that you are looking at locations to see if they are in need of shade,” she said. “My hope was to pick accesses that were impassable because they are so deteriorated. I would like to see us move back toward that concept.”

Monti said he may have misstated his intention, but his goal was to target the accesses that were less attractive, as well as lacking natural shade.

Building official Tom O’Brien said people’s perception of the city’s intent is “way beyond what the intention is. I first got out there looking at the safety issues of the accesses and looked at the possibilities of adding amenities to make them better. That’s all it ever was and we are only in the research phase.”

O’Brien said no proposals are on the table and asked the public to be patient.

“We are only trying to do good things,” he said.

Commissioner Judy Titsworth said that instead of a structure to provide shade, perhaps planting “a sea grape tree might work better.”

O’Brien said he is looking at “all those options and more.”

Commissioner Pat Morton suggested numbering the shelters to give visitors a better landmark of where they are and, if the situation arises, they would know a location where someone could respond to help.

“People who live here know the island,” he said. “But visitors get out on the beach and they have no idea where they are.”

Public comment on the shelter proposal has been largely cautious, if not negative.

Public speakers Sept. 12 took offense at the city’s notion that one access is less attractive than another. In fact, they said, it’s that kind of open, unspoiled beach access that makes Holmes Beach unique to other tourist destinations that are cluttered with amenities and signs.

More importantly, one speaker said, is that the city is assuming one person’s opinion of an attractive beach access is going to be the same as everyone else’s opinion.

Monti agreed and reminded the gallery that the proposal is very early in the research stage and that the majority of public opinion would rule which way the city leans when it comes time to address the yet-to-be-determined beach accesses.

2 Responses to Holmes Beach ponders smokeless beaches, more shelters

  1. Barbara Foley says:

    Please consider NOT building structures for shade, but planting native species instead. If you take a look at the beach entrances in a city like Naples, they have benches under shady trees and tropical plants, not only is it lush and beautiful to look at, it doesn’t have the upkeep and replacement costs of manmade shelters. The island’s beach paths should be kept as natural and beautiful looking as possible, the last thing you want is a cluttered overbuilt look to this island.

  2. B. Foley says:

    Please reconsider building shelters to the beach entrances and take a look at what other Florida cities such as Naples, do. At each entrance they have planted native trees and shrubs for shade, which not only looks lush and beautiful, but doesn’t have the costs of upkeep or replacement. The beach paths on this island should be kept as natural and beautiful as possible, it is our MAIN attraction. Please don’t spend the taxpayer’s money on cluttering up and overbuilding this beautiful little island.

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