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Date of Issue: August 23, 2007

Palma Sola group to seek bids on landscaping

A major beautification project for the Palma Sola Scenic Highway may soon be put out for bids, according to members of the group charged with protecting, enhancing and promoting the corridor linking the mainland to Anna Maria Island, Perico Island and Flamingo Cay.

Representatives of the Palma Sola Scenic Highway Corridor Management Entity or CME met Aug. 15 in a conference room at the Manatee County Administrative Center in Bradenton.

The agenda included a discussion on bylaws for the CME, as well as reports on beautification work along the scenic highway and a state conference to be held in the region next year.

Lacking a quorum, the representatives - Manatee County Commissioners Jane von Hahmann and Carol Whitmore, Keep Manatee Beautiful director Ingrid McClellan, Sarasota-Manatee MPO planning manager Bob Herrington and city of Bradenton official Seth Kohn - kept the meeting “discussion only.”

Kohn said he planned to seek bids on the landscaping project for the causeway, the stretch of Manatee Avenue or State Road 64 that begins west of 75th Street in Bradenton.

“We are ready to bid this,” Kohn said of the project, which, now that many non-native invasive plants have been removed, involves planting hundreds of trees and extensive groundcover. The project will be funded with a $300,000 grant from the Florida Department of Transportation.

Kohn also said plans for new rest rooms on the causeway were on track, but the fate of a proposed new boat ramp in the Bradenton section of the project seemed uncertain. The proposed ramp would replace the existing ramp.

A $25,000 West Coast Inland Navigation District grant for the ramp exists, which was to be matched with money from Bradenton. But Kohn said last week, “My instructions are to not work with the boat ramp right now.”

Kohn’s instructions concerned other group representatives, who don’t want to lose the grant money or the planned boat ramp, for which a permit has already been obtained by Bradenton.

Von Hahmann said the county could possibly maintain the ramp after Bradenton built the structure and asked Kohn to review the project with city officials.

In other business, McClellan, the group’s vice chair, said she would blend bylaw documents from two Florida scenic highway groups into a draft set of bylaws for the Palma Sola committee.

“These bylaws are what we need to govern us, to guide us in carrying on business,” McClellan said.

“Tweak them to fit your needs,” suggested Herrington, who also works with other area scenic highway groups.

McClellan also offered to draft an application for a $10,000 grant from the Tampa Bay Estuary Program for “pet waste education” along the causeway. The money, she said, could be used to place waste removal bags at the causeway beaches, as well as post information about safeguarding Florida’s environment from domestic animal waste.

“That,” said Kohn, “would be a good grant to get.”

Herrington, during the meeting, reviewed plans for the area’s scenic highway groups to host the Florida Scenic Highway Conference April 30-May 2, 2008.

The Manatee-Sarasota region is home to three scenic highway groups - the Tamiami Trail group, the Palma Sola committee and the Bradenton Beach advisory committee that is involved with projects along Gulf Drive on the Island.

Conference attendees, according to Herrington, will get a tour of the scenic highways as they take a trolley ride from a hotel in Sarasota to the BeachHouse Restaurant in Bradenton Beach, which will host a “sunrise celebration.”

Herrington said many of the 100 conference attendees will be scenic highway volunteers paying their own way. And so an effort is being made to find sponsors for events, including the sunrise celebration.

“I’m hat-in-hand begging wherever I go,” Herrington said.

The scenic highway group’s next meeting will take place at 3:30 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 12, at the Manatee County Administrative Center, 1112 Manatee Ave. W., Bradenton.