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Date of Issue: May 20, 2009

Committee votes to extend scenic highway

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Crews work on the parking lot for a new boat ramp, already installed, on the south end of the Palma Sola Causeway. The boat ramp may open by June 1, according to Seth Kohn of the city of Bradenton. Islander Photo: Lisa Neff

An advisory group voted to extend the Palma Sola Scenic Highway from East Bay Drive to the Manatee Public Beach in Holmes Beach.

The Palma Sola Scenic Highway Corridor Management Entity committee, meeting May 13 at the Manatee County Administrative Center in Bradenton, was acting on a request from Holmes Beach public works superintendent Joe Duennes.

Duennes, who serves on the committee, wrote a letter stating that the city commission endorsed extending the scenic highway, which begins at 75th Street and travels through portions of Bradenton and unincorporated Manatee County and ended at Holmes Beach City limits.

The next step in formalizing the extension will be for Seth Kohn, chair of the Palma Sola committee, to write a letter to the state requesting approval.

In other business, the Palma Sola committee reviewed a draft of its updated corridor management plan, which will be submitted to the state in early summer.

From Kohn, the committee learned that the newly built boat ramp built on the southwest end of the causeway may open June 1, and the parking lot to serve the ramp is nearly complete.

Kohn also discussed plantings along the causeway. Some trees have died and will be removed, but not immediately replaced due to concerns about continued drought conditions and lack of funds.

“No tree looks better than a dead tree,” Kohn said.

“I’m in the field a lot and I haven’t seen a lot of viability in new plantings lately,” he added. “We need rain.”

Keith Bettcher of the county natural resources department reviewed the status of the Neal Preserve project on the southwest edge of Perico Island and addressed parking trouble at the rear entrance to Robinson Preserve, which is on Manatee Avenue west of the causeway beach.

Bettcher said work on Neal Preserve is in the design phase, but the county may file for permits in the fall.

To stop cars from parking on the shoulder of Manatee Avenue at the back entrance to Robinson, the county is working with the Florida Department of Transportation to create a parking lot for vehicles near the humpback bridge and build a boardwalk under the humpback bridge on Manatee Avenue.

County Commissioner John Chappie proposed the idea during a meeting with the DOT and natural resources director Charlie Hunsicker.

“I thought, there’s all this space here,” Chappie said of a roadside area where a number of Australian pines were removed. “There’s space for maybe 30 vehicles, with ADA parking.”

Regarding another county project, Bill O’Shea said the natural resources department continues to work with the DOT on a lease agreement for rights of way that would clear the way for improvements at the Kingfish Boat Ramp.

“It’s getting close,” he said.

The committee’s next meeting will be at 3:30 p.m. Wednesday, July 8, at the county administrative center.