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.