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Date of Issue: May 28, 2008

County continues causeway watch

The Manatee County Commission May 20 accepted a wait-and-see recommendation on changes to recent improvements to the Palma Sola Causeway.

But several commissioners indicated they can be counted on to ask for changes once the major enhancement project is completed later this summer.

The seven-member board seemed to agree the landscaping on the causeway - the stretch of State Road 64/Manatee Avenue connecting Anna Maria Island to Perico Island and then the mainland - has been a success. The landscaping work began more than a year ago with the removal of non-native, exotic plants and trees. In their place, more than 700 trees were planted under the direction of the Palma Sola Scenic Corridor Management Entity.

But commissioners raised concerns about more recent additions to the causeway - rows of bollards intended to keep motor vehicles from reaching the edge of the bay.

The bollards are located on the north and south sides of the causeway, except where a new rest room is planned and at designated access sites for watercraft.

Soon after the bollards were planted Commissioners Joe McClash and Carol Whitmore objected to the number and location of posts.

They continued to express their concerns at the county commission meeting in Bradenton May 20.

“This is a safety issue for me,” Whitmore said, introducing a collection of photographs she took of parked vehicles on the causeway over the weekend. Whitmore said that due to the bollards, motorists with trucks and trailers are parking close to the road.

McClash said his concern is water access. He wants some bollards removed on the south side of the causeway so more people can get to the water with their personal watercraft. A new ramp was built on the southwest end of the beach to accommodate boaters and a shell parking lot will be built nearby.

“I really disagree with not removing some of the bollards,” he said. “Everyone was thinking of car parking” not trucks and trailers.

He continued, “It’s unfortunate because it’s supposed to be a beautification project.… I just can’t support the plan that’s in front of me.”

Commissioner Ron Getman said he too saw problems with the location and number of bollards. “It’s not reasonable, what’s there now,” he said.

But, he added, “when it’s completed it can be addressed.”

Commissioners Donna Hayes, Amy Stein and Jane von Hahmann also endorsed the wait-and-see approach. Commissioner Gwendolyn Brown did not make a statement.

Hayes said causeway visitors may need time to adjust to the changes, which she characterized as looking “great” and “rustic.”

Von Hahmann said, “We’re just trying to find a balance” for the many uses and visitors to the causeway beach.

“The key here is dollars have been spent, contracts have been signed and we need to move forward,” she said, adding, “Personally, I think it looks really great.”

Stein said, “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. I thought it was quite attractive.… It was a big nothing before.”

Earlier this month, the Palma Sola Scenic Highway Corridor Management Entity voted to consider changes after the project’s completion and expenses are reimbursed from state and federal grants.

The majority of commissioners supported that recommendation, which was in line with the county staff’s suggestion. The vote was 6-1, with McClash opposed.