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Longboat Key's Bayfront Park is nearly complete

Town hopes project's gulf-side phase can get started soon.

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  • | 6:00 a.m. May 3, 2017
Tennis courts, along with pickleball and basketball courts, are open.
Tennis courts, along with pickleball and basketball courts, are open.
  • Longboat Key
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Bayfront Park’s new look is a hit with pretty much everyone who offers an opinion, the town’s parks chief says.

“It looks like a real park now,” said Mark Richardson, Longboat Key’s Streets, Facilities, Parks and Recreation manager.

Construction on the $3.5 million project began in June 2016, and Richardson hopes everything on the bayside of the park will be finished in June.

All of the park’s outdoor courts, including tennis, pickleball and basketball, are now open. Richardson said the town is still putting finishing touches on the dog park, pavilions and amenities such as water fountains. 

Electrical work also needs to be completed, Richardson said.

“It’s going to be a real jewel,’’ said Gail Loefgren, president of the Longboat Key Chamber of Commerce said at a recent Town Commission workshop.

The gulfside phase of the project includes a beach access and a handicap-accessible observation deck. Richardson said the town is awaiting final approval from the Florida Department of Transportation before beginning construction.

FDOT is involved because the beach access will include a ramp for construction vehicles, Richardson said. 

The town began the permit process for the gulfside changes last year, and Richardson hopes to receive the permit and begin construction as soon as possible.

Richardson noted that the bayside of the park won’t be complete  until the gulfside is finished because construction vehicles for the gulfside will need to park in an area on the bayside.

Richardson expects the project to remain under the town’s budget of $3.5 million. Of that amount, $2 million came from the Sarasota County and $1.02 million came from the town. 

The town is also seeking a vendor for non-motorized watercraft, like kayaks and paddleboards, for the park.

Purchasing Manager Kari Kennedy said two vendors have put in bids for the spot: Island Style Watersports and Happy Paddler Kayak Tours & EcoVentures.

“I think both vendors are great candidates,” Kennedy said.

On May 8, Kennedy said a committee of five people will choose the vendor to be considered by Town Manager Dave Bullock. 

Richardson hopes to have a vendor in place for the official opening of the park.

Before construction at Bayfront Park began, former Garden Club President Madelyn Spoll was vocal about the town breaking ground on the project. So far, she’s happy with what she sees.

“I think it’s going to be a wonderful asset,” Spoll said. “Now if we could just get a building to go with it.”

Spoll is referring to the Bayfront Park Recreation Center. Commissioner Jim Brown has been advocating to replace the 1,300-square-foot building since the early 2000s. Murray “Murf” Klauber donated the building to the town in the early 1980s, when it was moved to the park from the former Far Horizons resort.

“(Bayfront Park) is not complete until we get a new rec center, in my mind,” Brown said. “People stop me at Publix all the time to ask about it.”

Brown noted that it has been difficult to draw attention to the park’s recreation center when there is so much public interest in the upcoming Longboat Key Center for the Arts, Culture and Education, which is in the beginning phases of development.

Otherwise, Brown said he’s happy with the changes, and he hopes to try out pickleball at the park when he finds some time between commission meetings.

Mayor Terry Gans said he’s pleased the town chose to make the changes with an “appropriate timeline,” rather than as quickly as possible.

“I think it’s coming along beautifully,” Gans said. “It’s something that the town and visitors are really going to enjoy.”




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