BB steps in to halt pine tree removal at Coquina Beach

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Bradenton Beach resident Mike Norman stands May 24 next to one of more than 100 Australian pine trees targeted by Manatee County for removal at Coquina Beach as part of a drainage improvement project. Norman alerted the city and urged the commission to save the trees at an emergency meeting called by the mayor. Islander Photo: Ryan Paice

The planned removal of more than 100 pine trees at Coquina Beach in Bradenton Beach united people in opposition.

Bradenton Beach commissioners voted 4-0 May 24 to write to Manatee County administrator Cheri Coryea protesting the county’s plan to remove the Australian pine trees at Coquina Beach to make way for a drainage improvement project. Coquina is within the city limits, although the park is operated and maintained by the county.

Commissioner Randy White was absent without excuse from the emergency meeting called by the mayor.

Mayor John Chappie said the letter would inform the county that the trees must be saved and invite county officials to a city commission meeting within the coming weeks to explore alternatives for the trees.

The county hired Bradenton-based Woodruff and Sons in January for the drainage improvements at Coquina Beach, where the parking lots flood during heavy rains.

The project involves installing a pipeline and drainage system under parking, then laying pervious concrete for the beach access road and parking lot.

Woodruff is presently working at the south end of Coquina, progressing to the north end. The deadline to complete the work is Jan. 19, 2020.

Eric Epler, project manager for Woodruff, said in a May 23 interview with The Islander that the Australian pine trees at Coquina are an issue as a 10-inch-deep excavation is needed for new curbing on the road and that would harm the trees, leaving them in a dangerous condition.

“They have substantial surface roots,” Epler said. “We’re going to be impacting those roots and, when we do that, the trees are either going to die and topple, or a heavy wind is going to come and — when you take out half or more of the surface roots — topple the trees.”

Epler said there is no plan to replace the trees.

Chappie said the county did not notify him of the tree removal when it sought permission for the drainage project.

Chappie and Commissioners Jake Spooner and Ralph Cole said Bradenton Beach resident Mike Norman informed them about the issue when he called them May 23.

Norman also attended the meeting, speaking against the tree removal.

“I think the trees should be the guiding light for anything done down there. Anything. Nothing should be done that would kill any of these trees,” Norman said in a May 24 interview with The Islander.

Norman said the city should demand the county re-engineer the project to keep the trees. He added that he wouldn’t be satisfied with replacements, saying no tree could replace the Australian pine trees, some of which stand more than 50 feet tall and provide much-needed shade for the area.

“The other thing is everyone parrots the same company line about Australian pines,” Norman said. “All bureaucrats say the same thing: ‘They’re shallow-rooted, dangerous, they can fall down, and nothing can grow under them.’

“That’s the party line and it has been for years. And people don’t think. They just go along,” he continued.

If the curbing can’t be re-engineered, Norman said the county should only remove the trees on a need-to basis, keeping as many as possible.

Norman added that he spoke May 23 with County Commissioner Carol Whitmore, who said the county commission also was not informed of the plan to remove trees.

“I think there was an effort to keep people in the dark,” Norman said. “Especially out here because if you asked 100 people on this island what they thought about killing over 100 trees in Coquina, they would all be horrified.”

Chappie called Coryea May 24 and asked the county to hold off on removing the trees. The mayor said Coryea guaranteed no trees would be removed the coming weekend — May 25-May 26.

Also, according to Chappie, Coryea plans to raise the tree issue at the county meeting May 28.

Spooner said the city must get the county to pump the brakes and find alternatives to removing the trees.

“This place is one of the most beautiful places on the coast of Florida,” he said,

He suggested rallying the public.

Cole motioned for Chappie to write to Coryea with the city’s demand and Spooner seconded the motion.

County plans for Coquina Beach

The Manatee County Board of Commissioners voted 7-0 May 21 to approve a consent agenda that included a change order from Bradenton-based Woodruff and Sons for the Coquina Beach drainage improvement project. The change increased the contract amount from $2,426,774.90 to $3,017,417.01, and extended the construction deadline 72 days.
Eric Epler, project manager for Woodruff, said the county underestimated the amount of materials needed for the project and the change order corrects the county’s mistake.
The new deadline for the completion is Jan. 19, 2020.

13 thoughts on “BB steps in to halt pine tree removal at Coquina Beach

  1. Judy. Mullins

    Please rethink this plan! These trees make your beach so beautiful and provide shade for those of us who cannot or. choose not to bake in the sun. Many of us visitors choose Coquina Beach because of these lovely trees.. When my family comes to Bradenton we head right to this beach. It has been our go to place since 1974! Please,please rethink this and look for another solution to the problem.

    Thank You!!
    Judy Mullins
    Fortson , GA

    must be another solution yo this problem.

  2. Terrie Hodges

    Thank you dear Mike Norman!!!!!! So what if the Coquina parking lot floods?!!!! it is surrounded by water…no amount of pipes or permeable paradise devastating pavement can keep water out…
    what is really going on with the $3 million owed for this project…who decided to target this parking lot when there is flooding all over the Island? Leave the Pines….leave the soil exposed and uncovered as it is ….Get out of Nature’s way and find a publically endorsed use for that $3 million…Government is supposed to be OF and FOR the people….Research what Key West did in 2007 at Ft Zackery Taylor State Park…They were Smart…They kept the Australian Pines…WE need to do the same….Save Every Tree!!!! Terrie Hodges

  3. Teresa thome

    I just birded those pines. They provide much needed shade. I live in Bradenton and visit the beach specifically here for the shade of those trees. SAVE THE TREES!!! (Thanks for all who are trying.)

  4. Larry Evans

    I say leave it alone…I’m willing to deal with 10 or 15 days of a little flooding per year versus losing those magnificent trees. And the ospreys concur I’m sure.

  5. Marie

    If it can’t be re-engineered without damaging or removing the trees then it shouldn’t be done. The trees are what makes this a beautiful and unique beach. They are worth more than a parking lot that occasionally floods. Thank you Mike Norman, and Mayor Chappie .

  6. Rich Frost

    Do you really think whitmore didnt know? Ha! This is classic gov. s——-. Poison the water and delete the shade. Pay for parking and concessions soon will come. She two faced all of us but for how much longer? Embarrassing at best!

  7. Dan Carden

    Thank you! Born and raised here, I’m 39 years old, could not imagine the trees not being there. Why must we change things? This county wants destroy everything that is beautiful here. Ok so the trees are not native, so what… This the same for Long Bar. Very sad now to see the beginnings of a new development. To be honest this town is way over populated.

  8. Cheryl A Baker

    Those trees are the reason we spend $$$$ twice a year to vacation in Bradenton!

  9. Cheryl A Baker

    The money saved by not having to pay someone to cut the trees down will be phenomenal! Also saved will be the cost of replacement of what ever trees they were going to replant!!
    The whole plot hopefully has been fooled!! Someone should investigate why this was kept quiet and also who was getting paid to cut them down and plant more! Something smells I think this might get deep!!!

  10. Sue Messina

    THANK YOU MIKE NORMAN for bringing this to light.!!!!Those tees are also preventing beach erosion not to mention much needed shade. SAVE THE AUSTRALIAN PINES!!!!

  11. Sharon Farrish

    Without the Australian Pines and the shade they provide Coquina Beach would be an ugly barren wasteland of pavement. Please conserve the trees. Allowing the contractor the decision to remove the trees on an “as needed” basis would mean almost all of the trees would “need” to be removed, of that I am certain.

  12. Mary

    Thank you for stepping in and saving those beautiful trees! They are part of what makes the beach so special!

    1. Paul Horvat

      Thanks for saving trees that serve a great purpose ,,, These trees give shade , stop wind erosion of sand , keep roadways safer by aiding in stopping or slowing sand build up on roads , and aiding in the eco tem of Sarasota bay by slowing west wind across the water,,, and much more ,,The island should keep its natural habitat not destroy it,, Thanks to everyone involved in keeping these trees,,,

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