Bradenton Beach officials are moving forward with plans to create a natural park and education center at John R. Chappie Gulfside Park.
The project is headed by Lt. John Cosby of the Bradenton Beach Police Department. He presented a new plan to commissioners attending the July 30 capital improvements committee meeting.
Commissioners Ed Straight and Jan Vosburgh were on vacation and did not attend.
The plans for the four-parcel park, located at 1402 Gulf Drive N., feature meandering 5-foot-wide paths constructed with a sand-shell mix that is designed to drain and filter rainwater.
The paths will meander through the property from two beach access points on the Gulf of Mexico.
In the center of the parcel, a 30-by-36-foot circular shell area will serve as a gathering place for classes and events.
Cosby said the city plans to remove non-native species in the park, including several Australian pines, but keep the existing native fauna, including sea grape, palms and coontie.
The plans call for the reduction of an existing ridge near the roadside to allow for enhanced visibility by law enforcement.
Cosby said the berm was created in 1985 by road workers clearing Gulf Drive after a storm that caused sand and saltwater to breach the road.
He also noted the planned improvements should deter some unwanted behavior based on residents’ complaints that people urinate in the bushes at the park and sleep there at night.
While the park has no designated parking, Cosby said the city will be creating a trolley stop for the park. He said he expects to be refunded for the new stop by the Manatee County Tourist Development Council.
Instead of using bollards, or wooden posts to enclose the park, Cosby said plants and sand berms would be placed along the perimeter to “keep the park looking as natural as possible.”
Suzi Fox, executive director of Anna Maria Island Turtle Watch and Shorebird Monitoring, has volunteered to apply for grants to help fund some of the educational components of the park, such as informational plaques identifying flora, fauna and wildlife.
Commissioners believe the project can be accomplished for less than $10,000.
The city currently has $9,975 in donations that will be allocated for the improvements.
Commissioners voted July 30 not to exceed the allocated amount.
Recently, Cosby spoke with three potential bidders on the cost.
Only one bidder, Michael Miller of Perfect Island Landscaping, submitted a proposal. It is for $11,375.
Cosby said he is waiting for Miller to give him a timeline.
The city acquired John R. Chappie Gulfside Park for $300,000 in 2011. The acquisition of the four lots settled a longstanding legal dispute between the city and developers who planned to build housing.
The park was named in honor of Chappie, who currently represents Anna Maria Island and other parts of western Manatee County on the board of county commissioners. He is a former Bradenton Beach mayor, city commissioner and a longtime resident.