The Anna Maria Island Sun Newspaper

Vol. 11 No. 38 - July 6, 2011


Pirates, parade, pyrotechnics mark Fourth

Harry Stoltzfus

With a boistrous parade by the Privateers, fireworks
displays that defied the elements, and beaches full
of tourists covered in oil, the Island's Fourth of
July holiday was one to remember.

An estimated 132 vehicles snaked their way from Coquina Beach to Bayfront Park to celebrate the Fourth of July Monday, despite a couple of mechanical breakdowns that left holes in the procession.

The Anna Maria Island Privateers initiated Internet parade signups this year, resulting in 79 applications with more people signing up before the parade Monday morning, according to Privateer Tim "Hammer" Thompson.

"There was a place where you could print out an application, but there was a glitch," Thompson said. "The darned thing wouldn't let you print, so those people ended up signing up right before the parade."

Most of the entries sported red, white and blue décor, and the Privateers blasted a few salvos from their cannons to give the effect of fireworks.

When the parade arrived on Pine Avenue, people lined up on the sidewalks and the front porches of the new businesses in Anna Maria's commercial district. Nick Gable, of Eastbourne, England, was there with his wife and four children.

"This is day one of our vacation," he said. "This is a fantastic way to celebrate the holiday."

Fran Lundy, who winters in Anna Maria, said she likes watching the parade on Pine Avenue.

"We usually watch it from the library (in Holmes Beach)," she said. "I love watching it from here because of all the shops and the shaded porches."

After the parade, The Privateers reassembled at Anna Maria Island Beach Café for some lunch and grog and then to distribute the 18 Privateers scholarships and to watch Dennison Miller give out his memorial scholarship, dedicated to his daughter, Bridget, who died the summer after her high school graduation.

Ourania Lardas, an Island resident who graduated from Anna Maria Elementary School and Manatee High School, was awarded the memorial scholarship. She also was awarded scholarships this year from the Anna Maria Island Historic society, the American Association of University Women and the American Legion auxiliary after applying for 15 scholarships total.

"It was a lot of work," she said. "I put in many hours of preparation."

Ourania will attend Florida Gulf Coast University and major in education.

Chelsea Hodges, of Bradenton, wants to major in communication disorders at Florida State University and she was awarded a scholarship.

"I am most appreciative of the Privateers for offering this scholarship," she said.

The Privateers raise most of the money for scholarships through their outdoor markets in the summer, selling smoked mullet and other efforts.

Other winners were Dominic Cox, Chelsea Sloan, Kyle Messina, Sarah Beth Scott, Sarah Norris, Kayla Kerns, Samantha Glodde, Christopher Chawi, Sajani Patel, Hilary Hathaway, Kelsy Braun, Sydney Clark, Brandi Ricker, Leanne Browning, Alexander Chawi, James Campbell and Jennifer Luong.

Island's first turtle nest of season hatches
Carol Whitmore

Three children look in fascination at a dozen lively hatchlings
found when the Island's first nest of the season was
excavated to collect data.

BRADENTON BEACH — A crowd of about 200 turtle fans gathered Sunday evening in front of Club Bamboo to watch volunteers excavate the first turtle nest that hatched on the Island this year.

Anna Maria Island Turtle Watch volunteers excavate every nest after it hatches to collect data that is forwarded to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.

The volunteers use the excavation time as a way to educate Island residents and volunteers.

Caitlin Thomas, 10, of Cedar Park, Texas, is visiting her grandparents in Holmes Beach. She was fascinated with what she learned about turtles.

"They told us that the baby turtles that have a little stripe on their stomachs won't be released for a couple of days," she said. "That's part of their egg sack, and they need to absorb all of that so they have energy to swim out to sea. That's their food."

The nest hatched sometime during the overnight hours between June 29 and June 30.

AMITW volunteers always wait about four days before digging into the nest to collect data from the nest.

Statistics from first hatched nest

All told, the nest contained a total of 120 eggs. Judging from the shells left behind by the hatchlings, 104 baby turtles climbed out of the nest and into the sea. A total of 12 live hatchlings were still in the nest. Four of them were live pips, which means that they were only partially out of their shells.

Unfortunately, 19 hatchlings were dead in the nest, most likely the victims of drowning, according to AMITW Director Suzi Fox.

"We had just a torrential downpour around the time the nest would have hatched," Fox noted. "On a really good, natural beach, you wouldn't have the drowning, because the nest would drain better rather than sit in standing water so long."

Fox said the baby turtles drown in their nests sometimes, and there's just nothing anyone can do about it.

Kudos to Club Bamboo

One of the gravest dangers to the safe launch of hatchlings into the water is bright artificial lighting. The first nest this year was right in front of Club Bamboo, which is located at 2412 Gulf Drive in Bradenton Beach.

The resort is right on the Gulf, and there have been some problems with hatchlings being drawn away from the water towards artificial lighting in the past.

"This nest hatched without a problem thanks to the improvement with its lighting and with educating its guests," Fox said.

This is making a huge difference.

"I have data collected going back 16 years, and we've often had disorientations at Club Bamboo in the past," Fox said. "But not anymore. This nest went out with zero problems."

Fox said Mike Nolan, the manager of Club Bamboo, was one of the first to apply for grants from Sea Turtle Conservancy, which was administering money that BP had to pay to mitigate the death of sea turtles in the massive oil spill into the Gulf last year.

"Club Bamboo applied, was accepted, and we helped them rework all their lighting," Fox said. "But that's not all. Mike Nolan is making sure each guest knows to draw their curtains after dark, so that building is fully in compliance with the lighting ordinances now."

Fox also credited the Bradenton Beach code enforcement officers with the positive change in that area of the beach.

"Those code officers worked hard to make this happen," Fox said. "We really, really commend them for the huge progress that's been made in this stretch of Gulffront."

Cortez coyotes eastbound

CORTEZ – Coyotes are still being sighted in Cortez after a rash of pet killings in the historic fishing village last fall, but with most of the easy prey gone, some of the canines may be moving into nearby neighborhoods, residents say.

Melody Sweetman-Carpenter's Maltese dog, Ari, was killed in June by a coyote in Bay Lake Estates near 86th Street West and Cortez Road, about 30 blocks east of Cortez Village, a few days after a coyote killed a cat on 24th Avenue West in Bradenton.

Sweetman-Carpenter has started ARI _ Arresting Renegade Invaders – a group dedicated to trapping and removing coyotes from local residential areas.

Trapping was hotly debated last fall in a Cortez meeting scheduled to address multiple pet killings, where coyote advocates told residents that removing coyotes from an area causes them to breed even more to fill the gap.

Linda Molto, a director of the Florida Institute for Saltwater Heritage (FISH), who organized the meeting, lost one of her cats to a coyote last year. Coyotes were living on the 95-acre FISH Preserve at the time, but appear to have moved on, she said.

"All the pets are gone," she said, adding that wildlife, including raccoons and squirrels in Cortez, also seems to have dwindled.

The raccoon population in Cortez has fluctuated over the years, said Allen Garner, who has been doing habitat restoration work for several years in the FISH Preserve at the eastern end of Cortez village.

He said he has not recently seen any coyotes in the preserve, but Cortez resident Shorty Wilkerson told him he saw a coyote recently on 102nd Street West in the village.

"They've mostly moved to other neighborhoods," Garner said. "They got everything that was an easy target, and the fast and the strong got away."

Easy prey

Gary Morse, spokesman for the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC), said coyotes are not necessarily attracted to the preserve or other wild areas, but choose places where easy prey, such as an unleashed, unfenced dog, is available.

"We have to change our behavior," said Manatee County Commissioner John Chappie, such as removing fruit from low hanging branches on trees, keeping trash in closed, inaccessible containers and learning to haze coyotes by shouting and throwing rocks at them, which trains them to stay away from people.

Carry a weapon such as a stick, golf club or pepper spray when walking dogs, particularly at sunrise and sunset near water, which coyotes frequent, Morse advised, adding, "They will snatch dogs off leashes."

Neither the state wildlife agency nor the Manatee County animal services department will trap and remove coyotes, and wildlife trappers seldom handle coyotes because they're hard to catch and, by law, cannot be relocated, but must be euthanized.

While it's legal to shoot a coyote any time of the year, there are restrictions on where a firearm can be discharged, he said. It's also illegal to poison coyotes or to use traps without an FWC permit.

Perico building progresses

BRADENTON – Harbour Isles, Minto Communities' development on Perico Island, is moving ahead with four new buildings under construction since its grand opening in March.

The development's first phase, named Mangrove Walk, features two- and three-bedroom homes in the Southern coastal resort style. Square footage ranges from 1,600 to 3,000 and prices range from $326,000 to $468,000. Every unit has its own two-car garage and buildings are LEED certified and fire sprinkled. All second floor units come with a dumbwaiter with the option for an elevator.

The Mangrove Walk pool area and kayak launch is also being competed. It will include restrooms, a barbecue pit, and porch, a kitchen, a fire pit, cabanas, a boathouse and a kayak launch. This area will be ready for the first occupants, slated to move in during October.

There have been hundreds of visitors to the models since the project's grand opening in March. However, the company does not reveal sales figures.

In the future, a beach club with a pool, kayak launch, fitness center and snack area is planned at the rear of the property. Also a 119-slip marina with a restaurant and outfitter store is planned for the area where the sales center is now located. There will be slips for resident as well as the public.

Birds flocking to Anna Maria
Anna Maria Island Sun News Story

Black skimmers cool off in a tidal pool near
their nesting area in Anna Maria.

ANNA MARIA – This time of year, the north end of Anna Maria Island becomes a bird nursery for three bird species that are imperiled in Florida.

Snowy plovers and least terns, both threatened species, and black skimmers, a species of special concern under consideration for threatened status, are regular spring and summer residents of Bean Point.

Their nesting areas are staked out by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) and Anna Maria Island Turtle Watch and Shorebird Monitoring Director Suzi Fox.

Signs warn people to steer clear of the birds, which are skittish, and sometimes leave nests for good if they're frightened. Once abandoned, their eggs die from heat exposure or become prey.

For the past two weeks, stakes, cording and signs have been disappearing from the nesting areas, and, while it happens every year, Fox said there was enough activity that she filed reports with FWC and the Manatee County Sheriff's Office.

Broken eggshells in the area show that black skimmer chicks are hatching, she said.

MCSO Dep. Steven Stewart said he checked the nesting area at night last week, but found no one trespassing.

The FWC can't file charges because there's no way to know who did the damage, spokesman Gary Morse said, adding that there is a recent rash of similar events along the Gulf coast. On June 27, a least tern nest was destroyed in Fort Myers Beach, and Siesta Key also has had problems with vandalism in bird nesting areas, he said.

"People think they own the beach, but it's owned by everyone in the state," he said. "We have people who think when they're renting a place, their property extends beyond where it does. It's a shame because these birds are struggling, and people don't want to give them an inch of beach."

FWC suggests the following tips to protect shorebirds.

• Never feed birds on the beach. It attracts predators, especially gulls, to nesting areas.

• Don't allow pet cats to roam. They prey on birds and bird nests.

• Keep your distance from resting or nesting birds. If birds take flight or appear agitated, you are too close.

• Keep out of posted areas. It is easy to crush bird nests and eggs, which blend in with the sand.

• Don't litter. Trash attracts gulls and crows, which prey on beach nesting birds.

• Prevent children from chasing flocks of birds.

• Don't let dogs off boats onto posted bird nesting islands, such as Egmont Key.

Tourist dies in parasailing accident

LONGBOAT KEY – A tourist from South Carolina died when his parasail chute fell into the Gulf of Mexico off Longboat Key late Monday afternoon.

David Sieradzki, 31, of Fountain Inn, S.C., was floating face up in the water with his life jacket on when the 28-foot Fun & Sun Parasail boat Almost Heaven reached him, said Louis Mandel, manager of the Bradenton Beach business.

The boat's captain tried continuously but unsuccessfully to resuscitate him, he said, adding that he had a pulse and did not seem to have water in his lungs.

Rescuers from U.S. Coast Guard station Cortez arrived at 5:48 p.m. and performed lifesaving efforts until they reached the Coquina boat ramp at the south end of Anna Maria Island, where Manatee County EMS pronounced Sieradzki dead. The cause of death has not yet been determined.

"Our condolences go out to the family," Mandel said.

Sieradzki had wanted to go up in the parasail with his wife, but was too heavy, he said, estimating his weight at around 300 pounds.

"The captain had problems with the boat, but we just don't know what happened," Mandel said, calling the event a "routine drop and recovery" that happens three or four times a year for various reasons.

On Monday, the reason was likely the failure of the boat's outboard propeller, he said, although he was unable to examine the boat, as it was confiscated by the Coast Guard as evidence in its investigation.

It appears the boat's propeller was not turning, said Gary Morse of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC), which is investigating the fatality as a criminal negligence case.

"There was no negligence," Mandel said.

The Sieradkzi family left Anna Maria Island for home Tuesday morning, and could not be reached.

Parasailing unregulated

Parasail operators are largely unregulated, other than a required business license, which Fun & Sun Parasail has, according to the city of Bradenton Beach.

Industry accidents prompted Florida legislators to consider a bill last spring that would have regulated commercial parasailing businesses.

The Alejandra White Act, named for a 27-year-old Georgia tourist who died when her rope broke in a parasailing accident in Clearwater last year, would have required parasail operators to carry liability insurance with mimimum limits of $1 million per person and $2 million per event, provide a designated observer on board, require life vests on all participants and have a quick-release harness system for emergency evacuations, among other requirements.

State lawmakers did not pass the bill.

In June, 2009, Chicago tourists Alex Calacci and his father, Mike Calacci, dangled off Coquina Beach in Bradenton Beach in a parasail for more than three hours when storm winds and broken equipment prevented a Fun & Sun crew from bringing them back to the boat.

In 2004 in Bradenton Beach, two 15-year-old girls survived being entangled in a power line when another parasail company's tow rope broke, setting them adrift.

Tips for parasailors

The National Foundation for Parasail Regulations offers these tips for people who parasail:

• Parasail only with an established company that has a business license, insurance and a U.S. Coast Guard licensed captain.

• Do not parasail in winds over 18 knots, rain, fog or an approaching storm.

• Do not parasail higher than 600 feet.

• Do not exceed recommended passenger weight restrictions.

• Ask for a safety briefing prior to your flight, including a description of the activity, equipment operation, safety procedures, hand signals and evacuation procedures during a water landing, fire or other emergency.

The Professional Association of Parasail Operators (PAPO) has developed Operating Standards and Guidelines for the safe parasail operations, available at

The Coast Guard advises parasail operators to be vigilant weather watchers, as sudden shifts in wind direction, gusty winds and lightning can be deadly.

Summer surf camp rolls in
Anna Maria Island Sun News Story


Learn to ride the waves at summer surf camp July 11-15 and July 18-22 from 9 a.m. to noon each day in Holmes Beach. Other activities will include paddleboarding, skimboarding, yoga, fun fitness and jewelry making. Space is limited, so pre-registration and pre-payment of $175 per person is required at the West Coast Surf Shop, 3902 Gulf Drive in Holmes Beach. For more information, call Brandi Brady at 561-267-0847.

Jackson Runo rides a wave at the West Coast
Surf Shop summer surf camp.






Tree dedicated to Olson

A live oak tree was dedicated on Saturday to
Russell Olson's memory. From left, his widow,
Fran Olson and daughter Robyn Olson
were among those who gathered to
remember his life.

HOLMES BEACH – The Kiwanis Club of Anna Maria memorialized longtime member Russell Olson (1924-2010), on Saturday, July 2 at the new Holmes Beach park on 52nd Street.

Mayor Rich Bohnenberger presented a proclamation praising the former cattle rancher and golfer for a life of public and community service, including his military service as a U.S. Marine, especially during the battle of Okinawa in World War II. Olson also was elected as a Wisconsin legislator and lieutenant governor and worked on Holmes Beach committees and boards, as well as actively working and recruiting for Kiwanis.

A live oak tree, a symbol of strength and integrity, was dedicated to the memory of Olson, "A man who will always stand tall in our hearts and minds," the mayor said.

"Russ would really appreciate it," said Olson's widow, Fran Olson, adding with a smile that he would have worried about the cost. His longtime friend, Ralph Bassett, said that Olson carefully watched over the money that Kiwanis raises to benefit the Island's children.

In true Kiwanis style, the group sang "God Bless America," including the little-known preamble, before socializing and departing for their Independence Day weekend celebrations.

The new park is located behind the Holmes Beach post office.

AMISUN ~ The Island's Award-Winning Newspaper