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Date of Issue: February 04, 2009

City holds scenic highway charette

Bradenton Beach citizens gathered Jan. 30 for a marathon talk on how to drive forward plans for the city’s scenic highway.

The 2.8-mile segment of State Road 789/Gulf Drive in Bradenton Beach is designated as a Florida scenic highway, with three distinct sections — the primarily resort and residential north end, the central commercial district and the recreational south end.

Last Friday, city officials, consultants, and citizens gathered at city hall, 107 Gulf Drive N., for a charette on the future of the Bradenton Beach Scenic Highway Corridor.

“This is a once every 10 years charette,” said Carl Parks, chair of the city’s ScenicWAVES advisory committee, welcoming about 30 people to the event.

The discussion that followed Parks’ welcome provided information needed to update a corridor management plan, which is mandated by the state.

The city’s original corridor management plan was submitted to the Florida Department of Transportation in October 2000. At the time, Holmes Beach, Longboat Key and Anna Maria also considered seeking scenic highway status, but opted not to pursue the designation in their city limits.

Bradenton Beach’s corridor management plan “covers just about everything in our city because you are never very far from the corridor,” said city project and program director Lisa Marie Phillips.

The charette followed an agenda that included:

  • An introduction from Phillips, who said, “This is one of the most important things we are going to do all year.”
  • A review of the process that goes into updating the scenic highway corridor management plan for the state by consultant James Taylor of the IBI Group. The city received a National Scenic Byways grant to hire the consulting firm to help with the update.
  • A review of the features and amenities in the scenic highway corridor provided by Taylor.

Prior to the charette, Taylor walked, drove and biked the corridor, taking photographs as he traveled to document what exists along Gulf Drive in the city.

The consultant tallied trolley stops, sidewalk lengths, parking spots, beach access points, lights, non-native plants, crosswalks, bike racks and other items.

He also examined the bike lane for hazards or gaps.

  • A discussion on goals for Gulf Drive led by Taylor and Sue Thompson of IBI Group.
  • A group discussion on the scenic highway’s strengths, weaknesses and future.
  • A review of the timetable for updating the plan. The schedule calls for a draft of the plan to be available by March 9 and a final plan presented by mid-April.

A to-do list for the scenic highway includes constructing a sidewalk along Gulf Drive from city hall to Cortez Road, improving parking accommodations, promoting trolley ridership and bicycling, improving the gateways and promoting native landscaping, implementing design guidelines, opening an environmental education center, updating related Web sites, improving stormwater drainage, removing obstacles in the bike lanes and improving the signage for cyclists.

Those who attended the charette also agreed on the need to pursue grant money and other non-municipal sources of funding for enhancements.

For example, participants seemed eager to pursue the type of grant the city of Anna Maria secured for enhancements along Pine Avenue.

Participants also encouraged additional improvements at Coquina Beach, which is maintained by the county. Much praise was offered for the installation of a multi-use path at the site and much enthusiasm was shared for additional improvements.

Taylor said, “It’s easy to recognize it is the beach that lays the golden egg. You’ve got to protect that goose.”