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Date of Issue: February 22, 2007

Holmes Beach looks to add 'linear parks'

path pic
An east-west landscaped path runs to the south of the AmSouth/Regents bank under construction in Holmes Beach. Islander Photo: Lisa Neff

They follow a winding path.

Toting groceries, lugging beach chairs or swinging their arms to the tune playing in their headphones, walkers take to the short, meandering sidewalk behind the AmSouth/Regents Bank in Holmes Beach.

To first-time visitors, the path may seem like nothing more than a path. To frequent walkers in the area, the path offers security and convenience.

"It's handy," said Holmes Beach resident Melissa Saben. "If it had been here all the time, I'm sure we'd take it for granted. But new, it's a real convenience. Certainly safer than walking to the beach on Manatee Avenue."

At Holmes Beach City Hall, the path represents the current approach to promoting a pedestrian-friendly community.

The builders of the new bank on Manatee Avenue, which is scheduled for a "soft opening" Feb. 26 and a grand opening in late March or early April, built the path at city hall's request.

"We made the decision to provide more and mature landscaping in and around the pathway so it will look like it had been in place for years," said Kimberly Hopper, the bank's Bradenton and Sarasota city president. "We felt this would help the neighbors accept the new development since we are so close to the condos."

The landscaping features native plants, including sea grapes and cabbage palms "to help provide a more natural experience along the path," Hopper said. "Gumbo limbo trees and viburnum hedge bushes were added closer to the pavement to soften the transitions between the two areas."

"It turned out beautifully," said Mayor Rich Bohnenberger. "I'm really thankful to the bank. They did what we asked them to do. They made it really nice."

The path provides a connection between Sixth Avenue behind CVS Pharmacy and Gulf Drive at Skinny's Place, taking pedestrians out of area parking lots and off the side of Manatee Avenue.

The mayor wants to see more such spaces in Holmes Beach. In major cities, such areas might be called "green spaces." For a resort community such as Holmes Beach, where so much greenery exists year 'round, city officials are calling such spaces "linear parks."

"We have quite a few platted streets that will never be used as streets," Bohnenberger said, referring to the city map. "When lots were laid out, certain areas were designated streets and they are still on the map. But they'll never be used as such."

In a meeting with the city parks and beautification committee in December 2006, the mayor asked members to study the matter and make some recommendations.

"If we want to make the city more pedestrian friendly, we need to look at some of these locations," Bohnenberger said. "It is not just to make the city look pretty, but to have a useful function in my mind."

These areas, the mayor said, might be used to create linear parks.

"A city can't do enough to add green spaces," Holmes Beach resident Winston Owens said as he shopped last week for plants at Everything Under the Sun, 5704 Marina Drive, Holmes Beach. "The question is, can we preserve and create spaces at a rate fast enough to offset what others destroy?"