Tag Archives: News

Unclaimed boat problem in BB outweighs derelict vessels

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A boat found adrift in late March in the anchorage at the end of Bridge Street sits tied April 14 to the Historic Bridge Street Pier, 200 Bridge St., Bradenton Beach. Islander Photo: ChrisAnn Silver Esformes

“If I touch it, we own it,” Bradenton Beach Police Chief Sam Speciale said at an April 13 department head meeting, referring to an unclaimed boat tied to the Historic Bridge Street Pier.

The city’s ordinance prohibits boats from overnight mooring to the pier, but the city has no mechanism in place to enforce the measure.

According to Speciale, the boat is secured to the pier’s dolphin pilings until its registered owner claims it or the city pays to remove the vessel.

Speciale said the city sent a return receipt letter to the registered owner, so officials will know when he receives the document, if he signs for it or not.

If the owner does not respond, the city will start the abandonment process, which could take time.

The boat is registered to Jarette Beebe and the registration is current.

The name of the boat has faded, but the letters “COQUI” and a graphic of a frog smoking a cigar and holding a bottle, are visible on the boat’s stern.

Additionally, the registration number is “FL 4828 RZ.”

Speciale said if the boat was not registered, it could be declared derelict and removed with Manatee County funding.

Since the boat has a registered owner, the city can’t have it removed, or it would become city property and would have to be kept in dry storage, according to Speciale.

“This isn’t like towing a car,” Speciale said. “If we have to put it in dry storage it would really cost the city.”

Mayor Bill Shearon said the city’s lack of fines for the violation provides no incentive for the owner to claim the boat.

“He’s got a nice secure place, its rent free,” Shearon said.

Speciale said the area is within the city’s submerged land lease and the city can regulate activity in there, it just doesn’t have established fees for a violation.

Vice Mayor John Chappie said city attorney Ricinda Perry is working on a pier-use ordinance. He suggested she be directed to look into incorporating fines for mooring violations into the draft ordinance.

The group agreed with Chappie and Speciale said he would approach Perry with the issue.

WMFR prepares for upcoming fiscal budget

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West Manatee Fire Rescue firefighter Zachary Benshoff displays his promotion certificate while standing with Chief Tom Sousa April 20. Benshoff was promoted from third- to second-class firefighter. Islander Photo: Bianca Benedí

West Manatee Fire Rescue commissioners issued a recommendation April 20 on how to move forward with preliminary planning for their 2017-18 fiscal year budget.

By June 1, the board of commissioners must agree on a maximum preliminary assessment rate for the fiscal year that begins Oct. 1.

The planned assessment rate can be lowered but not raised between June and the finalization of the 2017-18 budget in September.

Commissioners agreed to move forward, for now, with Chief Tom Sousa’s recommendations.

Sousa recommended increasing the assessment rate 2 percent for private properties, from $0.1063 per square foot to $0.1084, and a 4 percent hike for commercial properties, from $0.1841 per square foot to $0.1915 per square foot.

Commissioners Al Robinson and David Bishop questioned the necessity for the rate hikes in light of anticipated grants and plans to sell the administrative building.

However, Sousa said the rate hikes would give the board the ability to prepare for the “worst case scenario” of not selling the building or receiving grants, or it could eliminate the need for any rate hikes in the 2018-19 fiscal year.

The rate hikes would provide WMFR with $148,849 in additional revenue, enough to cover an expected $140,000 increase in firefighter pensions for the 2017-18 fiscal year.

In the past year, Sousa said, WMFR’s service improvements have included adding a fourth person to the rotation on Station 3 in Holmes Beach, which improves the response time for structural fires on the island.

In addition, the budget was constructed to take into account ALS services, which Sousa expects WMFR to provide in the coming year.

“Bottom line is, we’re adding value to the service we provide to the people,” the chief said.

In other news, Sousa told the board the Manatee County Board of County Commissioners was to hold a first hearing on an ordinance granting WMFR the ability to provide advanced life support services Tuesday, April 25, after The Islander went to press.

Sousa said a lot of work went into drafting the ordinance. The WMFR spent much of 2016 in negotiations to offer ALS services.

Currently, only Manatee County EMS can provide ALS in the district. However, up to three in four calls the WMFR receives are EMS calls, and Sousa says the district will benefit from ALS service provided by the team that first appears on the scene.

The next commission meeting will be 6 p.m. Thursday, May 18, at the WMFR administrative building, 6417 Third Ave. W., Bradenton.

BBPD arrests Bradenton man for restaurant theft

A Bradenton Beach restaurant employee is accused of “thousands of dollars” in credit card thefts.

John McKee, 48, of Bradenton, was arrested April 13 for grand theft after Island Time Bar and Grill owner Bill Herlihy and another employee filed a complaint against the waiter with the Bradenton Beach Police Department.

According to a BBPD probable cause report, McKee manipulated the restaurant-bar’s credit card chip reader and added tips to bills paid by credit cards between December 2016 and February.

McKee stole “thousands of dollars by keeping and adding tips,” the report stated.

BBPD Detective Sgt. Lenard Diaz said McKee had worked for Island Time, 111 Gulf Drive S., for four years.

Herlihy began noticing shortages on bank statements since Island Time started using the chip reader in December, Diaz said.

McKee was fired and trespassed from the restaurant, according to Diaz.

He posted a $1,500 bond after being booked at the Manatee County jail. His arraignment is set for 9 a.m. Friday, May 12, at the Manatee County Judicial Center, 1051 Manatee Ave. W., Bradenton.

Holmes Beach discusses beach concession funding, projects

It’s time to start looking for projects to benefit Anna Maria Island.

There’s more than a $1 million in available funding, but there’s no project list for the surplus of concession revenues from Manatee Public Beach in Holmes Beach and Coquina Beach in Bradenton Beach.

“Any projects that we propose should be focused on improving life here for residents and visitors,” Holmes Beach Commissioner Jean Peelen said during an April 13 city work session.

Manatee County oversees the Coquina and Manatee beach facilities, which it leases to United Parks Service of St. Petersburg, for food, beverage and beach shop concessions. The franchise agreement was approved for five years in 2010 and renewed in 2017 for two additional 5-year terms, ending in 2022 and 2027.

A county resolution sets forth guidelines for how the board intends to use the monthly concession revenues, with 11 percent of sales considered as rent payments to the county and 1.5 percent allotted for county capital improvement projects.

Holmes Beach commissioners discussed April 13 ideas for using the $1 million surplus for projects that serve a valid public purpose and benefit not one entity but all of Anna Maria Island, according to the resolution.

Holmes Beach Mayor Bob Johnson provided a sample list and starting point for projects in Holmes Beach that would benefit the island, including skateboard park upgrades, creation of a kayak launch area and a public awareness campaign for bike trail use.

“This is purely a work-in-progress document,” Johnson said. “We haven’t had any internal discussions yet. This is kind of where the ideas have been flown right now.”

The intergovernmental projects would be selected by a written request from the island city or cities with details of the reason for the project and a description of the matching funds to be provided by the cities undertaking the project. The interlocal agreement also would provide for the county’s funding of the project on a reimbursement basis.

Peelen said she was troubled the money has been sitting there and none of the cities have applied to use the funds.

“Next year that could disappear in a minute,” she said. “This kind of money can just disappear overnight and I think time is of the essence to get stuff in.”

Peelen suggested a project utilizing portable and removable mats similar to the ones installed at Siesta Beach for roll-out beach access for pedestrians and users of wheelchairs, strollers and beach carts.

Another option from Commission Chair Judy Titsworth would be to expand dockage at Kingfish Boat Ramp for passenger or tour boats to bring more people to the island.

“That’s what we need is dockage,” Titsworth said. “There’s deep water there … it’s convenient to the beach. It’s a straight shot to Manatee Beach and we’re looking for ways to park some of these ferries, and it just seems like that’s a great central location for it. It’s a county park going to a county park.”

Manatee County also maintains Kingfish Boat Ramp.

Commissioner Marvin Grossman proposed a mobile phone app for the trolley.

“If everybody had that, they could easily know when the trolley is coming and I think more people would use it,” Grossman said. “It’s very inexpensive and the app puts it on Google Maps.”

Johnson said Manatee County is already looking at installing GPS software on the trolleys.

“It’s in the mill,” Johnson said. “I don’t know when, but it’s in the mill.”

Commissioners directed Johnson on their top three projects to benefit the island — the Coquina Beach exercise trail in Bradenton Beach, the skateboard park in Holmes Beach and providing beach mats for improved accessibility — to be presented at the next meeting of Barrier Island Elected Officials.

The commission will meet at 6 p.m. Thursday, April 27, at city hall, 5801 Marina Drive.

Grassy Point Preserve re-opens with fanfare for nature

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Billie Martini collects her thoughts in preparation for an NPR StoryCorps interview about Bradenton Beach with the late Paul Roat in 2006.
Holmes Beach Mayor Bob Johnson welcomes guests April 19 to the re-opening of Grassy Point Preserve, located east of the 3200 block of East Bay Drive and fronting Anna Maria Sound. Islander Photos: Jennifer Sheppard

Fifteen years ago, Billie Martini eyed Grassy Point Preserve from a boat with a vision for the future.

Years earlier, she recalled in an April 19 interview, “My husband and I would go out, whenever we had problems, we’d go out in our boat and we’d just drift over the shallows and look down through the water into that other world. And, you know, all of your problems just disappeared. You’d come back and you felt refreshed.”

Billie and Bob Martini were early settlers in Bradenton Beach, where they worked and volunteered to help make the city a better place.

But Billie Martini yearned for a place for others to relax in nature, with no concrete in sight.

“It has not been improved. It has not been destroyed. Grassy Point is what Anna Maria Island was,” Martini said.

The preserve re-opened to the public April 19 with a welcome by Holmes Beach Mayor Bob Johnson and a letter from Martini, who was unable to attend.

“We all know that we owe Grassy Point to Billie Martini and a few others,” said Holmes Beach resident Nancy Deal, who read the letter from Martini, a former Holmes Beach commissioner. Martini was first elected in 1993 and served four years as a city commissioner.

“What can we say except thank you to Billie Martini,” Johnson said. “I know that she is here with us in spirit.”

Johnson shared his ribbon-cutting duties with Commissioner Carol Soustek and thanked her for being involved in the project and serving as a liaison for the commission.

“This is quiet, simple, but intended to be a most sincere thank-you gathering from the city of Holmes Beach to all who have contributed to this activity here at Grassy Point and getting it into the shape it is today from what it was, so that it can be enjoyed by all,” Johnson said. “You are very special people who have done so much for so long and here we are.”

Johnson also recognized Commission Chair Judy Titsworth and thanked the employees in the public works department.

“It’s just fabulous the way you guys have persevered and stuck with this thing and made it happen,” Johnson said. “Having you as a part of this city is fabulous. Come on out some more. You’ll enjoy it out here.”

Guests, including Bradenton Beach Mayor Bill Shearon, Holmes Beach treasurer Lori Hill and Jay Leverone, scientist at the Sarasota Bay Estuary Program, toured the 34-acre preserve, the largest city-owned park, by way of a shell trail and a new boardwalk over the wetlands and mangrove hammocks fronting Anna Maria Sound.

Partners from Manatee County, the University of Florida and Anna Maria Island Elementary School also attended.

“We had a bunch of second-graders out here not too long ago doing some planting,” Johnson said. “I think this is a great facility for education and learning about nature. It’s very important in our environment.”

Soustek said there is still work to be done in the preserve, including a boardwalk extension and an observation platform over the sound.

“To have it this far after so much time,” Soustek said. “I love it.”

The preserve was acquired in 2001 by the city with a $359,945.51 grant from Florida Communities Trust, the granting agency monitored by the state Department of Environmental Projection. The city also received grants from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Southwest Florida Water Management District, to remove exotic and invasive species of plants and trees. SBEP managed the grant projects.

Two vacant parcels, 3019 Ave. C and 3021 Ave. C, adjacent to the preserve, were purchased March 2 by the city for $330,000 each, according to the website for the Manatee County Property Appraiser. At their March 28 meeting, commissioners unanimously adopted an ordinance to acquire the lots from Clyde Dickey.

After the private opening, Leni Hagen, who lives on Avenue B and has been a resident of Holmes Beach since 2000, visited the park with her daughter, Rachel Neutzling, a Minnesota resident, to celebrate Rachel’s  birthday.

“I respect this very much,” Hagen said. “The boardwalk and views are beautiful, well planned, respecting nature and seems like it has always been there.”

$552k Bert Harris suit slapped on Holmes Beach

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The Patricia H. Hutchinson trust, owner of 104 75th St., served the city April 20 with a summons and complaint under the Bert J. Harris Jr. Private Property Rights Protection Act. Islander Photo: Kathy Prucnell

Bert Harris suits are beginning to stack up against the city of Holmes Beach.

Mayor Bob Johnson was served April 20 with the newest one.

The plaintiff is a trustee of the Patricia H. Hutchinson trust, Frederick C. Hutchinson II.

On behalf of the owners of 104 75th St., the plaintiff’s allege $552,000 in damages under the Bert J. Harris Jr. Private Property Rights Protection Act.

Filed April 14 in the 12th Circuit Court, the complaint states, “The Hutchinson family had always intended to redevelop the property … through maximizing the development potential for sale or similar to the vacation rental uses surrounding it.”

It alleges six ordinances enacted between 2013 and 2016 inordinately burdened the plaintiff’s development rights in the R-2 zoning district.

Adopted after a public outcry that blamed renters for parking, noise and garbage problems and investment properties for changing the city’s residential character, the ordinances restrict the number of bedrooms and the building envelope, prohibit underground connections, increase pool setbacks, limit occupancy and impose parking and other restrictions.

Fred Hutchinson, a hall-of-famer whose Major League Baseball career was cut short in 1964 when he died of cancer, had moved his wife Patsy and children to the home in the 1950s.

Lifetime AMI resident Joe Hutchinson, one of four siblings named in the trust, said he thinks it’s unfair for the city to devalue properties and take away property rights, especially from elderly people.

Patsy Hutchinson died in 2016.

“My mother was in her 90s when all of this was enacted,” he said, adding, she didn’t have the wherewithal at that time to fight the city.

A city action is a spring board to rights under the Bert Harris Act.

Hutchinson’s complaint alleges the city denied the variance — precluding a successful building permit application — and includes a letter from building official Jim McGuinness.

McGuinness rejected Hutchinson’s application — including changes to living-area-ratio, bedroom size and number of bedrooms, the location of water features, minimum setbacks for pools and hot tubs and a reduction in dwelling-unit separation — as improper subjects for a variance.

The letter also stated the application was incomplete because it did not contain site plans for the existing parcel and the proposed variances.

The complaint states the right to develop the property as a rental property compatible with the surrounding properties no longer exists.

It concludes the owner is “now permanently unable to obtain investment backed expectations.”

An appraisal is attached to the complaint in support of the alleged loss in market value.

The plaintiff also alleges the no-change letter sent in response to November 2016 claim is not a “bona fide attempt to reasonably resolve the claim.”

Hutchinson said, “It’s not in the best interest of the city not to settle.”

“I think they’re going to lose these lawsuits,” he added.

Two other Bert Harris lawsuits are pending against the city in the 12th Circuit Court.

Hutchinson’s residence is neighbored by properties owned by limited liability companies. One such company, Swackhamer Investments, Bmeehan Investments and Kmeehan Investments, filed a complaint in March, alleging $225,000 in damages.

Another pending Bert Harris suit is from Bob and Ellen McCaffrey, owners of 7003 Holmes Blvd., who have alleged $106,000 in damages. In March, the McCaffreys fought off a city dismissal motion.

Some 37 claims against the city have yet to mature into lawsuits.

The city has a 150-day period to respond to claims with a settlement offer, which in the case of Holmes Beach have been offers of no change in government action for 13 pending claims.

The next city response is due in June.

Alcohol citations continue in Holmes Beach

Holmes Beach Police Department continues to ticket visitors for consuming alcohol in public — on the beaches and streets.

A first-time alcohol violation will mean a $75 ticket, but violators can face up to a $250 fine, if contested.

Holmes Beach police report 30 alcohol violations in March, down from 55 in March 2016.

The HBPD alcohol ticketing continued in April.

On April 14, HBPD cited a 69-year-old Bradenton man for drinking a beer at the bus stop in the 600 block of Manatee Avenue West. The officer observed the man drinking beer and placing the empty bottle in a six-pack container with other bottles.

More citations were issued April 16.

Three females from Hillsborough County were cited after officers saw them drink beer from glass bottles on the beach near the 4900 block of Gulf Drive. The officers also issued them verbal warnings not to bring glass on the beach and warned one female for underage drinking.

Holmes Beach police also observed a 32-year-old woman, visiting from Kissimmee, with a beer and grill on the beach. The officers warned her about the ordinance prohibiting grills on the beach and cited her for the alcohol violation.

Patrolling the beach in the 5100 block of Gulf Drive, police observed two men drinking beer. The visitors from Celebration and Georgia were ticketed for the violation.

On April 19, a 49-year-old Inverness man was cited for violating the city’s ordinance against public alcohol consumption after walking in the 5000 block of Gulf Drive drinking alcohol from a container in a brown paper bag.

Bayfront mega project gets county planners’ nod

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Flanked by Medallion Home president Pete Logan and his attorney, Ed Vogler, developer Carlos Beruff watches the April 13 planning commission hearing on his application for Aqua By The Bay.
Cortez Capt. Kathe Fannon urges plan commissioners to deny developer Carlos Beruff his bid to develop amid marine life on the mangrove-lined shores of Sarasota Bay.
Stuart Smith, representing the Sierra Club and Suncoast Waterkeepers, hands off a petition signed by more than 1,000 people opposing Aqua By The Bay.

Manatee County planning commissioners voted 3-2 April 13 to recommend a large-scale mixed-use development along more than 2 miles of Sarasota Bay shoreline southeast of Cortez and Anna Maria Island.

The action moves approval of Aqua By The Bay — 2,894 homes, 78,000 square feet of commercial space, 13- and five-story buildings, a 2-mile lagoon and seawalls — to the county commission.

The county board will consider the Long Bar Pointe LLLP and Cargor Partners VIII general development plan and a 191-acre rezone at its land use meeting at 9 a.m. May 4.

As part of the 529-acre site, the Carlos Beruff-Larry Lieberman entities hope to run a 260-acre mitigation bank that needs state and federal permits — but county attorney Sarah Schenk told commissioners they were not to consider the bank.

Thirteen people spoke against the plan, including Cortez-based Florida Institute for Saltwater Heritage directors Jane von Hahmann, Linda Molto and John Stevely, Capt. Kathe Fannon, and Fishing for Freedom members Thomas Reynolds and Mark Coarsey.

Fannon spoke of the seahorses, starfish, conch and other marine life she sees in the bay near the proposed development and implored commissioners to reject the plan, saying, “Let’s stand up for old Florida.”

“Nobody has once asked me to take them to see a high-rise,” she said.

Von Hahmann warned, “Sea rise is happening.”

The 50-foot wetland buffers should be retained and potential impacts of tidal exchange, flow and storm surge determined, she said.

She called the 145-foot building height “beyond comprehension.”

Von Hahmann asked the development be held to the same standards as Peninsula Bay and Lakewood Ranch and called for denial “until we fully understand all the impacts.”

Molto pleaded with commissioners to save the scenic beauty of the bay.

As commercial fishermen, Reynolds asked for the commissioners to consider “all those little fish,” their migration and nurturing, and Coarsey called the pristine mangrove-lined shoreline “our last stand.”

Also registering comments against Aqua By The Bay were representatives from the Sierra Club, Manatee-Sarasota Group, Suncoast Waterkeepers and the League of Women Voters of Manatee County.

Only one comment favored the development. A woman who failed to sign a speaker card asked commissioners to consider jobs, employment and taxes.

“Large projects are never perfect,” Commissioner Tim Rhoades said before the vote. He credited the developers for making changes, trusted the plan because “many reputations were at stake” and didn’t object to its compatibility.

Commissioner Matt Bower questioned the 145-foot and 75-foot building heights.

Bower criticized planner Stephanie Moreland’s comparison of Aqua’s height “compatibility” with the approved Lake Flores plan’s 95-foot-tall buildings. “Correct me if I’m wrong,” but no buildings in Lake Flores “are on the coastline.” And “they’re closer to Cortez Road,” Bower said.

Commissioner Albert Horrigan Jr. asked about dredging and docks with regard to the gaping 100-foot stretch of untouched shoreline.

Dredging is prohibited under the Manatee County Comprehensive Plan.

“Why would you want docks if you can’t dredge?” Horrigan questioned.

The county attorney said the county can’t force them not to plan or request docks.

Planning Commissioner Mike Rahn motioned for Aqua’s approval and it received a second by Commissioner John DeLesline. Rahn, DeLesline and Rhoades voted yes. Bower and Horrigan voted no.

Absent for the planning commission vote were William Conerly and Paul Rutledge.

Plan approval was contingent on county staff stipulations, including a requirement state permits be obtained before development is commenced and the submittal of “overall layouts for the entire project” with future site plans.

The rezoning request includes 39 acres from single-family to planned development, 22 acres from agricultural to planned development and 130 acres from planned development and agricultural to mixed use.

For the developers, attorney Scott Rudacille of Blalock Walters said the plan was compliant with the land development code and comp plan.

The developers’ team touted the benefits of engineering stormwater runoff, only 13 acres of wetland impacts and the need for permits.

Developer attorney Ed Vogler predicted a 20-year build-out. He disputed the hundreds of comments made in opposition to the plan.

Stevely, a retired University of Florida Sea Grant scientist, told the commissioners: “You can’t dismiss the comments as misperceptions.”

“There’s real problems with this plan,” he added, both with the hydrology and ecology.

Cortez Bridge head-on crash injures 3

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Airbags deployed in the head-on crash at 2:50 p.m. April 12 crash on the Cortez Bridge.
A head-on crash April 12 on the apron on the east side of the Cortez Bridge stops motorists and boats on the Intracoastal Waterway. Traffic was stopped for about two hours. Islander Photos: Kathy Prucnell
Sgt. Robert Spurlock of the Manatee County Sheriff’s Office investigates the April 12 crash on the south side of the Cortez Bridge as firefighter Tyler MacDonald stands by the West Manatee Fire Rescue engine. Islander Photo: Kathy Prucnell

No life-threatening injuries were reported in an April 12 head-on crash where the ramp meets the east side of Cortez Bridge.

West Manatee Fire Rescue Lt. Nate Bergbom said emergency medical services took five people to Blake Medical Center in Bradenton.

A family of four from Connecticut in a Nissan Rogue was traveling east over the bridge when an Oldsmobile sedan attempted to pass another vehicle and struck the Nissan head-on, according to Manatee County Sheriff’s Office public information director Dave Bristow.

Bernadeta Wilkins, 32, of North Port, was ticketed for careless driving, passing in a no-passing zone and wearing no seat belt after WMFR firefighters extricated her from the Oldsmobile, according to first responder reports.

Bristow said three adults were injured but “nothing life-threatening.”

The two children in the Nissan were not hurt, according to the MCSO report.

Bradenton Beach Police Department controlled vehicle traffic at the bridge for about two hours.

After the impact, the Oldsmobile Alero pointed west in the eastbound lane and the Nissan Rogue faced east, also in the eastbound lane.

Turtle Watch hits the beach

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Anna Maria Island Turtle Watch and Shorebird Monitoring volunteers gather April 11 to pick up materials before a meeting at CrossPointe Fellowship, 8605 Gulf Drive, Holmes Beach. Islander Photos: ChrisAnn Silver Esformes.
More than 80 Anna Maria Island Turtle Watch and Shorebird Monitoring volunteers congregate April 11 for a meeting at CrossPointe Fellowship in Holmes Beach.
Anna Maria Turtle Watch and Shorebird Monitoring volunteer Paula Clark, left, and executive director Suzi Fox prepare materials April 11 for turtle watch volunteers, before a meeting at CrossPointe Fellowship, 8605 Gulf Drive, Holmes Beach.

“You all are the first responders, the ambassadors,” Suzi Fox, Anna Maria Island Turtle Watch and Shorebird Monitoring executive director, said April 11 to more than 80 AMITW volunteers.

The group was gathered at CrossPointe Fellowship in Holmes Beach for “Turtle Watch Spring Training,” a meeting led by Fox to prepare new volunteers and update veterans on new policies for the 2017 nesting season.

During sea turtle nesting and hatchling season, which runs May 1-Oct. 31, AMITW volunteers walk a designated 1-mile stretch of beach just after sunrise, looking for signs of nesting activity the night before and, later in the season, for hatchlings to emerge.

When nests are discovered, they are staked for protection and monitored for data which goes to Manatee County and the state to track population and behavior trends.

Fox kicked off the April 11 meeting and said volunteers would begin walking the beach April 15. She said the warmer winter may mean early nesting.

“It’s all about temperature,” Fox said. “It just depends on how warm the water is.”

Fox said there are some changes to the morning walk protocol this season.

She said nests will be marked with three stakes instead of four and the stakes will be longer. Longer stakes are easier to locate and fewer stakes mean not as many to recover after a storm event, according to Fox.

Fox also said volunteers are not to deal with possible code violations including unattended items or large holes on the beach. She said walkers should let her know so she can contact code enforcement officers to deal with the matter.

Nesting sea turtles can become entangled in trash left on the beach or trapped under beach furniture and can fall into large holes. Adult female sea turtles only come ashore to nest then must return quickly to the water. Any impedance could be deadly.

In the past, volunteers have taken time out of their morning survey walks to deal with issues that are the responsibility of city governments, according to Fox.

“No more code work, nothing,” Fox said. “We are out there to look for nests, 100 percent.”

She said 99 percent of the nests on the island are made by loggerhead sea turtles. However, occasionally other species, including green turtles, nest on island beaches.

“After your first year, I expect you to know which species make which tracks, even if they are mostly loggerheads,” Fox told volunteers. “We do sometimes get green turtles here.”

Additionally, Fox said volunteers are no longer required to verify nests, in most cases. Volunteers verify possible nests by digging into them to make sure there are eggs, before staking off the area. She said if this season is comparable to the 2016 nesting season, there will be a lot of nests and verifying obvious nests would be a waste of time.

“If you approach an area and can tell it’s definitely a nest, you don’t need to verify it,” Fox said. “We are going to have a lot of nests this year and need to focus on locating them.”

Following the April 11 meeting, AMITW volunteer Bev Lesnick said she can’t wait to get started. Last season, her first as a volunteer, Lesnick saw a female loggerhead sea turtle nesting on a beach at sunrise, a rare experience.

“Last year was truly amazing,” Lesnick said. “I can’t wait to see what this year holds.”

For more information about AMITW, or to report a sick, injured or dead sea turtle, contact Fox at suzi-lfox@gmail.com or 941-778-5638.