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Bathrooms to be added to Siesta park

Two family-style restrooms will be added to Nora Patterson Bay Island Park.

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  • | 2:56 p.m. December 7, 2020
  • Sarasota
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When Siesta Key residents want to call to nature, many find themselves visiting Nora Patterson Bay Island Park for scenic views of Sarasota. 

However, when nature calls back while at the park, they find themselves out of luck. 

To help solve that problem, county staff is hoping to build two family-style restrooms at the park. 

The county will make improvements only to the portion of the park it owns on the south side of Siesta Drive. The portion on the north side of Siesta Drive is owned and operated by the city of Sarasota. 

The park is about 1.5 acres and is used primarily for recreational fishing, loading and unloading boats and for scenic views of Sarasota. 

The park was originally acquired by Sarasota County in the late 1970s and because of to its small size, not much has been done with it since then. It features a few park benches and parking spaces that are compliant with the Americans With Disabilities Act. 

Director of Parks, Recreation and Natural Resources Nicole Rissler said that as the park’s popularity grew, several needs sprang up. 

“As the popularity and the use of this park has evolved, the need for a restroom has become quite evident,” Rissler said. 

So, county staff is proposing two family-style restrooms. The building, which will be elevated, was designed within the framework  of the Sarasota School style of architecture. 

Rissler said the first floor of the building had to be elevated to meet Federal Emergency Management Agency standards.

“We did investigate ground-level restrooms at grade, but it would have been below base-flood elevation and would have had to be flood-proof,” Rissler said. “From a flood-proofing perspective, a structure like this is not a realistic option. It just financially wasn’t feasible.”

Although it will be elevated, the structure will have an ADA-compliant ramp.  

The restroom will be situated in the middle of the park, next to the ADA-compliant parking, and no changes will be made to the park’s circulation of vehicular traffic. 

Rissler said staff tried to situate the restroom in a space that would require the least amount of tree removal and be the least-obstructive to the views. 

“The park is obviously quite constrained and so it was important for us to minimize how much space we were taking as much as possible,” Rissler said.

At total cost for the project has not yet been estimated, but it will be funded through north county impact fees as well as city of Sarasota park impact fees. 

Some neighbors expressed concerns that the bathroom could draw more crowds or even events that draw crowds to the park, but Rissler said it is too small for the county to consider any events there. 

Others worried the bathroom would attract visitors after hours, which could be hard to enforce because of the split ownership of the park. 

However, Rissler said the project also includes an automated entrance gate to the park. The gate will limit after-hours visitors and the bathrooms will have automatic locks that will turn on at the time of closing.