TOP STORY, JUNE: Siesta Key Public Beach named No. 1 in the U.S.



Throughout the holiday week, will be counting down the top 12 stories of 2011 (one from each month) from our Longboat, East County and Sarasota Observers and the Pelican Press. Check back each day for a reprinting — along with any relevant updates — of the biggest news items of the year.


Sarasota County officials were more than happy to join a crew from “The Today Show” on the beach at 8 a.m. May 27 to celebrate Siesta’s ascension to the No. 1 spot on the annual Top 10 Beaches list of Dr. Stephen P. Leatherman, director of Florida International University’s Laboratory for Coastal Research.

Also known as “Dr. Beach,” Leatherman had ranked Siesta’s beach No. 2 the two previous years. He has been publishing his list since 1991, using 50 criteria to evaluate his selections, including sand and water quality and safety and environmental management. (See

“Those who live and vacation in Sarasota, Fla., have long recognized Siesta Beach as a natural treasure,” the Sarasota Convention and Visitors Bureau noted in a press release. “Siesta Beach … is known for its powdery white sand, which is comprised of 99% pure quartz and stays relatively cool, no matter how high the temperature rises.”

Thanks to advance notice Leatherman gave the CVB, staff was able to arrange for a satellite TV truck to be on the beach that day, enabling Leatherman to give numerous interviews from coast to coast.

The No. 1 ranking led to the best summer season Siesta businesses had seen since the start of the Great Recession, and it helped boost county tourist tax revenue to its highest total since the 2006 fiscal year.


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