A Passion for Parks Fosters Livability in Sarasota


SARASOTA, FLORIDA, October 6th, 2015 – It leaves no shadow of a doubt about it. The wealth and passion for parks in Sarasota have contributed much to recognitions like its recent inclusion in the 2016 “Best Places to Live,” the third annual listing of the top 100 U.S. cities as ranked by the website Livability.com.

The website’s raters, bigwigs from the NYU School of Professional Studies, among other things gave stellar points to the “year-round access to beautiful beaches” in Sarasota as well as its challenging golf courses and a refreshing collection of lakes. These same qualities must have been the main reasons too why Sarasota earlier landed in Livability.com’s ranking for the Best Spring Break Cities for Families earlier. 

Bayfront makeover

A Passion for Parks Fosters Livability in Sarasota

Likewise for certain, the local enthusiasm for developing and maintaining world-class parks and green space counted much for Sarasota earning these plaudits. This zeal for having the best in lush open public spaces with topnotch facilities came to the fore anew in September 2015 with the inauguration of the Nora Patterson Bay Island Park. Now namesake to a former county and city commissioner and currently an aspiring state senator, this park underwent a $1.1 million renovation, mainly funded by a grant from the West Coast Inland Navigational District.

The new Bay Island Park offers one of the best views in the Sarasota County, particularly towards its northern side overlooking not only the downtown which now bristles with newly built Sarasota condos for sale. This park’s north side also overlooks Sarasota Bay and the Ringling Causeway, a vantage point that is so ideal particular during major holidays celebrated by spellbinding nighttime fireworks display.

On ordinary weekends, fishing is now more enjoyable with the park’s rebuilt seawall. Being high, this newly fortified structure isn’t ideal for launching canoes or kayaks, but there’s a spot at the nearby east end of the Siesta Drive Bridge where water access is easier for paddlers. The park’s improvements also included upgrades on the parking lot and pathways, along with the addition of benches andpicnic tables.

Polishing a crown jewel

Just a few miles southwest of the Nora Patterson Bay Island Park, an even grander inauguration of various waterfront park enhancements can be expected this early 2016 at Siesta Beach. Construction of upgrades in this crown jewel of Siesta Key is now on its final stages, with full completion expected in January 2016, according to Ross Russo, VP of the renovation’s project manager, Jon F. Swift Construction.

Costing a total of $21.5 million, the facilities upgrades in Siesta Beach include adding more parking areas and the construction of a 15-foot wide pedestrian esplanade, new tennis courts and playground. A new building is likewise nearly finished for concessions, support offices and restrooms, plus an elevated deck with a commanding view of the pristine, award-winning Siesta Key Beach.

Other new amenities at Siesta Beach are as impressive, particularly its well-designed concrete picnic shelters which recently won a Merit Award from the Florida chapter of the American Institute of Architects. The old Siesta Beach pavilion and its courtyard were also renovated with special attention to preserving its historic value.

Parks and history

Any future park improvement elsewhere in Sarasota can be expected to follow this pattern in Siesta Key on preserving historical structures. Notably, Sarasota is currently involving residents through public forums in coming up with a Parks, Preserves and Recreation Master Plan for the county. Many private advocacies are as active in looking after local parks, as exemplified by the NGO Save our Sarasota which has teamed up with other citizen groups to bar sale for commercial development of a city property near Pineapple Park.

Happily, such a zeal for parks is also as vigorous at nearby in Manatee. Some county residents in Bradenton, for instance, are currently up in arms against the transfer of Glazier-Gates Park in a land swap deal between the city and the developers of Villages at Riverwalk. While these locals are not against the Riverwalk housing project, the residents want to protect the historical and sentimental value of this park dedicated to some of Manatee’s early pioneers.