Wednesday, August 26, 2009

BMX Gone

The BMX track built by some neighborhood boys over the summer has been flattened. It was on Jarvis St. next to the home of one of the boys, and had been getting lots of use by some 15 or more BMXers.

A recent picture of how it looked (click to enlarge):

Here's how it looks today:

Demetra McBride, a forester with the county, had explained in an email (click here for full text) why the county looked on the track in an unfavorable light. However, to the best of our knowledge, notification of the county's intention to raze the track this week was not communicated to members of the Lake Sarasota Community Group.

Ms. McBride did say in an addendum to her email:

I spoke with Mrs. ___ about inviting her son Michael to be a "neighborhood spokesperson" when we open the community conversation on this project. From his work, it appears that he is motivated, organized and a good youth ambassador. As this potential project is intended to serve that demographic, we feel it is important - if not critical - for those voices to be heard. I hope Michael takes me up on the offer?
One hopes it's not too late for that community conversation to begin.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Hotline for Swine Flu (H1N1) Updates

The Florida Department of Health will be launching a toll-free number to provide public health information and updates on H1N1 Swine flu. The information line will be available from 8 AM to 8 PM Eastern, 7 days a week. Information is available in English, Spanish and Creole.

Details are as follows:

Time: 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. daily, beginning Monday, August 24, 2009

Telephone Number: 877-352-3581

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Update on the Entrance

By now it's not news: As previously reported, HealthSouth Corporation, which is developing the healthcare facility on the north side of Bee Ridge Rd. opposite the entrance to Lake Sarasota, graciously paid the cost of stamped bricks in the new, narrower concrete median at the entrance to the neighborhood:

With the addition of a third, right-turn lane, there have been a few inattentive drivers who go to the right and attempt to make a left-hand turn, despite the new signals indicating what one can and can't do at the intersection. Word to the wise:

The flagpole is now safely (we hope) ensconced in the next median:

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Invasive Plant Treatments to begin in Lakeview Park

A message from the County Parks and Rec Dept:

Could you post on your neighborhood webpage that we are about to begin work in Lakeview Park treating invasive plants (air potato) with herbicide and mulching fallen melaleuca. We do not have an exact date yet. The work is being performed by Rick Richards, Inc.

Water Moccasin or Water Snake?

At the Lakeview Park Clean-Up, some residents were picking up some branches of a tree when a dangerous Water Moccasin slithered out and dashed into the water.

It might be useful to know one when you see it, but the differences between the venomous Florida Water Moccasin (or Cottonmouth) and the wholly harmless Water Snake can be subtle. Here are a few images and links that might help.

First, here's a Water Moccasin

Another shot of a Water Moccasin (click for a huge image):

Here's the plain old harmless Florida Water Snake:

Another clue (thanks Ray):

When in water, Water Moccasins move on top of the water - almost as if they were gliding on the surface, like this:

Water Moccasins are to be met with extreme caution. "When a moccasin is nesting or has her young in their nest it will aggressively defend that area," says Ray. "Moccasins have aggressively attacked people."

Water Snakes tend to be partly submerged, partly out of the water, more like this:

Click for more about the differences between Water Moccasins and Water Snakes.

More about Florida snakes here, here.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Of Parks, Water Moccasins, and Gators

Here's Ray's report about Sunday's Lakeview Park clean-up, which involved folks from Lake Sarasota and from the Sarasota Sky Pilots. A major thank-you to all who came out to help:

We had a good turn out at the park yesterday.... I think there were 9 or 10 residents signed in on Kim's sign in sheet before Sky Pilots started showing up. Kim left the sign in sheets with Franklin if you want a complete list of people that attended. Got a lot of stuff pulled from the canal. Sky Pilots did mostly trimming of trees hanging in the way of the disc throwing on each of the holes. We completely filled the dumpster & had enough stuff laying by the fence and along the sides of the canal to fill the dumpster two more times.

Caution: water moccasins and gators:

There are water moccasins in the canal! I seen for the first time as I was picking up some branches from the canal's edge a moccasin shot out from under and swam into the canal. I saw it swimming a few minutes later & pointed it out to Bill so he got to see it too. It was about 24 inches long & quite fat! I wonder if we should have a sign warning people about the gator or possibly gators in the canal?

Update on storm activity

As of 7:00AM CDT, Hurricane Bill is located near 15.6N/50.1W, or about 740 miles east of the Leeward Islands. Maximum sustained winds remain at 100 mph with gusts up to 120 mph. Bill continues to be in an environment favorable for further intensification as it continues to the west-northwest at about 17 mph. The current Hurricane Severity Index is 15, with 7 points attributed to size.

Bill continues on a west-northwest track and is expected to gradually begin to turn the northwest over the next 12 to 24 hours. Our forecast continues to be in general agreement with current model guidance. This track will bring the center of Bill about 250-300 miles to the northeast of the northern Leeward Islands on Thursday morning, and then begin a gradual turn to the north on Friday and into the weekend with increasing swell the main impact on the islands. A moderate cold front reaching the East U.S. Coast on Saturday should cause Bill to take a northward turn and eventually turn to the northeast and out to sea. On this track the center of Bill could be very near Bermuda early Saturday. We do not think that Bill will have any impact on the East U.S. Coast, with the exception of increasing swell; though we cannot yet rule out any threat to New England early next week.

With favorable environmental conditions ahead of Bill we think that further intensification is likely and that Bill could become a major hurricane over the next 24 or so hours. Bill may maintain at major hurricane intensity until it moves towards Bermuda on Saturday and interacts with the approaching frontal boundary. The maximum Hurricane Severity Index value we're forecasting is 28 points on Thursday, with 14 of those points attributed to size. This would make Bill a large and powerful hurricane.

Tropical Disturbance 32
The remnants of Ana, or Tropical Disturbance 32, is an open tropical wave extending from 23N/75W to 17N/71W. It is moving to the west-northwest at about 25 mph. The thunderstorm activity associated with this system is spreading from Haiti and The Bahamas toward the Straits of Florida.

This disturbance is expected to continue into the eastern Gulf of Mexico and then turn north and reach the Florida Panhandle on Thursday. Wind shear should prevent any significant development of this system over the next three days. However, a second resurrection of this system back to Tropical Depression or Tropical Storm Ana remains very low, but not impossible. In any event, the main impacts will be squalls over Florida and portions of the northeast Gulf.

Other Disturbances / Areas to Watch
Tropical Disturbance 34 is located near 33W south of 15N, and is moving west near 15 mph. The associated thunderstorm activity remains minimal and poorly organized. Any chances of development are very low at this time. It is expected to track to the west to west-northwest over the next three to five days.

Below are some of the most important links in the event of major impending weather or other emergency conditions:

Weather Reports
Emergency Services in Sarasota:

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Tropical Storm Ana

From Scott Montgomery at the Sarasota EOC:

Good Morning: Tropical Depression #2 has now become Tropical Storm Ana. Ana is expected to grow in the next few days, and current tracks have the storm reaching the US coastline in South Florida sometime Thursday. This forecast is subject to change. With regards to the attached track map, we look at the entire "Cone", not the black track line.

I will keep you posted on Ana and Tropical Disturbance #33 as they develop.

Click to enlarge image:

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

County responds to BMX initiative

Regarding the BMX project undertaken by some neighborhood residents, here is an email from Demetra McBride, a Natural Resources Manager for Sarasota County:

I spoke with Mrs. _____ (the owner of property adjacent to the BMX track) on Monday, early evening. The creation of that track has disrupted and damaged root systems of trees in that corridor. In addition, the use of the area for that purpose has created grade variations that could form trip hazards for people unaware it is there (especially in the dark).

The fact is, this is County property, and any conversion or alternate use of it should have been cleared with the County and properly vetted and permitted. I am looking into the possibility of finding a location that is more suited for this purpose. Also, please note that this is a transportation corridor, not a parks property, and the expectation is that this will be the site of a project that is a "learning transportation corridor" for youth. This site seems ideal for that purpose because it connects children throughout the community with the several neighborhood schools, including a specials needs school for which we can provide an ADA-compliant venue. The learning elements are also provisionally conceived to provide engaging information about sustainable habits, the environment, and connections among kids, growth and nature. But, also, to provide in some measure even engineering info about transportation systems. Who knows, perhaps that corridor could inspire both future ecologists and engineers - with the advantage of knowing how the two can work together for a healthy and successful community. For that purpose, we anticipate that this will remain a transportation corridor, just one for the younger members of our society.

As to the BMX track, this seems to be a useful amenity with popularity among Lake Sarasota youth. As I am certain you will understand, we do have to consider the use, any risk, and whether we are able to construct or permit construction on public property without addition precautions or measures. Be assured we are looking into that, and a more appropriate location for that use.

In a follow-up email Ms. McBride wrote:

Thanks, but this foonote is important -- I spoke with Mrs. ___ about inviting her son Michael to be a "neighborhood spokesperson" when we open the community conversation on this project. From his work, it appears that he is motivated, organized and a good youth ambassador. As this potential project is intended to serve that demographic, we feel it is important - if not critical - for those voices to be heard. I hope Michael takes me up on the offer?

Ms. McBride had proposed creating an educational walkway for kids on the site last year. See this link for more info.

We'll update as this "community conversation" develops.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Highlights of the August Meeting

Tuesday night's general meeting of the Lake Sarasota Community Group covered a lot of ground. Here are the highlights:

Our Treasurer was not present, but we assume we have much the same as was reported in July in our account: $1364.

Ted is seeking volunteers for future Citizen Patrols. He also provided this analysis of the Sheriff's July crime report:
There were a total of 13 incidents, down from 20 in June. There was one burglary, seven thefts, and five juvenile disturbances. There were no instances of vandalism. Most incidents occurred in mid-month. from the 14th through the 23rd. Most incidents occurred between 4 p.m. and Midnight. The incidents were evenly distributed through the week, with more incidents occurring between 10 p.m. and Midnight. Vana had three incidents. Palau and Samoa Drives both experienced two incidents. The following streets had one incident each: Brentford, Berkshire, Eton, Friendship, Mauna Loa, and Molokai.

From the data, it looks like we want to concentrate our patrols in mid-month and in the afternoon and evening hours.
Lakeview Park: The discussion revolved around the canals - running the pump longer, what it might take to put in a fountain and the best way to do it. There was also mention of the county's NEST program, which is designed to help people clear up lakes by guiding them to proper plantings along the shore. (Click on link for more, and check out the video.)

Some neighborhood kids have, with a ton of organized energy, built a sort of home-made BMX track along the walkway from Mauna Loa to Jarvis. After some discussion (last year, the county had floated the idea of putting an educational park there), those present thought there might be a way to support the kids' initiative. However, some modifications are probably necessary to make it safe -- at present, one ramp seems to allow bikes to fly out into Jarvis -- with potential bad consequences if a car happens along at the same moment. Any suggestions greatly appreciated.

Sandy led a discussion of future events. It is hoped we can have speakers at upcoming meetings who will talk about some very practical, money-saving topics. - stay tuned - these could include:
  • Weatherization - apparently there are programs that will insulate and change all the windows in your home for free, if you meet income requirements.
  • Fire Inspections - free inspections to help make your home secure from fire.
  • Energy Audit - free house checkups from FPL that could save you money on electricity.
The group chose Nov. 7th to hold the fall Lake Sarasota Mega Yard Sale - mark the date.

Also, we're planning a fall festival on Saturday, Oct. 24 - as it's right before Halloween, that could be the theme. It will be in Lakeview Park.

Some residents have been notified of a power outage scheduled for this weekend - Friday and Saturday nights, from 2 a.m. to 2:30 a.m. If your clocks and electronic appliances are all out of whack, that's probably why.

An abandoned house on Jarvis is wide open, with lots of stuff inside. Residents who live near it are fearful that it has become a health hazard - large rats have been spotted, as well as a danger to children who can just walk in, and a fire hazard as well.

The home is in foreclosure, and the county has begun proceedings, but estimates of time before seeing action are 30-50 days. The group unanimously agreed the house should be boarded up, and there was talk of contacting the health department to see about getting this done.

The next meeting is Sept. 8, at Sarasota Baptist, room 100. As usual, the agenda will be posted the week before here on the blog.

Lakeview Park: A Workday Aug. 16th - UPDATE

The Sky Pilots have scheduled a work day at Lakview Park on Sunday, Aug 16th. Mostly to trim back the low hanging branches from walkways and remove litter and garbage. Here are some details:

Workday - Sunday, Aug 16 @ Lakeview Park - - - 8:30am - till
Lunch provided afterwards to first 20 folks who show up to help.
  • Remove garbage and litter.
  • Remove fallen branches from canals.
  • Trim low hanging branches from pathways.

Monday, August 10, 2009

General Meeting Aug. 11

The Lake Sarasota Community Group meets Tuesday, Aug. 11, at 7 pm at Sarasota Baptist. This is an all-volunteer group working to improve the living and landscape of Lake Sarasota. All are welcome - no dues, no fees.

Likely to be discussed at this Tuesday's meeting:

  • Update on Lakeview Park efforts
  • Abandoned houses and what can be done about them.
  • Discussion of uses for balance of grant money
  • Event Planning
  • Park clean-up Aug. 16
  • Update on Mauna Loa entrance
  • New Business
  • Citizens Patrol, Treasurer's report, Yard of the month etc.

Thursday, August 06, 2009

Update: Lakeview Park Canals Are Clearing

The canals are beginning to look cleaner in Lakeview Park. Compare the weed-choked images of a few weeks ago with today, and you see much less duckweed and algae, water that at times allows you a view down to the bottom, and - a nice plus - plenty of ripples and leaps from fish, frogs, turtles and other living creatures (including a gator, see below) that seem to be enjoying the slightly deeper, and more oxygen-rich, waters.

The canals are being fed from the lake via the pump, which was turned on a couple of weeks ago after a meeting at the pump site that included a representative of the county along with folks from Lake Sarasota, Bent Tree, and the Sarasota Sky Pilots Disc Golf Club.

For the water to circulate properly, a berm had to be constructed to move the incoming water through the park's canal system and back out through the culvert (the large pipe) to the lake. That job, using giant rocks from the landfill, took county worker Pete Sauchinitz three days, working by himself. Everyone thinks he did a great job, and golfers now have another way to cross the canals. We owe Pete -- and his boss, Patty Gergen -- a debt of sincere gratitude.


One of the park's most frequent visitors is Odel Gipson, who lives on the lake, fishes and plays disk golf. Lately he's been helping prune trees and clear some of the waterways.

Odel says the waters are clearing. He also has been keeping an eye on the four-foot gator that's been loitering in the canals. The other day he pointed out where the gator had been hanging out for a few days, next to the tree on hole 14. Sure enough, the young alligator was still there, right near the canal's edge, probably hoping a duck or possum would wander by. One thing's for sure: , no one would have been able to see that gator in the canal amid the murky, stagnant green waters of a few weeks ago.

There have been no reports of aggressiveness on the part of the gator. A few people say they've thrown sticks or stones at the animal, which apparently doesn't scare easily. No one so far is reported to have fed the gator -- which is universally considered the dumbest thing one can do for him or for people, as doing this adds people to his menu.

So here's a question for all those who have worked so hard to improve the park (many of whom we'll no doubt see on Aug. 16th, at the Sky Pilots' clean-up): To add even more oxygen and motion to the Lakeview canals, how about a fountain?

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

Teen Summit in Sarasota


Sarasota, FL: American Idol '08 contender and Booker High School graduate Syesha Mercado will participate in Teen Summit '09, "Greatness Beyond Measure", to be held August 7-9, 2009 at Ringling College. The event is open to youngsters 12 to 19-years-old. There is a $5 registration fee. Parents are encouraged to attend with their teens.

Ms. Mercado will headline the summit on Fri., August 7th as a keynote speaker 12:30 - 2:30pm at Exhibition Hall on the campus of the Ringling College of Art & Design. Later that evening, she will perform during the "Greatness Beyond Measure" Teen Idol singing competition at 7:30pm at Exhibition Hall.

"Greatness Beyond Measure" is designed to empower teens by involving them with panel discussions and workshops about issues pertinent to them including such topics as: social networking; sports for life; and entrepreneurial success. The summit will include a basketball game, as well as a family cookout and teen art show. For a schedule of events click here: