Except for one incident in mid-July, Siesta Key Public Beach has remained generally free of seaweed this summer, county officials report.
And that incident “was really nothing,” George Tatge, a Parks and Recreation manager, told the Pelican Press, especially compared to a three-year period, ending in 2007, when the beach was bombarded with red drift algae.
“The good news is that we have not had anything like that,” Tatge added.
Vicki Richardson, general manager of Sarasota Surf & Racquet Club, was nonetheless upset July 11, when she emailed County Commission Chairwoman Nora Patterson, who lives on the Key.
“We have had lots of seaweed along the waterline on the public thoroughfare since (July 9),” Richardson wrote. “As of yet we have not seen any county trucks doing cleanup.”
Richardson added, “With much thanks going to the Dr. Beach designation of this beach being No. 1, we are filled to capacity with many unhappy guests complaining no one is cleaning up the mess. I had my entire crew come in at 6 a.m. this morning to try to make a dent in it … ”
Lucille Vaillancourt-Kreider, county operations manager in Surf & Turf Maintenance, emailed county officials July 13 to report that she and her crew had spoken with one visitor and one employee from Surf & Racquet Club.
“We explained that (the seaweed) was not harmful and … most will go out with the tide,” she said. “Mother Nature is doing her job.”
County maintenance crews collected enough seaweed from that event to fill a 3-ton truck, Jerome Dillon, operations manager of the north Sarasota County beaches, told the Pelican. The seaweed was localized in front of the Surf & Racquet Club complex, he added.
Dillon remembers well the period from 2005 to 2007. The seaweed on the beach seemed a never-ending problem, he said. “I just couldn’t take care of Siesta Beach (sufficiently).”
In an email responding to Richardson’s July complaint, Patterson said of that previous problem, “I will bet we spent about $1 million cleaning it up in front of all of our condos.”
County staff has learned more about seaweed since then, Dillon pointed out. For one, there are microorganisms in the seaweed on which shore birds feed. Additionally, sand accretes around the seaweed, which is good for beach renourishment.
County policy regarding seaweed also has evolved over time, Dillon said. Staff now waits a full tidal cycle before picking up any material from the beach. “The next tide might take it back out.”
Beyond that, Tatge said, “We don’t go off the public-owned beach unless there’s enough seaweed to justify it …”
Tatge said the seaweed he does see this time of year typically comprises dead seagrass. “In summer, (seagrasses) grow long and shed.”
Tatge said he is hopeful the rest of the 2011 hurricane season will be a quiet one for Sarasota County.
Dillon agreed. This summer “has been like a godsend … It’s been real good.”