Sarasota County has launched a dedicated website for the $21.5 million Siesta Beach Improvements project, aiming to inform area residents and tourists on how construction at Siesta Beach will impact access to the area’s No. 1 tourist draw.
The website, www.siestabeachinfo.com, features a portal for users to access updates on the $21.5 million Siesta Beach improvements project as well as a digital map highlighting what sections of the park will be affected by the project’s four stages.
The website, which Sarasota County Communications manages, will remain live for the estimated two-year duration of the project. Information is provided by the construction manager, Jon F. Swift Inc., and Sarasota County Parks and Recreation.
The website is a joint project between Sarasota County and the contractor, and its $4,800 cost was a line item in the project’s overall $21.5 million budget.
At a Feb. 7 Siesta Key Association meeting, Sarasota County Public Works Project Manager Brad Gaubatz touted the website as means for residents and tourists to keep up to date with the most accurate and timely information regarding the project.
“We want this project to be right out there in the sunshine,” Sarasota County Public Information Officer Curt Preisser later said. “Obviously there will be periods of limited accessibility to the beach, and the county commissioners want the community to stay informed.”
Preisser said the project’s original budget included the website, and it was not a move to dispel any specific misinformation regarding the project.
At the SKA meeting, however, Gaubatz pushed back against several concerns raised by residents concerning the Siesta Beach Improvements as well as the ongoing Beach Road Drainage Improvements project, which is also located at Siesta Beach Park, but is a separate project from the beach improvements.
Rumors about the cancelation of all 2015 beach wedding permits were not true, Gaubatz insisted. The issue of beach weddings possibly being shut down in 2015 due to construction at the beach was first raised at a January Siesta Key Village Association meeting. Preisser subsequently pushed back against the claims, telling the Sarasota Observer that sections of Siesta Beach access would be incrementally shut down during the improvements, temporarily excluding weddings from limited portions of the beach, but at no point would the entire beach be off-limits.
At the Feb. 7 SKA meeting, Gaubatz cleared up another false rumor, emphasizing that the much-delayed Beach Road Drainage Improvements project would not alleviate flooding problems on Beach Road, but was designed to improve water quality at Siesta Beach by filtering stormwater runoff from nearby parking lots.
“This project was engineered specifically to minimize the potential of bacteria in the water causing beach closures,” said County Commissioner Nora Patterson, who attended the Feb. 7 SKA meeting, adding: “We had hoped when we first talked about it that it would alleviate some flooding on Beach Road … but considering how important this beach is for the area economy, and for the recreation of people in the area, this project is well worth doing.”
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