Sarasota County staff is assembling a “stakeholders” group to work on new signage proclaiming Siesta Public Beach’s status as No. 1 in the country.
Rob Lewis, executive director of Planning and Development Services, has notified the county commissioners he also has organized a team of internal staff to work on the project.
During their Sept. 13 regular meeting, the County Commission directed Interim County Administrator Terry Lewis to coordinate the redesign with the Florida Department of Transportation, the Sarasota Convention and Visitors Bureau, the Siesta Key Chamber of Commerce and Key organizations representing businesses. The directive called for staff to report back within 45 days.
“We need a more attractive sign,” Commission Chairwoman Nora Patterson said, referring to the signs county staff had attached to SCAT bus stop signs prior to Labor Day weekend.
Virginia Haley, president of the SCVB, agreed.
“I know people don’t think the signs on the bus stops are the greatest,” she said. “Hopefully, (county staff will) get the other signs all worked out.”
Still, she said she was happy something went up before that last big summer holiday weekend.
Discussion of signage and possibly banners at the entryways to the Key arose during the Aug. 2 meeting of the Siesta Key Village Association. At the time, county zoning staff said banners may not be allowed by county ordinance.
In late August, Lewis notified the commissioners that signs prepared in-house were being installed on SCAT signs at 21 locations on or leading to the Key.
The intent was to get something up before tourists descended upon the county and Siesta Public Beach during Labor Day weekend, Lewis said last week. His staff worked very closely with the SCVB, he said, to make certain the signs’ language was appropriate in regard to the ranking Dr. Stephen P. Leatherman, aka Dr. Beach, bestowed upon the Key’s almost-pure, quartz-sand beach just before the start of Memorial Day weekend.
“So that’s the reason the language is very simple,” Lewis said.
Now the county has the opportunity to engage the community.
“There are lots of artistic folks in the community and on the Key,” Lewis said. “What we’re trying to do is, in fact, be very transparent and very engaging with the public.”
The members of the stakeholders group include Catherine Luckner, president of the Siesta Key Association; Kevin Cooper, executive director of the Siesta Chamber; Russell Matthes, president of the SKVA; Erin Duggan, of the SCVB; Mark Smith, a past president of the SKVA; Ann Kaplan, a member of the SKA board; Kirsten Sheets, president of the Friends of Sarasota County Parks; and Lourdes Ramirez, former longtime SKA president.
“That is not meant in any fashion to be an exclusive list,” Lewis said. “We certainly all have a stake in this.”
Anyone who wants to be involved is welcome, Lewis said, regardless of whether the person is a Key resident.
Lewis said he hoped the participants would consider ideas that would lend themselves well to permanent marking for the No. 1 beach ranking.
He hopes to present suggestions to the County Commission in October.
Haley said she is also hopeful the county will come up with a design that can be displayed permanently at the beach. She said she, Cooper, Parks and Recreation General Manager Carolyn Brown and George Tatge, a Parks and Recreation manager, met at the beach after the July 4 holiday to talk about a design her graphics artist had created.
However, a lack of coordination stalled the process.
“To me, the key is getting the sign up (at the beach),” she said.
She said tourists would be enticed to take photos of family members adjacent to the sign, and the resulting photos would be circulated among the tourists’ friends and relatives when they returned home and show up on Facebook.
“That is what I want,” she said.