In response to complaints, Sarasota County staff plans improvements to the shower and bike rack area in the northern part of the Siesta Beach parking lot.
Sarasota attorney Dennis J. Plews emailed the county commissioners about problems earlier this month.
“I suspect that you are unaware of the dangerous and unhealthy condition being continuously permitted by the county to exist at the dune crossing located at the northernmost end of the parking lot,” Plews wrote.
He noted the public had been dealing with the situation ever since the wood-decked dune crossing had been removed.
“I understand that a lady broke her leg there recently due to the persistently poor maintenance and design,” he wrote. “That is deplorable.”
Commissioner Jon Thaxton said he did not know of the problem.
“I was unaware of these conditions,” he wrote to Plews. “I will ask staff to look into some possible solutions.”
Curt Preisser, a county public information officer, said the asphalt in that section of the parking lot had settled over the years, a condition not uncommon in low-lying areas. That settling created a low spot, Preisser said.
People coming into the parking lot from the beach frequently use the shower in that area, he said, and the low spot does not drain as it should. Thunderstorms, which have been common this summer, exacerbate the situation.
“(Because of) heavy rain and (the beaches) being such a popular location, water builds up there,” he said.
Additionally, because of the No. 1 beach ranking, Preisser said staff has been busier than usual this summer.
“Thousands of people (are) going to that beach every day,” he said.
For a short-term solution, Preisser said the county is making sure maintenance crews drain and power-wash the area at least twice a week to prevent algae growth.
For a longer-term solution, he said, county staff is looking into the possibility of installing more asphalt to build it back up and enable the shower drain to work properly. Although Preisser did not have a start date for the work, he said it is a priority.
“We’re looking at doing it as quickly as possible,” he said.
Preisser said the county would have to consider environmental restrictions and permitting for any ultimate solution, because the area has plenty of protected sea oats and wildlife.
“We can’t just go digging around out there,” he said.
Regarding the removal of the wooden decking Plews had referenced, John McCarthy, who led the county’s Parks and Recreation Department for 10 years, said he could not address the specifics in this case.
“Parks and Recreation has improved the safety and durability of accesses over the past 10 years with designs and materials,” McCarthy said.