Sarasota County seeks public input on stand-up paddleboards

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SARASOTA COUNTY - Sarasota County Parks and Recreation officials are seeking community input on a proposal to allow the rental and use of stand -up paddleboards at county-owned beaches.

Residents and visitors are encouraged to attend one of two open house-style meetings to ask county staff questions and provide input on what they would like to see at county beaches. The meetings will be on Tuesday, Aug. 5, at St. Boniface Church, 5615 Midnight Pass Road, Sarasota; and Tuesday, Aug. 12, at Nokomis Community Center, 234 E. Nippino Trail, Nokomis. Both meetings will be held from 4 to 6:30 p.m.

Stand-up paddleboarding (SUP), an offshoot of surfing, is a sport that originated in Hawaii. It enables surfers to paddle while either standing on the board or sitting and using the paddleboard like a kayak. Users range from the casual recreational participant to serious athletic competitors.

"The proposal to offer stand-up paddleboard rentals at county beaches was initiated by local vendors who are experiencing an increased demand for them," said Tricia Wisner, business development coordinator for Sarasota County Parks and Recreation. "Currently we only allow swimming-related activities at the beaches, so we want to know what the community thinks about the idea of expanding recreation opportunities."

The Sarasota County Commission heard the proposal March 5 and directed staff to bring back a report on public safety, regulation and the feasibility of offering stand-up paddleboard rentals through a third-party vendor at Siesta Beach. During the meeting, commissioners talked about reducing the size of the swim zone in order to create a corridor where watercraft could be launched and maneuvered out into the gulf beyond the swim zone.

Sarasota County has 35 miles of coastline with only six miles of county-owned beaches that are patrolled by lifeguards.

"Right now anyone can launch a kayak or stand-up paddleboard in hundreds of places around Sarasota County, we just want to know what people think about reducing a small portion of designated swim zones for this use," said Wisner.

For more information, visit www.scgov.net or contact the Sarasota County Contact Center at 941-861-5000.