Open house held about Siesta Beach improvements

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SARASOTA, FL. - Even though Siesta Key Beach was named the Best Beach in America in 2011, the area around it has some problems that the county says needs improving.

Sarasota County Parks and Recreation held an open house for the public Tuesday to discuss a 27 million-dollar list of proposed improvements.

There was no formal presentation, just information about the proposed improvements with county representatives standing by to answer your questions and hear your concerns.

We went down to Siesta Beach earlier Tuesday and asked people what improvements they would most like to see. The number one complaint we heard was parking. Some local residents say they have brought out-of-town visitors to the beach and had to leave, because they couldn't find a parking place.

Resident: "More parking would be great."

Resident: "It's just parking. I think is a problem basically."

Another request was for a little more courtesy. "Some of the people that are in charge of the parking, policemen or whatever, sometimes they're very nasty when you're looking for a parking place."

One visitor from England says more parking at the beach is needed, and hopes that it will stay free.

The next biggest gripe was the condition of the restrooms. "Got America's nicest beach here, but America's nicest bathrooms, you've got some work to do."

Resident: "I think the bathrooms are the first thing that needs to be improved."

Some people also want the county to make it easier to get to the beach from the sidewalk.

We also put the question on our ABC 7 Facebook page about what improvements you want to see? Here is what some of you had to say.

Robin Cooper says: “Eliminate the tennis courts and make room for more parking.”

Kyle Stanton said: “The bathrooms. There really needs to be a changing area and dividers between the urinals.”

Julie Lemieux said: “Facility improvements at the South building by the playground. IE: Showers added and restroom improvement.”

Betsy Connelly Pearson said: "Parking and updated restrooms."

Lyman Sale of Sarasota says all this sounds nice, but it’s too expensive, and wants to hold the cost down. "We could have a shuttle, instead of additional parking spaces. 27 or 29 million, that's an awful lot of money to waste. It needs to be done more frugally I think."

The cost the county is projecting is about 21.5 million dollars, and folks will be happy to hear that the two most mentioned improvements, additional parking and better restrooms, are on the list. Also on the list are 2 new concession areas and improved access to the beach from Beach Road, plus numerous others.

County representatives are going to get reaction from the public at the open house and take it back to commissioners on Dec. 11. The county commission will then have to approve any changes.