Plans for the Bird Key portion of the West Bayfront Multi-Use Recreation Trail (MURT) have been in the works for four-and-a-half years. But for Bird Key, the city of Sarasota is approaching the end of the trail.
According to Neil Gaines, city manager of capital projects, phase I of the Bird Key portion of the West MURT, which includes everything east of the traffic light at Bird Key Drive, is nearly complete, and landscaping will begin this week. City officials hope to have phase I completed by July 23 and move on to phase II by the end of August. The project will connect the existing Bayfront MURT to St. Armands and Lido keys.
Initial plans for the project called for the elimination of some parking spaces, along with many plantings along the shoreline. After public protest last fall from park users who worried that the plan would block the view of the shoreline and hinder water-sports access, the Sarasota City Commission approved a motion in November ordering city staff to go forward with plans for the park in two phases.
“We restored the amount of parking, green space and eliminated a lot of landscaping that people originally didn’t want,” Gaines said. “We just made the park more user-friendly for water-sports activity.”
Laurel Keiser, a Sarasota resident who circulated a petition last fall opposing the project, said that she is pleased with the overall outcome but disappointed with smaller details, such as the removal of an exit at the west end of the park.
“The most important thing is, they haven’t diminished its usability,” she said. “There are little things that are going to need to be addressed as we go.”
The city hoped to have phase I, which began in April, completed by the Fourth of July but hit a snag when workers discovered buried debris in the eastern portion of the park that needed to be excavated, Gaines said. Phase II will have a shorter construction period, because city officials don’t anticipate debris in the western portion of the park.
According to Gaines, the park will be closed to the public for two consecutive days, which have not yet been determined, in order for pavement work to be completed.
Next on the MURT agenda is Lido Key. If the project, which encompasses the west side of Benjamin Franklin Drive, receives funding, construction could begin by December.
Contact Robin Hartill at [email protected]