An ongoing project to remove invasive Australian pines from Lido Key could get a financial boost soon as the result of a possible partnership between Sarasota County and The Beach Residences at the Ritz-Carlton, Sarasota.
The partnership is in the preliminary phase, said Gary Erickson, president of the board of directors at The Beach Residences. “We’ve started a discussion with the county,” Erickson said.
If residents decide to partner with the county, the county would manage a contractor who would remove some of the invasive pines from South Lido Park and plant native shade trees, such as buttonwood, red cedar trees and cabbage palms, said George Tatge, project manager with Sarasota County Parks and Recreation. Residents at the nearby condo, which borders the park, would contribute funding to pay for all or part of the project.
The county has undertaken similar partnerships — sometimes matching contributions from residents.
“One of the last projects we did, the neighbors provided $10,000 and we matched $10,000,” Tatge said.
During that project, a wall of Australian pines was removed on South Lido along Big Pass.
These rapidly growing trees overtake native vegetation, such as mangroves, by producing a dense leaf litter beneath them. Also, with such a shallow root system, Australian pine trees tend to uproot and topple during high winds. Branches also become brittle after a freeze and can readily fall.
Erickson, who has lived at the Beach Residences part-time since 2006 and full-time since 2010, said he would like to see as many of the pines removed as possible and replaced with trees “that won’t hurt the mangroves.”
“There are some individual residents (at The Beach Residences) who are interested in and are willing, perhaps, to provide some funding to assist the county,” Erickson said.
The condo’s board of directors has not approved the possible partnership.
In addition to returning native vegetation to the area, the removal of the Australian pines is often supported by residents because it also can clear water views because the pines are taller than many native trees.
The project along Big Pass, for example, significantly opened the water views to nearby residents, Tatge said.
Erickson noted, however, some residents on Lido don’t want to see the Australian pines go because of the shade they provide.
“John Ringling brought them over in the early part of the last century,” Tatge said, “as a windbreak or a landscape tree.”
Last spring, the county removed the invasive pines from Ted Sperling Park at South Lido Beach and planted thousands of sapling trees, including some red cedar and slash pine trees.
The young trees “are starting to come around,” Tatge said.