The plans for Bird Key Park include pedestrian and bicycle trails, updated landscaping and a move of parking to the east side of the park from the west side. Developed with the help of a task force with representatives from 14 neighborhood associations, the plans are part of the West Bayfront Multi-use Recreational Trail, which will connect the existing Bayfront MURT to St. Armands and Lido keys. The project, slated to begin March 1, 2010, is four years in the making.
But Laurel Kaiser, a Sarasota resident and owner of Island Style Watersports, says that the plans jeopardize one of Florida’s most desirable windsurfing spots.
Kaiser says that moving parking to the east side of the park will eliminate approximately 20% of current parking spaces and force windsurfers and kayakers to carry heavy equipment across the parking lot or drop their equipment off before parking, while also eliminating the waterfront view for park users who sit in their cars. She says that water-sports access will be reduced to just three access points.
Currently, Kaiser is circulating a “Save Bird Key Park” petition, urging the Sarasota City Commission to stop the planning and permitting process for parts of the West MURT affecting Bird Key.
The petition states opposition to any plans that “reduce, restrict, reconfigure or otherwise change the existing parking, easy and complete access to the waterfront, the water or the existing, unobstructed view of the waterfront from the roadway or the park.” The petition also calls for adding restrooms and maintaining current landscaping in the park. As of Monday, Oct. 12, Kaiser had collected more than 600 signatures.
But Lou Costa, who represents the Bird Key Improvement Association on the city’s task force for the project, said that much of the opposition stems from misinformation.
“It is my opinion that people are being misled so that they will sign the petition,” Costa said. “Example:
They’re being told that dogs will no longer be allowed in the park and that access for water sports will be eliminated and the landscaping will block the view.”
According to Neil Gaines, city manager of capital projects, the city has reaffirmed its willingness to make adjustments to the plans, particularly in the case that plantings would interfere with water sports or the park’s view.
But Kaiser says that only residents who live nearby had the opportunity to give their input during the planning process.
“A mistake was made,” she said. “They didn’t solicit from park users.”
IF YOU GO
Bird Key Park
When: 6 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 28
Where: Sarasota City Commission chambers, 1565 First St., Sarasota
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