Islanders prepare for 'spring' invasion
Island residents can expect a full crowd of beachgoers and motorists starting Good Friday, March 25, until the end of spring break on Sunday, April 4. Islander Photo: Jack Elka
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Island residents should prepare for an invasion of spring-break visitors starting this Friday as local school districts, colleges and universities take their annual spring vacation.
With Anna Maria Island already packed with winter visitors and rental accommodation units booked solid for spring break, daytime traffic patterns for the next 10 days, starting March 25, could test the nerves of even the most seasoned Island motorist.
"The traffic will be a nightmare," predicted Bradenton Beach Police Chief Sam Speciale.
He plans to have all reserve officers on duty, and he'll add traffic patrols along Gulf Drive to keep traffic moving. Manatee County Sheriff's Office deputies will be on beach patrol at Coquina Beach, he added.
"Thankfully, we're not like Panama City. This is a day crowd, mostly students who live in the Bradenton area. There's not much night life on the Island, so by sundown, everyone's gone back to the mainland," the chief observed. "Still, it's going to be a busy week. The biggest problem after traffic control will be open containers on the beach, but we've been very lucky. Our spring break crowds are fairly well-behaved."
His best advice is for Islanders to have patience when driving.
Holmes Beach Police Chief Jay Romine had similar thoughts. He'll have all reserve officers on duty for traffic control and on the beach, particularly for the upcoming two weekends.
"My best advice to Islanders is, if you have to go somewhere, leave early and return late. Or, just stay at home," Romine said.
By nightfall, the spring breakers should have gone back to the mainland and Islanders can venture forth.
MCSO Sgt. John Kenney, in charge of the MCSO Anna Maria substation, said he'll also have extra deputies on patrol during spring break.
"We don't have that much of a traffic problem up here as the other two cities because there's not a large public beach and parking area," he said.
That's not to say driving around Anna Maria won't be difficult.
"This is a small city and a lot of cars will really slow people down. Drive with patience," he cautioned.