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Longboat Key Wednesday, Sep. 20, 2017 5 years ago

Toppled trees reset island ambiance

After Hurricane Irma, The Lazy Lobster and the Longboat Island Chapel are working to restore their environments.
by: Katie Johns Community Editor

Hurricane Irma left mostly minor damage to homes and businesses on Longboat Key. But the trees the storm toppled have changed the ambiance of local establishments.

One of those trees sat in the middle of The Lazy Lobster patio.

Fortunately, the tree fell to the right and landed in the grass rather than falling left and crushing the restaurant. Before the storm, though, the tree wasn’t even one of owner Michael Garey’s top worries.

“It’s a loss,” he said. “The important thing is that you know from the expectation to the reality, we, all of us — I’m sure I speak for the whole island — are pretty relieved and blessed that that could have been worse.”

Garey was outside preparing the property Sept. 9, and told the property manager he was concerned with the restaurant’s blue awning and dumpster in the parking lot.

As Garey drove out to the restaurant on Sept. 11, his first line of vision was the canopy and awning out front. He remembers thinking how “awesome” it was that they were still there. Then he looked to the right and saw the tree.

“There’s definitely a loss to the ambiance because it had been there so long, and we thought it was so deep-rooted,” he said. “It pretty well provided shade and ambiance to the entire patio.”

When the tree fell, it took electric lines and pavers with it, but still Garey is counting his blessings that the tree didn’t fall on the restaurant.

As for resetting the uprooted tree, Garey said any effort to do so would bring liability if it were to fall again.

“We’re going to replace it, but we’re not quite sure [how or when],” Garey said. “We haven’t had a chance to sit down with anybody to consult with on it. There have been several suggestions that we’re mulling over, but it doesn’t look like we’re going to be able to rescue it.”

Garey said they were planning to redo the pavers outside in October anyway. The work permit had already been ordered.

A  little farther north, two ficus trees bordering Longboat Island Chapel’s Friendship Garden collapsed.

Since its dedication in 1997, the Friendship Garden has been a spot for weddings, Easter egg hunts, services, memorials and quiet reflection.

And it will still serve those purposes.

“We’re going to have that Friendship Garden back as good or better than it ever was,” said Gordon Lyons, head of the Grounds Committee. “We’ve got a lot of weddings scheduled this summer, and it has to be special.”

Along with the ficus trees, Hurricane Irma blew other trees around the parking lot, but those were trees and plants Lyons was planning to replace. This year, 3,500 flowers, trees and other greenery have been planted on the chapel’s property.

“You need to keep fresh, vigorous plants and replace the tired old ones, and so we’re pretty proud if it,” Lyons said.

The Rev. Bill Friederich said chapel members have been volunteering and clearing bushes and tree limbs from the garden as best they can. Friederich calls the garden an asset to the chapel that provides a spiritual habitat for congregants.

The chapel hired a tree service to finish clearing the garden, and Friederich expects it to be restored in the next week or two.

“Trees can grow again, and flowers and bushes will get green again, so we’re anticipating the beautification of the gardens again,” Friederich said.

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