The No. 1 beach in America shortly will have a 4-foot-by-8-foot sign proclaiming that status.
The Sarasota County Commission Wednesday voted unanimously to approve a design created by county Communications Department staff. The sign will be placed in a grassy area between the public beach pavilion and the beach itself, Rob Lewis, executive director of the county’s Planning and Development Services Department, told the commissioners during their regular meeting.
The exact location, Lewis said, would be determined by the Sarasota County Historic Preservation Board. However, he said, that board already had voiced preliminary approval of the site.
The sign will have two sides, Lewis explained. The front will feature a smaller sign with a sunset background imposed on a bigger sign depicting the shore during the day. On the other side, the smaller sign will resemble a postcard, saying, “Wish you were here … at the #1 beach in the USA!”
The Sarasota Convention and Visitors Bureau, Lewis said, had indicated it would pay most or all of the cost of the sign. The estimate is $1,300, he added.
“I think we’re going to get a great dividend in marketing,” he said.
“My request,” Commissioner Jon Thaxton told Lewis, “is (to get the sign up) as soon as possible. We got rated No. 1 a little while ago.”
Dr. Stephen P. Leatherman, of Florida International University, who is known as “Dr. Beach,” ranked Siesta Key Public Beach No. 1 in the nation May 27, just before Memorial Day weekend.
In an interview after the meeting, Lewis said he could not provide an exact date for when the sign will go up. He said he would know more next week about the timing.
Lewis explained to the commissioners that the designs had been developed through the work of a stakeholders group that included representatives of the Siesta Key Association, the Siesta Key Chamber of Commerce, the Sarasota Convention and Visitors Bureau and the Friends of Sarasota County Parks, as well as individual Key residents.
A second design he presented had been developed by SCVB staff months ago.
“I don’t think it accomplishes what we originally set out to do,” Thaxton said of that design, which showed palm trees and a boat in the Gulf of Mexico.
Patterson added, “And this is very dark.”
Although the stakeholders group had considered three sizes for the beach sign, including 3 feet by 6 feet and 2 feet by 6 feet, the commissioners said they preferred the largest version.
Commissioner Joe Barbetta said his only concern was that the “#1” and the “B” in “Beach” were too close together in the sunset sign.
“That’s a good point,” Lewis responded, adding that staff easily could remedy that situation in the final product.
Thaxton also suggested that staff work on providing more separation between the smaller sign and the background sign. That way, he said, people could put their hands around the smaller sign, “so it looks like they’re holding up the postcard,” for photo opportunities. He added, “That’s the kind of interactivity … that’s going to take off in the social media environment.”
“If that can be done without a big cost,” Chairwoman Nora Patterson added.
Commissioner Christine Robinson concurred with the importance of people taking family photos by the sign. “I spent my vacation this summer in the Smoky Mountains,” she said, “and we couldn’t wait to get under that (park) sign because it’s iconic.”
Lewis also presented an option for a small sign announcing the No. 1 beach designation that could hang below the Siesta Key Village sign on Ocean Boulevard. However, he told the commissioners, some of the stakeholders said they preferred the No. 1 beach sign go on top of that sign. If it were below the Village sign, he said, stakeholders worried that plants in the landscaping would grow tall enough to obscure the wording.
Robinson also asked Lewis if staff could create a version of the sign the board approved Wednesday that could be used to replace the brown No. 1 beach signs that were installed in late August on posts with Sarasota County Area Transit signs.
“We can revisit those signs,” Lewis told her. “One could consider them temporary.”
The goal with those signs on the SCAT posts, he said, was to get up something that complied with the county’s zoning code. He could work with the zoning staff, he said, to see what could be done with the new design.
“With regard to the brown signs,” Patterson said, “when I first saw those, I said, ‘Yuck!’” Since then, she said, Catherine Luckner, president of the Siesta Key Association, had pointed out that the signs were consistent with Florida Department of Transportation signage for parks and other attractions.
“I do think it would be neat to have a small version of this,” Patterson added, referring to the design approved Wednesday. “I don’t think you want billboards going up.”
Lewis told her James K. Harriott, executive director of the county’s Public Works Department, already planned to contact FDOT to talk about what types of signs it would permit on the roadways.
Lewis Wednesday also presented an oval design proclaiming the No. 1 beach status that could be used as a logo on T-shirts, for example. “That would be for the private sector,” he said.