The premier tourist attraction in Sarasota will soon be getting a $12 million upgrade, and residents will get their first look at a modified plan this week.
Of several major improvements planned at Siesta Key Beach, perhaps none are more important than the addition of about 100 new parking spaces.
The public beach currently has 822 parking spaces, which is not enough to stop the daily, in-season car carousel that sees drivers making loop after loop in the parking lot until they find an empty space.
Another parking-lot feature will be designated pedestrian pathways to get from the lot to the beach.
The way the parking lot is laid out now has beachgoers walking in between parked cars to get to Siesta’s sand.
The lot will also have new trees and other landscaping designed to beautify and shade the area.
The county will create a fourth entry/exit and make the other three one-way entries/exits all two-way driveways.
“It will create more balance between the cars entering and those exiting,” said Curtis Smith, the county’s project manager.
In an early concept plan, the county considered creating a grand entryway with a roundabout. Although the entryway features will be enhanced, the roundabout has been eliminated, said Smith, because it could have created traffic backups and would have eliminated some parking spaces.
Currently, as drivers enter the park they are greeted by the sight of the public-service building. That will be demolished, so beachgoers will see the beach as they approach.
A new building with a concession area, restrooms and the sheriff’s and lifeguard stations will be built a little further east and will be perpendicular to the beach, instead of parallel, so the views of the sand and water will not be blocked.
The existing small concession stand to the east of the main one will be demolished and moved closer to the beach. It will also house new restrooms.
“It’s one of the things we’re most excited about,” said Smith. “It will be a new experience at the beach.”
As for actual beach features, a 15-foot-wide esplanade will run the entire length of the park. Both walkers and bicyclists will be able to use it.
The tennis courts will remain where they are, with some additional landscaping around them.
Construction is expected to begin in January 2013 and end in March 2015. Because some of the work will occur during the height of tourist season, the county is planning construction in the least populated areas of the park during peak season and the most populated areas in off-season.
If you go
What: Siesta Key Beach improvements workshop
When: 5 to 7 p.m. Thursday, March 24
Where: St. Boniface Episcopal Church, 5615 Midnight Pass Road
Contact Robin Roy at email@example.com