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Date of Issue: March 19, 2008

Palma Sola group to mark progress

Spring fever has arrived on the Palma Sola Causeway, where multiple projects are under way to beautify the stretch of Manatee Avenue linking Anna Maria Island to the mainland.

Teams are landscaping, painting murals, designing a new rest room and configuring parking.

The work involves multiple government agencies and has been guided by the members of the Palma Sola Scenic Highway Committee, which is planning a ribbon-cutting ceremony for the project at 11 a.m. Friday, April 25, at the north beach rest room.

The biggest project is the landscaping, which involves planting more than 700 trees, as well as ground plants and shrubs.

“It’s going very well,” said Seth Kohn, a Palma Sola committee member and employee with the city of Bradenton. “We’re on schedule. What else can I say?”

Kohn, during a committee meeting March 12 in Bradenton, added that construction of the concrete pad for a boat ramp in the southwest corner of the causeway is complete.

“I can’t believe it,” he said, surprised at the speed of Seaway Marine’s work, which began in early March. “You should have seen these guys. It was great.”

The ramp will replace an unpermitted ramp in the northeast corner of the causeway.

Plans for the ramp also include creating a shell parking lot for 11 trailers and four passenger-vehicles and planting palm trees to provide a buffer between nearby condominiums and the public property.

Meanwhile, on the north side of the causeway on the exterior of a rest room, work has begun on a mural depicting the early history of Palma Sola. Another mural — depicting the flora and fauna of Palma Sola — will be created on an interior rest-room wall.

Near the rest room and the picnic area, the committee is working with newspaper publishers and the city of Bradenton to erect a modular news rack.

Committee members said their goal was to remove the various publication boxes from a grassy right of way on the south side of Manatee Avenue and collect newspapers in a single rack. The structure will be built by the St. Petersburg Times and cost about $1,800.

Islander newspaper publisher Bonner Joy had objected to the removal of the publication boxes, including the destruction of an Islander box by the city of Bradenton, on First Amendment grounds.

Joy also objected to limits placed on the size of the new modular rack, where there will be space for only six papers — four daily newspapers and two weeklies, including The Islander. Other publications will be wrongfully excluded, Joy noted in a letter to the committee and Keep Manatee Beautiful.

Committee members, however, did not alter their plan last week and pointed to a Bradenton ordinance and Florida statute allowing for restrictions on racks.

The new rack will be put in place in the next month, according to committee chair and Keep Manatee Beautiful executive director Ingrid McClellan.

Also, the committee is working to create motorcycle parking on both sides of the causeway, which basically involves erecting signs and placing small brick areas for kickstands.

Later this year, work will resume to remove non-native Australian pines along Manatee Avenue. The Australian pines, considered invasive species, will be left at the causeway but the Florida Department of Transportation and the Sarasota Bay Estuary Program plan to contribute a total of $28,000 for the removal of trees between the Anna Maria Island drawbridge and the humpback bridge near Robinson Preserve.

“There are about 20 stragglers,” McClellan said. A number of Australian pine trees, as well as Brazilian pepper trees, were removed from the area last year.

Committee members suggested that the tree removal take place in September, when the AMI drawbridge will be closed for repairs and traffic at a minimum on the causeway.

The committee’s next meeting will be at 3:30 p.m. Wednesday, April 9, at the county building, 1112 Manatee Ave. W.