The Anna Maria Island Sun Newspaper

Vol. 11 No. 19 - February 9, 2011


The birth of the public beaches PART 2

Anna Maria Island Sun News Story

Work on the erosion control groin at Manatee County
Public Beach began in March 1964 and the groin was
located opposite the stairs to the roof of the pavilion.

Part two of two parts

During the late 1950s it was business as usual at the Manatee County Public Beach with the Bradenton Beach Fire Department holding regular chicken barbecues to raise funds to pay off the debt on the firehouse and the Lions Club holding beef and pork barbecues to raise funds for the playground.

North and south additions to the pavilion were completed. There was a snack bar and dining room with waitress service, music and dancing, a lending library, volleyball and basketball.

Bathhouses and showers cost 25 cents a day, bathing suits could be rented for 50 cents and towels and soap for 10 cents. Full time maid service was available in the women's bathhouse and restroom and a lifeguard was on duty from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

However, the Florida State Health Department refused to certify the beach because it required a lifeguard every 100 yards, life rings, buoys and at least one boat if bathing was permitted at depths beyond five feet.

In 1957, the Public Beach Commission (PBC) turned down a suggestion to install parking meters and the local newspaper noted, "There may have been sillier suggestions, but memory does not evoke them. Is it not enough that the people pay a toll of 30 cents to reach their own beach?"

And when a member of the PBC suggested installing a fence around the public beach with a 25-cent admission charge, the newspaper pointed out that residents pay taxes to support the beach and asked, "When will these commissions learn that they do not own the facilities? It is for the people to say."

Circus and parachutes

That same year, the Island Junior Chamber of Commerce brought the Christiani Bros. three ring circus to the beach parking lot for two performances. The circus featured bareback riders, aerialists, jugglers, bears, a dancing palomino, trained Siamese elephants, performing dogs and ponies, clowns and a bevy of beautiful girls.

"The internationally famous Christiani Family of bareback riders themselves are recognized as the royal family of the circus world," noted the newspaper. They were recently subject of a feature in the Saturday Evening Post."

Two parachutists thrilled beachgoers in 1958 by jumping from a small plane into the Gulf. According to an account, the first jumper bailed out at 3,000 feet and a south wind carried him a quarter mile south.

He was picked up by a motorboat and "taken back to the public beach to be greeted by the waving of handkerchiefs, towels, applause and earnest viewers who just wanted to shake his hand or get his autograph."

The second jumped at 1,000 feet and landed 50 feet from the shoreline. Three surfers helped disentangle him from the parachute.

Erosion and groins

Concerns arose following severe erosion from a storm in the summer of 1959, when a member of the PBC estimated that "it will require approximately 25,000 yards of fill or more to restore the bathing area to its pre-storm condition."

Coastal Engineering Laboratories of the University of Florida prepared a plan for artificial nourishment of 1,300 feet of beachfront and the installation of two to three rock groins. The cost was approximately $35,000.

The following year, sand was dredged from a natural area in the bay off Sportsman's Harbor north of the Causeway, pumped through an eight-inch pipe under Manatee Avenue, through a culvert and across the parking lot onto the beach.

Tropical Storm Brenda that summer created more erosion concerns, and in 1961, erosion expert Sidney Makepeace Wood was invited to the Island by newspaper publisher Harry Varley to give his opinion on the issue.

Wood recommended constructing a permeable groin to build up sand naturally. He was opposed to artificial nourishment. The cost was estimated at $35,000.

Work began in March 1964 and the groin was located opposite the stairs to the roof of the pavilion. It extended into the Gulf 460 feet and was completed in June.

Coquina Beach

Efforts to develop a second public beach at the south end of the Island began in 1958, due to two factors according to the Island newspaper.

The first was because Manatee Public Beach had "become inadequate on good days," and the second was because hundreds of people were bathing and picnicking and "the status of this part of the beach is in doubt and the public uses it on sufferance."

Part of the south end was claimed by the State Road Department (SRD), which had dumped tons of fill to build a road to connect with the bridge to Longboat Key, and part of it was privately owned by the E. P. Green Estate.

The SRD maintained that it needed the entire 5,500-foot stretch of Gulffront land to protect the road and approach to the bridge from erosion. Attorneys for the estate said the SRD only needed enough property necessary for highway purposes, and it must pay for it.

A deal was finally agreed upon in 1962, when the county and the SRD purchased the land from the Green Estate for $318,680. A half-mill assessment by the county covered its costs and $17,000 was earmarked for a pavilion.

Of the purchase price, the SRD paid the county $185,000 for a 100-foot strip on each side of the centerline from 13th Street South to the Longboat Key Bridge, three acres at the end of the bridge and an easement along the Gulf for maintenance of the groins.

County commissioners opened bids for a public pavilion on June 6, 1963. It would contain showers and restrooms, storage facilities, a shaded area and a parking area. Plans for shelters, picnic tables, barbecue pits and trash cans were authorized by the county in February 1964.

The pavilion was dedicated in March 1964 and Mike Klemmer, vice chair of the county commission said, "To me, this is a great day. It is a great day because one of my dreams has come true – the dream to see this Island property dedicated to the people of Manatee County for their enjoyment."

The County Park, Beach and Recreation Commission suggested Manatee Beach South as the name because it stressed the county name and preserved the county image. However, the Manatee County Chamber suggested a naming contest, which was how the name Coquina Beach was chosen.

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