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Date of Issue: May 24, 2007

Save our pines! Refrain again sounds at Coquina

Going down
Workers took out Australian pine trees at Coquina Beach in Bradenton Beach last week as part of a parking lot redesign, prompted by an Easter shooting at the park. About a half-dozen Islanders protested the tree removal. Islander Photo: Paul Roat

A mini-protest of about a half-dozen people took place on Coquina Beach in the wake of a Manatee County Parks and Recreation Department decision - approved by county officials - to reconfigure the parking area of the facility in Bradenton Beach in the wake of a shooting on Easter.

Workers were out late last week to take out Australian pine trees in the center run of the parking area of the park. About six demonstrators appeared to protest the pine removal, some lashing themselves to the trees and prompting city police officers to arrive and urge them to exit the area as bulldozer operators took down the pines.

There were no arrests, and the protest ended peacefully.

Upwards of 80 pine trees were scheduled to be removed from Coquina Beach following a shooting incident on Easter Sunday in which three men were hospitalized and two others arrested.

Manatee County workers have quickly moved to implement revisions to the park that call for new entrances, parking plans and a greater law enforcement presence at Coquina, at costs that have been estimated to reach $750,000. Those plans included removal of the pines in the middle of the parking lot, which drew the protest from Islanders who oppose taking out the trees, a species viewed as noxious exotics by state officials.

Cindy Turner, head of the county’s parks and recreation department, conducted a survey of the tree removal and halted taking out about 10 Australian pines late last week, as they had bird nests within their branches.

Work is ongoing on the Coquina Beach parking lot redesign, with no completion date set.

In related business, the Coquina Beach Trail - also a controversial issue for Australian pine aficionados - should receive Florida Department of Environmental Protection permits to proceed within a week, according to Mike Sosadeeter of the county’s parks and recreation department.

The project drew the ire of residents when pines started to fall during the early preparations. A total of about 38 trees were to be demolished in the early phases of the project; upwards of 60 were eventually fated to fall, many in the Cortez Beach area, prompting an uproar from tree supporters.

A Manatee County project, the trail had received the blessing of all federal, regional and state agencies - until work commenced in February. DEP officials then halted work on the project, stating they needed to review the plans for the project. Work stopped in late March while officials worked out their issues within the plans.

Sosadeeter said last week that the Coquina Beach Trail project, which runs from Fifth Street South to the Longboat Pass Bridge on the west side of Coquina Beach, should be completed no later than Aug. 30.