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Date of Issue: December 20, 2007

Palma Sola gets sand, awaits plants

palma-sola.jpg
Sand is dumped on the beach along the Palma Sola Causeway on Dec. 10. The sand had been stored on the bayside of Coquina Beach. Islander Photo: Lisa Neff

Sand - tons of it - was deposited along the Palma Sola Causeway last week to renourish the bay beaches.

By the end of April, hundreds of trees also should stand along the causeway, which is designated as a scenic highway by the state.

The landscaping project has been delayed due to an underestimate in the cost of implementing an initial design plan, but members of the Palma Sola Scenic Highway Corridor Management Entity said last week that a redesign is in the final stages and a contract about to be awarded. Rather than cut the proposed 744 trees, sod and some shrubbery were eliminated from the design.

“We’re on budget now,” said IngridMcClellan, executive director of Keep Manatee Beautiful and chair of the Palma Sola Scenic Highway Corridor Management Entity. The committee consists of representatives from non-profit groups and citizens, as well as advisory officials from Bradenton, Manatee County, Holmes Beach, the Florida Department of Transportation and other governmental entities.

Meeting Dec. 12, the Palma Sola group agreed that with deadlines to use $295,000 in state and federal grant money set for April and June, they must push forward with plantings as soon as possible.

But committee members, after listening to Island landscaper Mike Miller, also agreed to review where trees and shrubs will be planted, as well as whether some plants may be replaced with other species.

Miller said the project as designed seems too uniform.

With the removal earlier this year of Brazilian pepper trees along the causeway, Miller said he began to remember what the stretch of road connecting the mainland to Anna Maria Island once looked like.

But the landscaping plan for the causeway “is an Arvida-style” design that would take away the natural look, Miller said, referring to the manicured new-Florida look in housing developments.

“This is old architectural landscape school,” Miller said, adding that the intent should be to create a landscape along the corridor that looks natural.

While the current plan uses all native Florida plants, Miller recommended native substitutions such as Jamaican dogwood, strangler fig and southern red cedar and a more random configuration of plants.

“Nature could not have done this,” he said, referring to the design of clustered plants.

“I 100-percent support Mike,” said Manatee County Commissioner Carol Whitmore, who attended the meeting but is not a voting member of the group. “I’ve seen the look the causeway needs to be. Everything (in the plan) is uniform.… It’s going to look like Arvida. It isn’t the natural feel, but it can be changed.”

McClellan defended the plan, pointing out the use of native species. “They will grow au natural,” she said. But she also invited Miller to assist on-site when the planting is about to begin.

“We can make changes in the field,” McClellan said.

Meanwhile, beach renourishment on the causeway began Dec. 10 and was expected to conclude Tuesday, Dec. 18.

McClellan said truckers were hauling a total of 9,500 cubic yards of sand from a staging area at Coquina Beach to the causeway. The sand resulted from a dredging program in the Intracoastal Waterway.

Eight to 10 trucks a day, much of the work donated by local contractors, hauled the sand to the causeway, the mean high-tide line demarcating where the sand could be placed.

“It’s a really big job and I can’t wait till it’s over, but it’s fun,” McClellan said.

The Palma Sola group’s agenda also included a discussion on placement of pet-waste stations, construction of a boat ramp along the causeway and removal of tree stumps.

Manon Lavoie of the DOT said the agency would remove Brazilian pepper tree stumps left after the clearing of non-native trees along the causeway earlier this year. The work is expected to begin around the new year.

Australian pine tree stumps near the water’s edge will remain, said McClellan.

McClellan informed the group that the Tampa Bay Estuary Program awarded a $10,000 grant for pet-waste stations along the causeway. She said she planned to talk with dog walkers about the best locations for stations.

Mark Alderson of the Sarasota Bay Estuary Program suggested the group also apply for a similar grant from his organization.

Regarding a new boat ramp on the causeway, McClellan said the city of Bradenton has agreed to build and maintain a parking lot and Manatee County will build and maintain a boat ramp on the south side of the causeway.

The group’s next meeting will take place at 3:30 p.m. Wednesday, Jan. 9, at the county building, 1112 Manatee Ave. W., Bradenton.

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