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Barrier island officials discuss mangrove delegation, infrastructure

Mayors from Longboat Key, Anna Maria, Bradenton Beach and Holmes Beach met on Longboat to address common issues.

At their April 17 meeting, barrier island mayors discussed how they might collaborate to better enforce regulations preventing illegal trimming or removal of mangroves, like the one that occurred on Longboat in 2023.
At their April 17 meeting, barrier island mayors discussed how they might collaborate to better enforce regulations preventing illegal trimming or removal of mangroves, like the one that occurred on Longboat in 2023.
Courtesy image
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Elected officials from the Manatee County barrier islands met at Longboat Key’s town hall on April 17 to discuss some key issues relating to the municipalities. 

Mayor Ken Schneier and Town Manager Howard Tipton were at the meeting to represent Longboat Key. Also at the meeting were Mayor Dan Murphy for the city of Anna Maria, Mayor John Chappie for the city of Bradenton Beach and Mayor Judy Titsworth for the city of Holmes Beach. 

Mangrove matters

To start the meeting, the officials heard from Abbey Tyrna, the executive director for Suncoast Waterkeeper. 

Tyrna said Longboat resident and Suncoast Waterkeeper Chairman Rusty Chinnis asked her to give a presentation to the officials concerning mangrove enforcement in the area. 

“This is a crisis that is occurring throughout the Suncoast,” Tyrna said. 

A recent incident in Anna Maria led to the removal of mangroves along a property’s seawall. The removal caught a lot of news attention, Tyrna said, and sparked conversation as to what more local municipalities could do to regulate mangrove trimming and removal.

In the last year, Tyrna said Suncoast Waterkeeper received 18 reports of over-trimming or removal of mangroves. That doesn’t include other reports that might not have gone through the organization. 

“Now, more than ever, we need strong, local policies that protect our mangrove systems,” Tyrna said. “And what the good news is, is that local governments can actually take delegation of enforcement of the 1996 Mangrove Trimming and Preservation Act.”

For example, Sarasota County, the city of Sanibel and the town of Jupiter Island are three municipalities that have taken on enforcement of the act. In those cases, the municipalities can be stricter than the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, according to Tyrna. 

Barrier island mayors met in Longboat Key on April 17.
Photo by Carter Weinhofer

Along Longboat’s 81 canals, mangroves are unprotected since the 1996 act allows for the removal of mangroves along man-made canals. 

This is an issue because of mangroves' role in coastal protection, which can be more effective than alternative methods, Tyrna said. 

She also showed an example of an MLS listing that stated mangroves would be removed from the property. 

“That means there’s a lack of understanding of just how beneficial these systems are,” Tyrna said. 

Taking over mangrove regulation enforcement has come up in conversation in the past for Longboat Key, but wasn’t something that staff thought about pursuing. 

Tipton mentioned to the other officials at the meeting that a representative from the FDEP will attend a commission meeting in May to continue the conversation about mangrove enforcement. 

The mayors of the barrier island municipalities discussed the possibility of joining forces in mangrove enforcement. Murphy suggested that maybe in the future it could be a joint effort through an interlocal agreement. 

“The scalping is not going to stop. It’s going to continue until we do something about it,” Murphy said. 

Tipton said that while Longboat Key doesn’t have the resources to take on something like this, a cooperative effort could be possible. 

Traffic and infrastructure

Chappie informed the mayors that the contractors associated with the Bradenton Beach sewer replacement project have about 140-169 days left on the contract. 

“They’re moving along great,” Chappie said. 

Schneier discussed the Gulf Islands Water Ferry and informed the other mayors that the town boat ramp on Linley Street was in consideration for becoming a future ferry destination. The ramp is also up for some repairs. 

Tipton said the Florida Department of Transportation might come back to the Longboat Key town commission in June to discuss the Longboat Pass Bridge, which connects Longboat Key and Bradenton Beach. 

Tipton also said that town staff met with the Sarasota/Manatee Metropolitan Planning Organization to talk about the corridor going from Cortez south into Longboat Key. He noted that traffic in that corridor was longer this year than in previous years. 

“And so the MPO is looking to circle back around to the Barrier Island Traffic Study and look at the rest of the recommendations that were implemented to see what else can we do to help with the traffic,” Tipton said. 

Longboat Key is in communication with Manatee County about the topic, according to Tipton, and asked for participation from the other barrier islands as well. 

One of the problems, Tipton said, is the Coquina Beach parking lot. Chappie confirmed that the latest construction added well over 100 spaces. 

“Don’t misunderstand where the traffic is coming from,” Chappie said. “I would guess most of them are actually coming from Longboat Key, not the beach. … I think the bridges are the big thing that’s going to help.” 

Tipton noted that many cars waiting in traffic tend to turn into the beach parking lot and drive north and get back into the traffic line to cut ahead. It’s a simple fix and only requires gates to be closed, which sometimes is done and helps the situation, according to Tipton. 

At the end of the meeting, Schneier introduced the mayors to District 4 Commissioner Debra Williams, who was recently appointed as the commission’s Manatee County liaison. 



Carter Weinhofer

Carter Weinhofer is the Longboat Key news reporter for the Observer. Originally from a small town in Pennsylvania, he moved to St. Petersburg to attend Eckerd College until graduating in 2023. During his entire undergraduate career, he worked at the student newspaper, The Current, holding positions from science reporter to editor-in-chief.

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