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Longboat Key Wednesday, Feb. 20, 2013 5 years ago

Town considers joining Florida highway program

by: Kurt Schultheis Senior Editor

The town of Longboat Key is considering drawing more tourism traffic onto Gulf of Mexico Drive.

At the Feb. 4 Longboat Key Town Commission regular meeting, Commissioner Jack Duncan asked staff to look into whether it makes sense to join the Florida Scenic Highway Program.

The state program is scattered along many Florida roads that have scenic views and a lot of history and culture. There are hundreds of designations, which are labeled with Florida Scenic Highway signs.

Locally, the closest designation is a two-mile stretch of Gulf Drive on Anna Maria Island. Duncan said it might make sense to continue that designation on Longboat Key.

Public Works Director Juan Florensa said applying for the program is a three-tiered approach that takes time.

“This process may take up to two years to complete the eligibility, implementation and designation phases and will require substantial staff time from the Public Works and Planning, Zoning and Building Departments, with ongoing reporting for a minimum of five years following the designation of the corridor,” wrote Florensa in a Feb. 11 memo to Town Manager Dave Bullock.

Town staff would be responsible for writing an eligibility application to define the Gulf of Mexico Drive corridor and why it deserves recognition in the program.

A corridor-management plan that shows the state how the town would manage and protect the road, as well as a vision plan and mission statement, would also have to be prepared.

Despite the long process, Duncan said he’s still convinced that adding Gulf of Mexico Drive to the program might be worthwhile. A scenic highway designation comes with free advertising that tells motorists how to get to Longboat Key and features places to stop along the road.

“You get great publicity for tourism and advertising, but we still need to explore any downsides that may exist,” Duncan said.

Duncan said the town could draw out the process longer if it’s concerned it would utilize too much staff time.
“So what if we take three years and doesn’t work as fast,” Duncan said. “It’s still something to consider.”

The commission will likely discuss the issue at a future regular workshop.

Florida Scenic Highway Program
The state’s Florida Scenic Highway Program includes the following introduction in its brochure for motorists seeking a scenic and historical drive on Florida’s roads:

“Whether you travel by foot, bicycle or automobile, a trip along one of Florida’s Scenic Highways will be a journey to remember for a lifetime. History awaits you around every turn, and recreational opportunities abound, enough to wear out even the most active traveler. Scattered along many of the state’s scenic highways are historic Old Florida communities alive with history and culture. If a nice, relaxing journey is more your style, then get out your sunglasses and your beach chair and get ready to relax. White sandy beaches and warm salty breezes grace many of the state’s scenic highways.”

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