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Longboat Key Wednesday, May 23, 2018 2 years ago

Longboat canal is cause for concern

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The border between Bayfront Park and Longboat Key estates is worn, but it's unclear who is responsible for fixing it.
by: Bret Hauff Staff Writer

The boundary between Bayfront Park and Longboat Key Estates is cause for some concern, residents say.

There are a few problems at the property line, residents say, including a canal with a sea wall — a wooden structure meant to keep the channel from expanding into the neighborhood — that’s failing and a wooden fence that’s falling.

This is not a new problem — it’s one that the town, the neighborhood and the county are all aware of.

“Both items have been brought up in the past, but nobody can really say whose property it is,” said Mark Richardson, streets, facilities, parks and recreation manager. “No one wants to put in money if it’s not our responsibility to fix it.”

But this time is different, Richardson said. He expects this time, because complaints were brought to the attention of the Town Commission, something will be done.

“It really is part of the park and should look better and function better,” said Hazel Steskal.

The canal

Steskal, who lives in Longboat Key Estates, said she is concerned if the water in the channel continues to erode the sea wall, and the earth behind it, one day the road itself will fall into the canal.

“It was neglected when they purchased it and they’ve done nothing to fix it,” Steskal said.

The “they” in this case happens to be Sarasota County, which gained ownership of the canal in 2015 when it helped the town purchase land for Bayfront Park, according to the Sarasota County Property Appraiser’s office.

Sarasota County is working to evaluate the property to determine what restrictions it might have, where the property lines are and what kind of agreements were made when the county purchased the land, said county spokeswoman Jamie Carson.

If Sarasota County turns out to be the owner of the canal, as the property appraiser has suggested, Richardson said he has no doubt the Sarasota County Parks and Natural Resources Department will do what it can to remedy the problem.

“If it’s proven that it’s theirs, they’ll take care of it,” Richardson said.

But that’s not to say Longboat Key has done nothing to protect residents’ interest in the county-
owned land. There’s another problem with the canal — it gets filled with dead fish after a red tide event — that the Public Works Department has worked to remedy.

The town purchased a net to put at the end of the non-navigable canal to keep fish carcasses from washing into the canal, getting stuck in the mangroves and rotting.

The fence

The town is not sure who owns the fence that separates Bayfront Park from Jessmyth Drive, but one thing is clear, it’s in bad shape.

The fence is falling over, propped up in many locations by wooden planks. Richardson said he has asked the Planning, Zoning and Building Department for permits to discover when the fence was built and who built it.

“It just looks terrible,” Steskal said of the fence she drives past when entering her neighborhood. “The rest of the park is in immaculate condition, and this thing is awful.”

The fence, at its westernmost point, is on the Longboat Key Estates property, Richardson said. But as it travels eastward, the fence begins to snake along the property line between Bayfront Park and the neighborhood.

Whoever built the fence, Richardson said, should be responsible for fixing it.

“Nothing’s been proven whose fence it is,” Richardson said. “It probably does need to be replaced if it’s going to stay there.”

I’m a Longboat Key Staff Reporter. I write stories about how decisions and events affect the island, its leaders and its citizens. I received a bachelor's degree in journalism from Emerson College, where I wrote for The Boston Globe. Reach me at 941-366-3468 ext. 333.

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