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LBK North coalition opposes Whitney Plaza water taxi stop

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The Whitney Plaza Community Center may come to fruition this year, but one potential feature is now met with public opposition: a water taxi stop.

In December 2023, Manatee County unveiled the new Gulf Islands Ferry service that takes passengers from Downtown Bradenton to Anna Maria Island on weekends. 

It’s anticipated that the county will add another stop at Coquina Beach, but it was also mentioned at the ferry’s inaugural ride that a stop may come to Longboat Key. 

There have been some informal discussions about a potential Longboat Key water taxi stop, but one idea that consistently popped up was adding it to the county’s community center project at Whitney Beach Plaza

A water taxi would need to navigate through slow residential canals to get to a potential Whitney Plaza stop.

At a Town Commission meeting on Dec. 4, Maureen Merrigan, former town commissioner and current co-chair of Longboat Key North, said north-end residents would not welcome the stop at Whitney Beach with open arms. 

“We wanted to be really clear that we don’t support a water taxi landing at Whitney Plaza,” Merrigan said at the meeting.

Merrigan said that most people are in favor of a water taxi somewhere on Longboat Key, but having one at the plaza doesn’t make logistical sense. 

That’s because to get back there, the ferry would need to leave the intracoastal zone and enter a slow speed, minimum wake zone. The trip, she estimated, would be 20 minutes in and 20 minutes out, which adds to the ferry’s already long trip. 

On top of that, Merrigan said the ferry would be traveling through residential canals and an environmentally sensitive area. Manatees and dolphins frequent the canals, and the trip would pass a well-populated rookery, a breeding spot for a variety of birds. 

Merrigan said she believes that once the ferry operators take a closer look at the possibility, there would no longer be interest in the stop because of the logistical issues. 

The canals back in that area are also a tight squeeze and in some areas not too deep, which may be difficult for the ferries to navigate. 

“I don’t know if they’ll ever do it anyway if they really look at it,” Merrigan said. 

Better spots on the north end may be near the restaurants like Mar Vista and Shore, Merrigan said. 

Longboat Key North comprises 27 homeowners and condo associations, from just south of the Centre Shops all the way to the northern boundary of the island. 

The group is active in the Longboat Key community and currently operates three committees, one of which is focused on the Whitney Plaza Community Center. 

Merrigan said members of the committee range from former business owners to local artists, all of whom want to have a say in what the community space grows to become. 

“I would just encourage you that, once a lease is signed … that we connect the powers in Manatee County to this group,” Merrigan said at the meeting. “So that when they start to think about programming, and they start to think about how that space is built, that it really meets the community’s needs.”



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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