Have you seen the signs?
New “Welcome to Longboat Key” signs are currently being erected on both the north and south ends of the island, and new plantings are being installed throughout the island. The project, which is funded by a $500,000 American Recovery and Reinvestment Act beautification grant the town received last year for Gulf of Mexico Drive, could be completed as early as Friday, May 21, according to Darren Alfonso, public information officer for the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT). Next month, improved wayfinding signs will be installed.
The contractor for the instillation project is the Ocala-based Foundation Services of Central Florida, and the contract totals $327,500 — the low bid for a project that was originally projected to cost $464,000.
According to Alfonso, the remaining $136,500 will be used for other projects in Sarasota and Manatee counties.
Plantings for the project include sabal palm trees, coontie palm trees, gumbo limbo, weeping yaupon holley, little gem magnolias, pitch apple, cardboard palms and cord grass. The town and FDOT worked together to select the plants based on a number of restrictions. According to Longboat Key Public Works Director Juan Florensa, plants had to be saltwater-spray tolerant, disease-and-pest resistant and drought tolerant. Additionally, because the trees are being installed in the right of way, FDOT restrictions require that they have minimal impact if struck by a car.
Jack Nolton, senior project engineer for American Consulting Engineers, the firm overseeing the project for FDOT, said that sabal palms and magnolias were specifically planted with minimum space between each planting to create a dramatic effect, while also drawing the eye away from miscellaneous vegetation.
“The idea of this project was we had a limited budget and wanted to make a few areas where it was a dramatic landscaping,” Nolton said.
As part of the contract, Foundation Services of Central Florida will be responsible for maintenance of the plantings for the first year. After a year, the town will be responsible for maintenance, which will include fertilization, re-mulching plant beds and pruning. Florensa said current estimates place maintenance costs at $15,000 to $20,000 per year.
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