Siesta Key, Florida- Siesta Key Beach in Sarasota County, the number one beach in the country two years ago, is getting a makeover. But some wonder if the white sand that helped make it the best last if dredging is allowed nearby.
Siesta Key Beach is a wide beach where the powdery white sand remains cool on the hottest summer day. Lido Key Beach just north of there isn't as lucky, and some worry plans to help that beach will hurt Siesta.
"We're very concerned about the stability of the beach here," says Charles Denault. He moved to Siesta Key from California last year because of the beach.
"The weather is beautiful here and this beach is absolutely splendid," said Charles.
Splendid for now, but Charles worries what will happen if Sarasota's Big Pass between Siesta Key and Lido Key is dredged to help re-nourish Lido Key's Beach, which is considered by the state to be critically eroded. The $22 million project would add 1 million cubic yards of sand to Lido Beach during the first re-nourishment project, and be repeated every five years for up to 50 years.
The City of Sarasota depends on Lido Beach and it's $155 million economic impact, but Siesta Key depends on Big Pass to help re-nourish its coastline naturally- a sand made of 99% quartz. Big Pass has never been dredged.
"While we are all for making Lido and restoring it, let's not mess up the number one beach in the country," said Charles.
And the number one beach voted by Dr. Beach in 2011 is getting close to a $22 million facelift. Beachgoers who drove around and around Thursday looking for a spot among the 837 space parking lot will get some parking relief. Improvements include 143 new parking spaces.
Beachgoers will also see new bathrooms along the pavilion and concession stands, plus a new public safety building.
The project includes improving pedestrian safety and ADA accessibility as well- all to be completed in 2015.
But the question for many remains what will become of Siesta Key's white, sandy beach if the dredging is allowed?
"We're not strongly for or against. We don't have scientific guarantee a lot of opinions and fears," said Gregory Ryan, Siesta Key visitor.
Ryan's wife Bonnie sasaid there is another option, "It would be nice if they could dredge somewhere else."
The Army Corps of Engineers' report has been delayed while it conducts more studies to see the impact the dredging will have on Big Pass. The report will be given to Sarasota County Commissioners in March.
If you'd like to voice your concerns or support for the dredging you can contact the Sarasota County Commissioners.
Commissioner Carolyn J. Mason
Commissioner Joseph A. Barbetta
Commissioner Christine Robinson
Commissioner Nora Patterson
Commissioner Charles D. Hines, Esq.