A couple of weeks ago, it was the beach parking. Now, again, it’s the tennis courts. Where does all the misinformation come from on the Key? It ebbs and flows like the tides on the public beach.
A few months ago, someone put up a sign on the tennis courts at the Siesta Public Beach, saying they were going to be demolished to make way for the improvements at the park. As soon as county commissioners learned of that false information, they alerted county staff, which went into damage-control mode.
Public Works Department Project Manager Curtis Smith went to the courts to talk to players and let them know the rumor was untrue. The courts were going to be moved, he explained to them — and explained to me for an article in the Pelican Press. However, Smith underscored the fact that the current courts would not be removed until the new courts were ready.
The staff of Total Tennis in Siesta Village welcomed that news, because players who are regular customers had seen that sign at the beach.
Of course, I never unearthed a clue about who had put up the sign. If Smith found any evidence pointing to a culprit, he was too much of a gentleman to mention it. I doubt seriously, though, that anyone would have claimed responsibility, especially after the real story became known.
Yet, last week, I found another email to County Commissioner Nora Patterson, who lives on the Key, from a resident who had watched the commission’s budget meeting Feb. 23 and was alarmed that Patterson had mentioned eliminating some of the planned amenities for the beach. She was trying to look at ways for staff to cut down the estimated cost of the project.
This latest email writer demanded to know whether Patterson wanted to get rid of the tennis courts.
“No,” Patterson responded. “The courts will be moved south, and this will be done in such a way as to not have facilities closed until new ones are available.”
Patterson pointed out that the relocation of the courts makes way for a significant portion of the planned new parking spaces at the beach.
The writer was relieved, noting in a follow-up email that the hundreds of tourists who use those courts, along with full-time residents of the island, would be relieved to know the plan.
Patterson took the opportunity to respond again to the writer, pointing out that, of course, more parking spaces could be added to the park plan if the tennis courts were eliminated. However, she emphasized that the County Commission would have to take a vote on removing the courts, “and nobody has even broached the possibility at our table.”
In spite of that exchange, I fully expect to see more emails in the coming days, in the county email folder, regarding the fate of the tennis courts.
Having grown up in a small town, and having lived for another 25 years in a town that was bigger, but still not that big, I understand only too well how news can be mis-communicated. It’s a lot like the children’s game I knew as “Gossip,” in which one person whispers a simple statement in the ear of the closest youngster, and the statement gets passed down a line of a dozen or more children until it comes out at the other end, in the most fancifully distorted fashion you can imagine.
When my husband and I moved in the summer of 2005 to Sarasota, we heard from more than a few people about the city’s small-town feel. When we later lived on Siesta Key for 14 months, we truly found ourselves in a community that felt even more like our former home, in terms of the ease of getting to know people and talking with them about life on the island.
Given that kind of environment, I realize it shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone that statements on the Key can be transformed from one figurative end of the island to another, just as they were in those lines of children when I was growing up.