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Date of Issue: April 20, 2006

Vision of Bradenton Beach future under creation

A new vision of Bradenton Beach is coalescing.

Members of the city’s Waterfronts: Accessible, Viable, Environmentally Sustainable committee met last week in an ongoing process to determine the path upon which the program will proceed in its two-year mission to improve, enhance and preserve the city’s waterfront and beyond.

The process is funded for the most part by a grant from the Florida Department of Community Affairs through the Waterfronts Florida program.

"But this is all a waterfronts community," facilitator Dr. Thomas Taylor told the dozen or so members present. "It’s not just along the shore."

After a brief session in which members outlined elements they did not want the city to succumb to — high-rise buildings, proliferation of run-down structures, loss of commerce and loss of a sense of community — the group went to work on what they wanted Bradenton Beach to become or continue to be.

Highlights of the Gulf of Mexico shore included adequate parking and clearly delineated beach access points, restoration of natural habitats, vista preservation and public use of the jetties at Cortez Beach.

The group had mixed views on Australian pine trees, with some urging preservation and others lobbying for the exotic species’ removal.

The bayfront vision included enhanced boat-access points, more docks and parks, boardwalks and enhancements to existing boat ramps at Coquina Beach and elsewhere.

There was also a move for tax incentives for those who protect the natural habitat along the shore — keep the mangroves or seagrasses and receive a tax break, in other words.

Within the "downtown" portion of the city, from Cortez Road to Fifth Street South, goals mentioned included controlled and managed parking, increased parking, city acquisition of vacant lots on Bridge Street for use as a "town square" for events, enhanced lighting that meets wildlife needs, installation of underground utilities and maintaining the area as a family friendly zone.

Along Gulf Drive, the group viewed the future as having curbs along the entire road, with safe pedestrian crosswalks, streetscaping that features native plants, sidewalks and removal of the "negative" signage in the city.

As to cultural and recreational activities, the group lobbied for more history programs to promote the heritage of the city, expanded fishing and beach activities and even a regular farmer’s market.

There was also discussions of more non-traditional means of transportation, such as horse-and-buggy rides or expansion of the trolley to connect with Bridge Street at the bayfront.

Offshore oil and natural gas exploration was generally panned by the WAVES committee members, who proposed expansion of offshore fishing reefs and enhanced recycling programs and preservation and enhancement of natural habitats. Better stormwater runoff management was also touted.

Key issues to be discussed in future meetings include parking and traffic, preservation of natural/native habitats and removal of exotic species, and preservation of historic structures.

The next WAVES meeting, and the continuation of the visioning process, will be at 6 p.m. April 19 at city hall. Refreshments will be served, and all are encouraged to attend and offer their "visions."