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Date of Issue: April 16, 2008

Bollards installed along causeway

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New bollards create a barrier between cars and the water on the Palma Sola Causeway. Islander Photo: Lisa Neff

Perico Island resident Dottie Parsons likes the young trees planted along the Palma Sola Causeway in recent months.

She also likes what she calls the “ex-trees” planted on the causeway, a series of bollards intended to keep vehicles from rolling too close to the water.

“I always thought it was dangerous, people pulling right up to the edge of the water,” Parsons said.

But others who frequent the causeway objected to the new installation, prompting a discussion among members of the Palma Sola Causeway Scenic Highway Committee on April 9.

The group met at the county administration building in Bradenton to review long-planned enhancements on the scenic stretch of Manatee Avenue/State Road 64 linking the mainland to Anna Maria Island.

Committee vice chair Seth Kohn, who works for the city of Bradenton, reported on a number of Palma Sola projects — including the near completion of the landscaping and a new boat ramp, and the design of a new rest room for the south side of the causeway.

Committee chair Ingrid McClellan, the executive director of Keep Manatee Beautiful, provided progress reports on the installation of a modular newsrack, which is due by April 25, and plans for a ribbon-cutting ceremony that day, which is Arbor Day.

Manon Lavoie of the Florida Department of Transportation told committee members that the removal of Brazilian pepper tree stumps along Manatee Avenue will be completed by April 30.

But a chunk of the meeting was dedicated to the discussion of the bollards.

 Manatee County Commissioner Carol Whitmore said some bollards seem positioned to force parking too close to the road.

Member Ken Crayton then raised his concerns, suggesting that the bollards “are restricting the public from getting to the beach.”

Crayton said he thought too many bollards were installed on the south side of the causeway and questioned whether they were a new addition to the committee’s plans for the area.

“I have never seen those on any of the drawings,” Crayton said.

“I personally am against them,” he added. “I’ve been driving this thing 10 years. I don’t think the purpose was to restrict people from getting to the water.”

But other committee members said the bollards were planned from the start in an effort to promote safety on the causeway.

The intent, said Manatee County Commission Chair Jane von Hahmann, was “to restrict that uncontrolled flow of traffic on the causeway.”

Committee member Kathy King of Holmes Beach said the bollards were intended to separate pedestrians and other beachgoers from vehicles and parking lots.

“We don’t want the Ski-Doos going every which way. We don’t want boat trailers everywhere. We are trying to do it right. We are trying to make it safe for everybody,” she said.

Bob Herrington of the Sarasota-Manatee Metropolitan Planning Organization remembered early planning sessions and discussions about the number of vehicle accidents on the causeway. “Ninety percent were people pulling in and out,” he said, adding that an original proposal was to install a traffic signal as well as bollards.

Crayton also complained about a line of concrete wheel stops placed on the south side of the causeway recently.

McClellan said the barriers are not permanent and will be removed when construction of a new rest room begins. She said the wheel stops could be removed to improve appearances, but they do provide some shoreline protection.

King then suggested that the committee not make hasty adjustments. “I think we’re in a transition,” she said, pointing out that ground cover and some shrubbery will be planted soon. “It’s going to be softened over time.… The trees are going to fill in. It looks its worst now.”

Other members agreed, but several said they planned to take another drive along the causeway to survey the situation.

The committee’s next meeting will be at 3:30 p.m. Wednesday, May 4, at the county administration building, 1112 Manatee Ave., Bradenton.