By Jan. 1, shoreline construction could begin for the eastern portion of the Bird Key Park phase of the West Bayfront Multi-Use Recreational Trail, which will connect the existing Bayfront MURT to St. Armands and Lido keys. But Sarasota city staff will seek public input in the coming months and report back to the Sarasota City Commission before beginning the western phase of the project.
The commission voted 4-1 at its regular meeting Nov. 16 to approve a motion ordering city staff to go forward with plans for the park in two phases. Commissioner Fredd Atkins cast the dissenting vote.
The motion calls for keeping plantings low between water and parking, maximizing turf block area, minimizing a retaining wall and installing up to 42 parking spaces.
The park plans have been in the works for more than four years, but came under recent controversy when park users said that they were not consulted about the plans. They worried that the plans would block the view of the water, limit parking and reduce access for water sports.
At the Nov. 16 meeting, city officials initially presented a staff-recommended plan for the park, which was 90% completed, along with a public-comment plan. Staff returned after a recess to present the phased plan, which would allow construction of the eastern portion of the plan to begin without jeopardizing a $200,000 grant from the Florida Recreation Development Assistance Program (FRDAP), which requires project construction to begin by September 2010.
Vice Mayor Kelly Kirschner said that the city should erect signs in the future in parks to notify users about upcoming projects. But he praised city staff for working with the public to make adjustments.
“It seems that while the heavy conversations were late in coming that a lot of good work has been done by staff and the community at large together,” Kirschner said.
Project Manager Neil Gaines said that public-input meetings would likely be held in January to avoid interfering with holiday plans.
“We don’t want to have a small sampling,” he said.
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