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Date of Issue: November 22, 2007

Palma Sola project to be scaled back

The group tasked with beautifying and protecting the Palma Sola Scenic Highway Corridor learned last week that a plan to plant hundreds of trees along the causeway must be scaled back.

Seth Kohn, an employee with the city of Bradenton and member of the Palma Scenic Highway Corridor Entity committee, said the estimated cost of the plan proved too low.

The Palma Sola group, consisting of government employees, citizens and representatives from Keep Manatee Beautiful and the Sarasota Bay Estuary Program, met Nov. 14 at the county administration building in Bradenton.

The existing plan calls for the placement of 744 native Florida trees and thousands of ground cover plants along the scenic highway, also known as Manatee Avenue and State Road 64. The corridor runs from 75th Street West to East Bay Boulevard in Holmes Beach.

Funds from the Florida Department of Transportation and the Florida Division of Forestry, along with funds from Bradenton and Manatee County will pay for the $250,000 project. The Bradenton City Council authorized the project in September 2004 and the county commissioners in April 2004.

Earlier this fall, the city of Bradenton sought bids on the project and received just one, which has not yet been awarded.

Officials learned as they reviewed the bid that the cost of the project as shown in the plan, along with a yearlong warranty contract, would exceed the estimate.

“We asked for a redesign to bring the design in closer to the funding that we have, to bring this project down to the funding level it needs to be,” Kohn said. “This isn’t the first time this has happened.”

Most likely, the redesign will involve reducing the number of trees to be planted, said KMB executive director Ingrid McClellan.

“We’re Xing out a lot of trees to get us in budget,” she said.

The scaling back actually may assist with the long-term maintenance of the plants, which were planned for three jurisdictions - Bradenton, Holmes Beach and Manatee County.

The redesign will likely result in the elimination of some trees in the county west of the Anna Maria Island Bridge where the county has jurisdiction. Due to budget constraints, the county is no longer taking on new landscaping projects on roadways anyway.

The project was scheduled to begin in early December and completed within the next month. With the redesign, the plantings have been pushed back.

“We did get an extension,” McClellan said in regards to the funding for the project.

Meanwhile, a renourishment of the Palma Sola beaches will be taking place over the next several weeks.

A convoy of trucks will trek from Bradenton Beach to the causeway, hauling dredged sand stored at Coquina Beach and removed from the Gulf Intracoastal Waterway.

The project, organized by Keep Manatee Beautiful and authorized by the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, will build up the Palma Sola shores with about 8,000 tons of sand.

The renourishment will help protect the trees and plants that will be planted there.

In other business last week, the committee finalized the group’s bylaws, appointed McClellan as temporary chair and Kohn as vice chair until a full committee can be appointed.

The committee also reviewed plans to:

  • Add two bus shelters, modeled after the design in Holmes Beach, on the Palma Sola Causeway.
  • Work with other local scenic highway groups, including one in Bradenton Beach, to host a statewide conference next spring.
  • Remain vigilant at prohibiting the return of non-native plants along Manatee Avenue west of 75th Street.

Australian pines and Brazilian pepper trees were removed in the spring and summer. Committee members said they wanted to make sure the Florida Department of Transportation and Manatee County continually checks the area to keep the invasive plants from returning.

The DOT will be monitoring the area east of the Anna Maria Island Bridge and the county is keeping watch west of the bridge.

County Commissioner Carol Whitmore said the Brazilian pepper trees were several feet high east of the bridge, but that the DOT planned to spray as early as Tuesday, Nov. 20.

The committee’s next meeting will be at 3:30 p.m. Tuesday, Dec. 12, at the county administration building, 1112 Manatee Ave. W., Bradenton.