Trees downed at Coquina despite protest

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Piles of 97 Australian pine trees Manatee County felled to make way for a parking lot improvement project at Coquina Beach remain alongside an access road July 11. The tree stumps have yet to be removed. Islander Photo: Ryan Paice

The Bradenton Beach Community Redevelopment Agency looked for the silver lining in the removal of 103 Australian pine trees from Coquina Beach.

Following Manatee County’s decision to remove more than a tenth of the beach’s 991 Australian pine trees to make way for the first phase of a Coquina parking lot drainage improvement project, CRA members said they hoped the time and budgeting is right to ask the county to join a multimodal transportation partnership with the city.

County contractors removed 97 Australian pine trees from the south parking area and along the Coquina Beach access road July 10. Six other Australian pine trees along the access road were previously removed.

The county plans to replace the Australian pine trees with 83 green buttonwood trees, 10 gumbo limbo trees and 10 shady lady black olive trees in the grass near the playground.

Bradenton Beach commissioners opposed the tree removal, which county officials said became a necessity after the city issued a construction permit for the project.

Building official Steve Gilbert said the city could not revoke the permit and stop work since the project met the city’s land development code.

While city officials failed to stop the tree removals, CRA members were excited with the prospect of getting the county on board with plans to partner on multimodal transportation improvements, namely a jitney trail for shuttling people between the parking at Coquina Beach — the biggest island parking lot — and Bridge Street.

“We can use this controversy to help move this project along,” local restaurateur Ed Chiles, an appointed member of the CRA, said at the July 10 meeting.

He added that he feels strongly against Australian pine trees, which are non-native, but the public’s outcry in opposition to their removal might help convince the county to further improve the multimodal transportation aspects of the area.

“The county wants to make sure the island is happy,” Chiles said.

City attorney Ricinda Perry said the situation may be the city’s best opportunity to realize the jitney trail project, which has been on a backburner for years.

CRA Chair Ralph Cole, a city commissioner, said the trail would lighten parking — which he said is the CRA district’s biggest issue — on Bridge Street.

Chiles motioned to direct Perry and city engineer Lynn Burnett to coordinate with county officials on plans for the project, and city commissioner Jake Spooner, a CRA member, seconded the motion. CRA members voted 6-0 to approve Chiles’ motion.

Commissioner Randy White, a CRA member, was absent with excuse.

2 thoughts on “Trees downed at Coquina despite protest

  1. Lisa Calder

    DISGUSTING! Bradenton Beach commissioners opposed the tree removal…YET, building official Steve Gilbert said the city could not revoke the permit and stop work…AND while city officials failed to stop the tree removals > >CRA members were excited with the prospect of getting the county on board with plans to partner on multimodal transportation improvements, namely a jitney trail for shuttling people between the parking at Coquina Beach — the biggest island parking lot — and Bridge Street…SO Ed Chiles thinks this… “We can use this controversy to help move this project along,” local restaurateur Ed Chiles, an appointed member of the CRA, said….AND apparently we the public are supposed to believe this > > he feels strongly against Australian pine trees, which are non-native (OH, that’s why he wanted them down, sure Ed) SO, even though the public was opposed to their removal, Ed and the rest of the CRA hope it might help convince the county to further improve the multimodal transportation aspects of the area….AND Ed says, “The county wants to make sure the island is happy,” WELL DON’T YOU THINK YOU SHOULD HAVE LISTENED TO THE PUBLIC ON AND OFF THE ISLAND’S REQUEST THAT THE TREES DIDN’T GET CUT DOWN???!!! Who do you really want to make happy? Just watch revenue go down as Bridge Street businesses feel the boycott of you actually NOT listening to what the public wanted. We don’t have far to go on the island to spend our money in places OTHER than Bridge Street businesses. And now you’ve given many of us a reason to do so. Hope the fact that you ignored the pleas to NOT cut them down haunts you.

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  2. Janet Aubry

    The Islander Newspaper just won some well deserved awards for journalism. Without these reporters, we would know very little (and way too late) about what goes on in Paradise.
    But as good as their information is, you still have to know how to read between the lines. This article, for example, could have been entitled “Shell Game”.
    A jitney trail proposed long ago by the CRA in Bradenton Beach will help parking for businesses there which is a good thing. The county could and should have done it long ago. But no, they only help us when they think we are paying attention and not in a good way right? So don’t be fooled into thinking the county’s recent offer to help the CRA is unconnected to the tree controversy. It has everything to do with it. The county thinks they can buy off our objections to their current and planned future desecration of massive numbers of trees at Coquina Beach. Anyone – including good friends of mine – who might say getting one at the expense of the other is a silver lining would be insulting the intelligence of every single person who protested and signed Mike Norman’s petition. I get what Ed Chiles, Jake Spooner and Ricinda Perry are doing which is trying to get the county to finally help solve a parking issue to help business. I’m really ok with that. But please, let’s not imply or let the county think for one second that their long overdue help in any way mitigates their damage and negligence to our environment. They are attempting to offer what amounts to a bribe thinking the CRA members among us will speak so glowingly about the jitney trail that they will distract a large and growing number of dissenting voters on the island. We are not leverage for anyone. We need to be really clear that this deal is far from a “silver lining” and much closer to “blood money”, if you ask me. The possible new jitney trail and the taking of our trees are NOT related items except in the minds of politicians. I know the CRA members would be the first to admit that in a private conversation but their carefully chosen words to the press are part of the art of the deal. The timing of this sudden offer of benevolence is not just coincidental. Reread the article and see what I mean. Do I want the jitney? Sure why not? Will I support anyone who had anything to do with the taking of the trees at Coquina Beach? NO. My vote is not for sale. My silence cannot be bought. And if you read this and think like I do, keep your eye on the ball people and think about this when it’s time to go to the polls. I would NEVER vote for any member of the current Manatee County Commission or administration and neither should you.

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