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Longboat Key Wednesday, May 20, 2020 2 years ago

It's time to open Longboat

The lockdowns have done their job. We all know what to do and not to do. Reopen the parks all the way.
by: Matt Walsh Editor & CEO

It’s time. Yank the tape. Open Longboat Key’s beach accesses. Open the parks — Bayfront, Quick Point, Joan M. Durante, the public tennis center and pickleball courts. Open them all the way — doubles tennis and pickleball included.

COVID-19 fatigue is turning to COVID-19 cynicism and citizen grumbling. Enough of this.

Some things make little sense: Tennis players can play singles but not doubles. Boaters can go boating. But kayak concessionaires cannot rent out kayaks.

Such policies don’t matter to public officials who still receive their full pay, but it matters to the those whose livelihoods have been taken away.

Likewise with tennis and pickleball doubles. Presumably, tennis players on Longboat Key are responsible adults. They’ll keep their distance — just as the golfers do. They can make their own decisions.

We get it. Be careful. Be courteous of others. If you’re afraid, don’t go out. If you’re immunocompromised, don’t go out.

The lockdowns have run their course. Let people decide.


All about priorities

Longboat town commissioners appear determined no matter what to continue advancing the idea and spending whatever money is in the town’s land-acquisition slush fund to, ultimately, build that dreamed-of cultural, education and arts center on the 4.8 acres adjacent to Chase Bank and the Longboat Key Public Tennis Center.

Sure, it made sense to raze the old Amore restaurant building and grade the acreage, so it didn’t become an eyesore.

But as the commissioners’ discussions over next phases continue with the architects, there is still cause for puzzlement:

Help us understand the compelling need to build another public project that taxpayers will have to maintain when the town has yet to address what to do about the obsolete recreation center building at Bayfront Park,  the Longboat Key Historical Society’s historic cottages on Broadway or even the condition of the fencing and courts at the public tennis center?

For many (southern) Longboaters, Longboat Key ends at Bay Isles Road and Town Hall, with the occasional excursions to the northern hinterlands of Euphemia Haye, Harry’s Continental Kitchens, Lazy Lobster or the rare trips to MarVista and Shore. Indeed, ask the newer crop of Longboaters if they’ve ever even seen the recreation center building, and they would probably say: “The what?” If you asked if they’ve seen the historic cottages on Broadway, they would likely say: “Broadway? You mean, New York?”

It’s always about priorities and choices. And neither the recreation center, which has served poorly as the town’s makeshift community center, nor a permanent home for the historical society has ever ranked high enough for commissioners to act. It’s easier to do nothing — until there is a crisis.

The same can be said about the Longboat Library. The town last week renewed the lease on the library building to the private, not-for-profit corporation that runs the library. To the good: The extension was for three years, but it allows for a 90-day notice of termination if necessary.

Although many Longboaters welcome efforts underway to bring Sarasota County Public Library services to the Longboat Library, that property has the potential to house not only a library but also a modest community center and space for the historical society — three in one.

As we said, it’s all about priorities and choices. Grade the dirt and plant the grass at Town Center Green. Then figure out what makes sense for the recreation center, historical society and library — and those rusty fences at the tennis center.

Take care of what you have.


Force us or inform us?

Alas, the Sarasota City Commission voted Monday to reopen Lido Beach, the last of the public beaches to be opened.

Worth noting is how Sarasota City Manager Tom Barwin acknowledged that he witnessed over the weekend large crowds at Sarasota County’s Ted Sperling Park on the southern tip of Lido Key — a likely result, he also acknowledged, of Lido beach being closed.

Hmm, if you squeeze a balloon in one place, it bulges in another.

But Barwin, Mayor Jen Ahearn-Koch, Vice Mayor Shelli Freeland Eddie and Commissioner Willie Shaw in previous commission meetings refused to give in to pleas to reopen the beach for a variety of reasons — wanting more testing and contact tracing, fear of employees from nursing homes infecting beachgoers. Freeland-Eddie and Shaw on Monday still wanted to require  everyone on Lido Beach to wear masks.

To be fair, the resistance to reopening underscores how everyone views COVID-19 through different lenses. And each person’s reaction should be respected.

But in a semi-free society like ours, is it the governor or commissioners’ authority and duty to force us to wear masks, or, rather, merely their duty to inform us of the risks and let us decide? After all, we don’t outlaw smoking, drinking or driving — massive killers all.

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