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Archives for December 25, 2013

Garden gift ideas

(MCT) — You’re making your holiday shopping list and checking it twice, and here are some gift ideas for the gardeners – naughty or nice – in your life.

Best book

The new book “Gifts from the Garden” combines the beauty of the bounty with the skills of the crafter for the green-fingered DIYer who wants to make the most of harvests throughout the year. From the edible to the decorative, author Debora Robertson shows how to make a unique something for every occasion – potted bulbs in teacups, personalized seed packets, herbal teas, floral-scented lip balms and indulgent body scrubs. Using fruits, veggies and nuts, she shows how to make spice rubs and fresh pesto, chile jams and tomato chutneys – gifts from the heart of your kitchen. $24.95;

Birdie treats

Give your best birding friends a basket of treats meant for their feathered friends. Fill a basket with a trio of special blends that include sunflower meats, peanuts, safflower and pecans or sunflower meats infused with fiery hot habanero chilies to keep the squirrels away. A nutberry blend combines all of nature’s best in one bag – fruits with insect suet kibbles and whole kernel sunflower meats. $12.99-$17.99 per 5-pound bag.

Or, stock a basket with a suet cake feeder and the cakes to go in it – $1.69-$1.99. Cole’s Wild Bird seeds and foods available at wildlife stores and garden centers; find a retailer at or 770-426-8882.

Gardenia goodness

No air freshener can compete with the sweet fragrance of a flowering gardenia. The Heavenly Scented Evergreen Gardenia brightens a room with its clear white blossoms, and comes in a golden sparkle ceramic container that’s about 7 inches tall and wide; plant care information is included, $59.95.

Jackson and Perkins; or 800-292-4769.

Classic wisdom

The 222nd edition of the 2014 Old Farmer’s Almanac entertains and inspires throughout the year. In addition to gardening tips and plant profiles, the periodical features pie recipes and then ideas on how to lose the pounds after eating all those homemade desserts, $6.99. The Old Farmer’s Almanac for Kids with magical pumpkins, towering beanstalks, Salsa princesses, buzzing hummingbirds, bug costumes and friendly farm animals, $9.95. Available at garden centers nationwide or or 877-717-8924.

Wild wonderful

Cornell introduces young and old to the wonders of birding, including:

• “Cornell Guide to Bird Sounds: Master Set for North America.” This comprehensive guide features nearly 5,000 soundtracks for 735 North American bird species. Download includes MP3 sound files and photographs. $49.99, or get files pre-loaded on a flash drive, $64.99.

• “Cornell Guide to Bird Sounds: Essential Set for North America.” This set includes the most common sounds for 737 species in downloadable MP3 files, $12.99, or on a pre-loaded flash drive, $24.99.

– Cornell Lab Beginner Bird-watching Kit. This kit, available from Optics Planet, includes introductory binoculars recommended by lab staff, six months free access to a lab online bird ID course, and other great accessories, $199.

Available at or 800-843-2573.

Easy does it

If flower-arranging makes you feel uneasy, the Easy Arranger removes all that anxiety. The elegant hand-woven wire grid is placed on top of a vase and gently pressed down around the outer edge. Each petal of the crown then serves as a compartment for a stem and guides the user to perfect placement. Add flowers between the wires to make flowers stay where you want them. The bendable, reusable and decorative grid in 5-, 6- and 8-inch diameter sizes, can be used over a variety of vases and other vessels. Holiday special, $6 from The Gardener’s Workshop; or 888-977-7159.

Best weeder ever

Take out carpets of weeds in one swipe, using the Japanese hand hoe. Forged of high carbon steel, it maintains a sharp edge. Holiday special, $19.95, or 888-977-7159.

Comfy, cute look

If the gardener on your list is a gal, Garden Girl USA’s trim-fitting gardening pants, $93.99, or capris, $89.99, might be the thing. Made of durable fabrics, with pockets galore, Garden Girl’s signature hip/waist stretch panels provide “give” in all the right places, making it easy to bend, lug, haul, squat or crawl through typical days in the garden. They’re also ideal for comfort when hiking, dog-walking, tending toddlers, cleaning, or bopping around town. Floral-patterned Wellington boots, $85.99, complete the look; or 866-610-5459.

Rosy dreams

Treat your special gardening friend to a David Austin gift voucher. Request that the confirmation, complete with 120-page “Handbooks of Roses” catalog, come straight to you for gift-giving. The roses will be shipped in spring at the right time for planting as bare rootstock. Two beauties to ponder: Munstead Wood, a deep crimson rose, $27.95 each or three for $71.25, and yellow climber Golden Celebration, $25.99 each or three for $66. or 800-328-8893.

Tweet time

Watching wild birds from the window is especially sweet in winter. For close encounters with interesting birds of all kinds, consider The Winner Multi-Purpose Window Feeder, $35.99, which attaches to the outside of windows with three suction cup mounts and holds up to ½ pound of seed, suet or fruit. Another possibility is Dorothy’s Cardinal Feeder, $59.99, designed to attach to a post or a hook; this 13-inch feeder is topped by a height-adjustable, 15-inch clear-view dome that protects birds and feed from weather, while warding off unwanted larger birds. or 800-352-9164.

Space saver

Easy access to organized gear is the dream of every gardener, athlete, outdoor enthusiast or homeowner with too little space. Boulder-based offers pre-fabricated single room structures designed for use as garden sheds and storage, as well as backyard home offices, art and music studios and more. Cost for an 8-by-10 Studio Shed storage model with unfinished interior and block/metal siding starts at $6,300, plus installation and shipping, starting at $900 each. Less expensive Small Shed DIY Kits are also or 888-900-3933.

Hand tool sets

The Gardeners Hand Tool Gift Set from Joseph Bentley contains the small tools that are used most often by gardeners of all skills – trowel, transplanting trowel and hand fork. All three tools have carefully finished solid oak wooden handles and polished stainless steel heads. The tools are presented in a wooden seed box and nestled in shaved wood, $39.99 in gardening stores and at, and

Cam time

The new WildlifeCam takes up-close and personal photos of the four-legged wildlife – and winged wildlife, too – that visit your yard. The motion-activated camera, high-resolution, 8-megapixel digital photos capture candid moments of wildlife in stunning, full-color detail. The built-in flash makes it possible to take photos of animals in low light – or even capture nighttime visitors such as raccoons, deer and other wildlife in the dark. In addition to the single photo mode, the cam can also make digital videos with sound, $99.95 at wildlife stores and at or 888-811-9464.

Stylish composter

The Green Cycler is a clean, odorless kitchen countertop solution that turns kitchen scraps into ‘black gold’ for the garden in a matter of days rather than weeks and months, $99-$139. or 855-432-6866.

Hummer heaven

Hummingbirds are territorial and will use this swing, with a shimmering copper finish, as a perch to watch over their food source, according to birding experts. Simply place this swing near feeders and enjoy watching them sit and swing. The red glass bead attracts hummingbirds, $16.99. National Wildlife Federation at or 800-822-9919.

Holiday happiness

The bird seed wreath is perfect as a holiday treat for backyard birds. Made with black oil sunflower seeds, peanuts, colored safflower and red millet, this 8 ½-inch wreath weighs a hearty 2¼ pounds, $19.99. National Wildlife Federation at or 800-822-9919.

Welcome everyone

Welcome friends and family to your garden with a whimsical “Welcome to my garden” plaque. Handcrafted from 100 percent recycled aluminum and made in the USA, the sign measures 12 inches wide and 7 inches tall, ground stake included; two to four weeks for delivery, $39.99. National Wildlife Federation at or 800-822-9919.

Upclose and personal

Get to know your feathered neighbors from inches away. Watch the birds as they build their nest and raise their young. Clear panel provides a great view and slides out for easy cleaning. Easily attaches, with suction cups, to the outside of a window. Made with natural cedar, rust-resistant hardware and heavy plexiglass, USA made, $21.99. National Wildlife Federation at or 800-822-9919.

Fine feeder

Turn your fruit feeder into a piece of artwork for your backyard. This heavyweight feeder holds 2 fruits, such as apples, and gives the birds a place to perch. Made of long-lasting beautiful copper, $29.99. National Wildlife Federation at or 800-822-9919.

Mason jar magic

Reminiscent of the vintage blue glass canning jars used in the 1800s, the Perky-Pet Mason Jar Collection brings rustic chic to any outdoor space. The three styles include a wild bird feeder, hummingbird feeder and wild bird waterer, $17.95-$19.95. or 855-PERKY-PET.

DIY goodie

Got kids or DIYers in the mix? Give them an ‘experience’ with NativeCast’s DIY planter kits. This eco-concrete container is perfect for crafters, DIY lovers, party favors, crafty kids, and stocking stuffers. The kit includes NativeCast’s custom eco-concrete mix, a mold, organic potting soil, and herb seeds, $15-$35 and up

Living art

Topiaries created with moss and succulents are living art that delights anyone who loves animals and wildlife. From a life-size bull frog to a full-size giraffe, Gardens by Teresa in Yorktown, Va., can create it. Her online gardening shop also features handcrafted wire topiary frames that look nice on their own; custom topiary orders or 757-532-0080.

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Bradenton, Florida: Ain’t Nothing Like the Real Thing

December 24, 2013 | 6:19 pm

Posted By Richard Bangs

Oh, the places they stole.

Four times this year I’ve been to the canals of Venice, without ever setting foot in Italy. In Vegas, Macau, Qatar and where I live, Venice, California, there are facsimiles of the famous waterways, only cleaner, shinier, and without the creases of deep history.

Theme parks, made-made-islands, cruise ships, old quarter facades, entire cities fashioned to appear as someplace else. It’s hard, these days, to find a land that has escaped the allure of reincarnation. Many years ago, after making first descents of a number of wild rivers around the world, I was invited by Busch Gardens in Tampa, Florida to join a media event, the launch of their Congo River Rapids Ride. Some P.R. visionary had concocted a trope in which George Plimpton, the famous “participatory journalist,” and I would make “the first descent” of the Congo River in Florida, with hundreds of media reporting. It was such a circus of counterfeit adventure that I felt I needed a shower after being splashed by the chlorinated Congo.

It turned out Mr. Plimpton felt the same way, and as we left the Gardens he turned to give some advice. “If you want to experience the real thing, head over to Bradenton.” The Bradenton Area, on Florida’s Gulf Coast, is the enemy of the artificial. It includes the town of Bradenton, Palmetto right across the Manatee River, Ellenton, the barrier island of Anna Maria, and a portion of Longboat Key, all part of Manatee County. Somehow this area survived the waves of development that washed away most of Old Florida, and seems to still float in a time when people didn’t just live, but flourished, before air conditioning, theme parks, fantasy leagues, Gangnam Style, and Twitter.

Finally, a decade after George Plimpton’s passing, I decide to explore this place that missed the boat to Make-Believe. There are no hotels themed as St. Mark’s Square, Egyptian pyramids or pirate ships, but there is an impressive range of retreats, from century-old BBs to beachside resorts to luxury inns, private residences and downtown boutiques.

I find my way to the pet-friendly Courtyard Marriott, right on the Riverwalk, a throwback to the tow-paths that pulled barges up the Manatee River, delivering goods and gadgets to King Wiggins’ Store. It’s a sinuous two-mile stroll with the rolling river on one side, and a bright assortment of activities on the other, including porch-like swings, volleyball courts, splash fountains, botanical gardens, picnic lawns, and a Team Pain skateboard park, strategically spilled in front of a hospital. At the western edge of the walk, past several manatee statues, beyond a plaque proclaiming Bradenton “The land of your heart’s desire,”

I turn inland a few steps to the South Florida Museum, largest natural and cultural history museum on Florida’s Gulf Coast. It’s a coffer for erstwhile eras, and features a creature that seems from a gentler time: Snooty, oldest known manatee in the world. Snooty was born when the first monkey astronaut was launched into space; The Ed Sullivan Show debuted; and The Cleveland Indians defeated the Boston Braves to win the World Series. It all seems like yesterday here, except perhaps when comparing the economics. The average cost of a new house at Snooty’s nativity: $7,700.00; a new car: $1,250.00; a gallon of gas: 16 cents; a movie ticket: 60 Cents. But, Snooty hasn’t changed, except for a few added pounds, and a better pool. He has the same Wilford Brimley snout, the same rounded body and flat tail, and the same ageless appeal. He’s beautiful, but not in any classic definition of the word. It’s hard to believe sailors, even after months at sea, once mistook manatees for mermaids.

Here, in his 60,000 gallon pool, begirds the celebrated lumpy charmer, closest living relative to the elephant, and official mascot of Manatee County. At 65, the boy seems to be enjoying the retired life, shamelessly sashaying about, waiting for lunch. He eats about 80 pounds of Romaine lettuce a day, sustaining his 1,000-pound body. His diet and spa-time seem to have done him well. The average manatee lives only to about 13, due to mostly man-made threats, such as boat propellers, loss of habitat from coastal development, poaching, errant fish hooks and crab trap lines, and cold weather, all the more common with global climate change. Snooty shares his tank with two fresh-faces, Longo, rescued off of Longboat Key, and Cheeno, rescued in the Caloosahatchee River, both suffering from “cold stress syndrome,” a condition akin to frostbite in humans.

The Museum serves as a second-stage rehabilitation facility, and provides temporary home for the new manatees while they heal. So far, Snooty has fostered 26 manatees that needed special care until able to be released back into the wild. The manatee is an endangered species–less than 5000 survive– and looking into Snooty’s whispered, trusting eyes it is impossible to not become a rooter for the mammal’s rights to well-being. After tarrying with Snooty for a spell I wander around the rest of the museum, eventually stepping downstairs, where I meet Jeff Rodgers, Director of Education. He is delighted to show me a showcase honoring The Culture of Shell. There are replicas of middens, trash piles of shells left by early Native Americans, and, he says, “You can learn a lot about somebody by looking through his trash.”

Poor soil notwithstanding, the original Indians discovered the abundance of shells allowed them to create technologies that gave identity, and provided everything they needed. With the first settlements, the men went out in dug-outs seeking elusive big-game– sharks, manatees, large fish–while the women and children were in the shallows harvesting oysters and clams, conferring the community a reliable protein source. “Once you’ve reached that level where subsistence is not an issue, and you move into surplus, then you start to see art, and ideas expressed through aesthetics.” Manatee Habitat Just OffshoreThe shells that make up the Gulf Coast are responsible for everything here today, Jeff says.

It started with a culture that defined itself by extracting resources from the sea. The shells provided food in an infertile area, and emerging from that state of plenty, the culture evolved to exploit shells in fashioning weapons, making utensils, creating art, and even spirit houses. And that arc of the shell continues today. Who can resist plucking a shiny shell from the sea-swept shore? The shell exhibit inspires me to collect some on my own, so under a coral pink sky the morning next I drive the bridge to Anna Maria Island, and take my good time shuffling up along the fine-grained beaches, an eight-mile string of bone-white sand that might be called the anti-Miami Beach….no neon, high-rises or showboats here. The highest thing is a palm tree, with an osprey on top. I begin on Longboat Key at the Mar Vista Restaurant, across from Whitney Beach, under a spreading buttonwood mangrove. I surrender to mullet and stone crabs, tide-to-table fare, pulled in just minutes ago.

Then I cross the span to Anna Maria, and dig my toes in the soft sugar at Coquina Beach. The sand seems to get even better, though, as I make my way north, along Bradenton Beach, to Manatee Beach, Holmes, Anna Maria, and ending at the secluded and somewhat secret Bean Point at the very northern tip, named for George Bean, first permanent resident of Anna Maria Island. Castled in the kelp are jut-eyed little crabs, a world of inch-high devils. The wet sand here is so sumptuous it’s like Julia Child’s butter.

Meandering back down the coast a ways I stop for dinner at the Sandbar Restaurant, smack on the beach. Ed Chiles, the owner, stops by for a drink and a nosh, and we watch as an almost nuclear sunset shatters the sky. “Like my exterior design?” Chiles asks to an audience too transfixed to answer.

I have a couple of sons, one 19 and one 6, so the next day I decide to check out what might be available for families, as am now thinking of returning with the brood. TreeUmphThe first find is a place called TreeUmph!, an aerial sandbox restricted for kids between the ages of 7 and 70. Sprawled along 14 wooded acres, it features wobbly bridges, bungee swings, and a 650-foot zip line. At first blush it seems the height of absurdity, but then, after a couple of Tarzan yells, it seems the triumph of spirit over gravity.

Next I head over to a giant igloo off I-75. It’s the 113,600-square-foot Ellenton Ice and Sports Complex, the place where Olympic hopefuls practice, and where anyone can escape the 75 degree weather outside and cool down with a glide around the rink. I reach for the analgesic heat rub just watching the elite figure skaters camel spin, axle, lutz and swizzle in front of my envious eyes.Olympic Hopefuls

Then I motor over to the Anderson Race Park in Palmetto for a few spins in a go-kart around the mile-long track. Ever since I broke my arm in an unauthorized go-kart race in high school I’ve stayed away from the open-decked vehicles, but the sport and the conveyances have evolved so they are now safe enough for school.

That’s who I end up giving a run for the money… twenty-five teens from the Manatee School for the Arts taking a course on “the Physics of Motorsports,” the only such class of its kind in the country. I’m a wimp compared to these guys, and even though I manage to stay inside my kart, the GoPro attached to my bumper goes flying off during a sharp turn. Nonetheless, I take the trophy for coming in last place.

I make a quick stop at a place where anyone, even Tom Hanks, can enjoy the pirates, McKechnie Field, the stadium where the Pittsburgh Pirates do their spring training. Then, with a couple of local saltwater cowboys, disciples of the net, I charter a T-craft and cruise to the west of Anna Maria Island. Just offshore we float over several manatees, vivid with prop scars, and then past several dolphins, who seem to flipper us off, before reaching deeper waters, where I promptly seal the deal by pulling in a holy mackerel, a huge king. I want to be very clear on this, since no one asked. I did not break the mackerel fishing record with this outing.

I finish the afternoon with Shaun Dutshyver, a true Florida cracker, seventh-generation native and owner of the Surferbus, a retired school bus refurbished with woodie paneling. It’s parked like a food truck alongside Manatee Avenue, packed with surfboards, kayaks, and a tumble of candy-colored paddles. Surfer Bus

Shaun takes me paddle-boarding into the 487-acre Robinson Preserve, a trip through the leafy grace of mangrove tunnels into the blueways of the Perico Bayou. There are birds galore, 100 species or so, from black-bellied plovers and roseate spoonbills to wood storks, great blue herons, snowy egrets and briefs of pelicans.

And there are some 75 species of fish, including mullet, several of which make flying leaps attempting to hitchhike on my board. It’s one of those places where I pole ahead of myself in perpetual expectation of miracles, and they seem to come true. The next day is turn-back-the clock day; not the daylight savings crank, but the century savings adjustment. Under manatee-shaped clouds (after a few days here everything seems to shape shift into manatees) I head over to Manatee Village Historical Park, and meet Cathy Slusser, Director of Historical Resource. I pull out my wallet at the entrance, and she chides, “Put that away. Admission is free here.”

Entering the tree-lined field is like falling into a vortex. A few paces and I’m in the middle of a collection of 19th century buildings, including the 1860 Manatee County Courthouse, the 1887 Union Congregation Church, a one-room school house from 1908, the King Wiggins General Store, established in 1903, the Apple Store of its day, with the first telephone in the region, and a mill where cane syrup was made, (a horse hitched to the end of the sweep walked in circles grinding the stalks.) Cathy, who wrote an historical novel set in pioneer days Manatee County, “From a Heavenly Land: Eliza’s Story,” tells me one of her favorite tales of the era, when one Ellen Clark, a mid-19th century homesteader, lost Charles, one of her workers. He wanted to be transferred to his family home in New York for proper burial, so she stuffed his body in a whiskey barrel, nailed the lid shut, and put him on the first ship north. “He was the first Manatee County man to be pickled,” she shares. It’s all worth the price of admission, even at ten times the fee.

For lunch, I take the wayback machine to the Cortez Fishing Village on the blue-green waters of Sarasota Bay, oldest surviving fishing village in Florida, dating from at least 1880. It has survived hurricanes, wars, depressions, the thrusts of fashion, and government regulations. Cortez isn’t a living museum – it is the real fishin’ thing. That’s the hook. No strip malls, chains, car lots or condos here. The place has eddied out of the future. The old white homes are elevated off the ground (pre-glycol air conditioning), have front steps, screened-in porches, and barnacled boats parked out front. Sunset There is no doubt the most authentic eatery in this most authentic of villages is the Star Fish Company, a dockside joint that dates to 1923. Mullet, grouper, stone crab and shrimp are cleaved, gutted, grilled, fried, blackened, sautéed, and served in plain paper boxes, along with cornmeal hush puppies, coleslaw and French fries.

Yet, despite the pedigree, there’s something fishy here, and the owners would appreciate the bad pun… signs groan all around the picnic tables, such as: “Why did the mermaid stop dating the clam? He was too shell fish.” “Seas the Day!” “Time flies when you’re having rum.” “Sometimes I wake up Crabby—but mostly I let her sleep in.” “Arrive a stranger; leave even stranger.” And my favorite, “Give a man to fish, he will eat for a day. Teach a man to fish, he will sit on a boat and drink all day.” Every dish here comes with a side order of puns.

The next day is my Green Day. Turns out Bradenton is not just authentically unspoiled, but it is honestly green. I begin on the north end of Anna Maria Island, along Pine Avenue which bills itself as “The Greenest Little Main Street in America.”

I begin a stroll down the sand sidewalk (no toxic concrete here), and make a “resistance is futile” turn into Anna Maria Donuts, a designer bakery with hand-dipped gluten-glutted doughnuts so decadently good the place can’t be eco-friendly. But it is. It’s housed in a cluster of old, reborn buildings that together make up the “Historic Green Village,” a Net Zero Energy project with Platinum LED certification. There are rainwater cisterns that flush toilets; storm water that irrigates native landscaping; an air conditioning system that cools with underground water; solar-heated hot water; free recharging stations for electric vehicles; a fully air-conditioned jail with no doors, windows or roof; a vegan taco shop; and AMI Outfitters, “where men shop for gear; and women shop for men.” For the dénouement of the trip I decanter east, to the far reaches of Manatee County, to the greenest vinery in America, Bunker Hill Vineyard and Winery. Wine in Florida? An eco-vineyard? Who knew?

I was born in a Quonset hut in New Haven, Connecticut…they were popular housing units through and after WWII, but have since joined the architectural heap of history. So I’m always delighted when I come across one that’s in use. And here, at the end of a dirt driveway, is one of the iconic rounded steel huts, the portal into Bunker Hill. Outside the door are piles of empty wine bottles…looks like someone had quite the party last night. Inside, though, are even more empty bottles, neatly stacked on maple wood shelves.

Sitting at a long tasting table are owners Larry and Lenora Woodham, refugees from the corporate life, now living their green dream. Bunker Hill WineryLenora has to run to the vet to pick up the cat, so Larry offers to show me around. First, though, he explains the empty bottles. “We’ve never bought a bottle for our wine.” All the wine the Woodhams make goes into recycled bottles, all contributed by past customers, some of whom drive long distances to make the deposits. Out back is an intern scraping the labels off of old bottles.

But the Woodham sustainable practices go well beyond the recycled bottles. The vineyard drip irrigation system is solar-powered, only real oak corks seal the bottles (and used corks are sent to be recycled into cork tiles,) and all Bunker Hill bottles are sealed with genuine hot wax. All the wines are handcrafted and unfiltered, never blended, fermented with the skin of the grape. “The best wines of this planet are unfiltered,” gleams Larry.

Larry says most vineyard owners today filter their wine, and by doing so, cut a year from the fermentation process, allowing quicker vine-to-shelf delivery, helping the bottom line. Larry believes filters compromise the natural flavor, and often add undesirable additives, such as dried blood powder, gelatin, fish bladders and sugar. So, he and Lenora choose to add the extra year to make their wine as it was done in Europe centuries ago.

I follow Larry’s very small carbon footprints around the grounds. Radiating from a seep spring are vines of Florida Muscadine, growing as far as the eye can see. The grapes are handpicked, and brought to the pressing room, where they are hand crushed. The residue juice is taken into the adjacent climate-controlled fermentation room, where it sits for a couple weeks. Under the fermenting containers are large glass ampoules where the liquid is hand-siphoned, and eventually transferred into the 55-degree Cave, where the wine ages at least a year before being bottled, then hand labeled. Back at the tasting table Larry pours some samples of the fresh fruit wines that come through his scullery, from banana to key lime to cherry tomato and black and green tea. Ecotourism never tasted so good. What an authentic man, Larry is, a thoroughbred Floridian, and an archetypal personality for Manatee County. After all, it turns out, his great great Grandfather William Iredell Turner founded Bradenton. I step away, at a pace more unhurried than when I arrived.

Slow still gets you there.##  


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Town Manager Dave Bullock

Town Manager Dave Bullock

Vice Mayor David Brenner

Longboat Key Fire Rescue Chief Paul Dezzi

Town Manager Dave Bullock
I wish:
• That the community finds a way to embrace its unique and extraordinary human and natural assets and work together to improve the Key for current and future residents and visitors.

• No hurricanes for 2014.

• Endless, low-cost white sand that nature places on our beach for free.

• A redeveloped beautiful Colony.

• Increasing property values.

• Happy people.

• Peace.

• Calm seas, hungry fish that bite and full dive tanks.

Vice Mayor David Brenner
My 2014 wish list for Longboat Key is from the perspective of a citizen, a voter, a taxpayer and a commissioner.

The key is progress. It’s my wish that the majority of our citizens will recognize that change is happening despite what we do. Using the Urban Land Institute roadmap, we can influence how that change can benefit all of us without altering the character of the Key. It’s all about moving into the future with a well thought-out plan.

It’s also my wish that the United States can get back on the right track as a viable democracy without all the confrontation and backbiting that have become the norm. It is in our selfish interest to have a vibrant country and state in which we reside. The impact on Longboat Key is incalculable.

It is also my wish that members of the millennial generation will see the wisdom of living on Longboat Key, whether full time or part time. We need the energy they bring and the economic vitality created by these younger people, much like the Colony Beach Tennis Resort did in its heyday.

My genuine wish for good health extends to everyone here. As Tom Esselman of The Institute for the Ages will tell you, it is not your age that counts, but a mindset that knows no bounds. The only limit is how well we feel. Being creative and imaginative is a state of mind — hopefully an active lifestyle that takes advantage of all Longboat Key has to offer.

Happy holidays and a better 2014.

Commissioner Jack Duncan
I wish for peace on earth.

I wish in all our hearts and actions goodwill toward our neighbors.

I wish all residents of Longboat Key a safe, healthy and prosperous 2014.

Happy holidays.

Commissioner Terry Gans
A wish list is a difficult assignment, because I believe that if there is something you think is needed, or should be accomplished, we have to call upon the wisdom, focus and energy to make it happen. Wishing alone does not do it.

But, for the coming year on Longboat Key:

• May we treat each other as neighbors and friends.
• May we respect the sincerity and good intentions of others.
• May we use this respect and friendship to seriously discuss and debate the findings in the ULI study.
• May we move forward on those items we feel will serve our town for the future.
• May the legislature restore our ability to have referenda on density.
• May the Colony achieve the elusive Global Settlement.
• May the signals on GMD always be timed properly.
• May tropical storms and hurricanes stay away.
• May carriers embrace a small-cell solution for our remaining communications needs.
• May we all have good health.

Commissioner Lynn Larson
I wish for a complete settlement of all litigation involved with the Colony Beach Tennis Resort and the sight of a signed contract with a well financed and experienced hospitality developer. I also wish all buildings east of the Coastal Construction Line be demolished and retention, with extensive rehabilitation, of all salvageable buildings seaward of that construction line.

I wish and hope that our tax and insurance burden on our citizens doesn’t become such a burden that they have to relocate off the Key.

I wish that the commission could get its job done while most of our residents are in town and not handle big issues while they are gone in the summer. If Congress and the Legislature can do their job in so many days, we can, too.

I wish for a community center that revolves around citizen input from ULI recommendations that includes matching funding from private groups.

I wish for an updated charter that could move the fiscal year to accommodate the new commission schedule and other wishes listed.

I wish for underground utilities on the Key.

I wish for a building code that takes less than three years for an experienced developer to navigate.

I wish for building codes that would help residents of condominiums rebuild their units if they desired. To make homes safer with current hurricane standards and in step with higher ceilings, larger kitchens and baths that current buyers want would help change our Island from the one people wanted 30 years ago and retain our position as a top destination for visiting and buying homes.

I wish for an island that keeps municipal budgets in line with residents’ needs while remembering the pressure residents feel in their wallets with rising insurance rates and taxes. I wish for an island where the residents can still afford to live.

I wish for changes in our charter that would prohibit any Town Commission from incurring debt or committing the town to expenses, which would last more than a specific number of budget years without voter approval. No commission should have the power to commit future generations of taxpayers to millions of dollars without voter approval.

I wish for a vibrant north end of the Key with mixed-use development where housing is above commercial uses so that residents, who no longer wish to drive, could ride an elevator or walk to dinner, visit a hairdresser or utilize other services.

I wish to avoid turning the Centre Shops into the next Whitney Beach experience.

I wish that citizens will give much consideration to commitment of additional amenities without matching dollars for facilities from the private sector and ongoing annual budgets funded by private foundations.

I wish for more transparency in our town where citizens may follow what is happening in government. Our local press does a wonderful job of keeping the public informed but (residents) may interpret their view without input from other sources, such as more meeting broadcasts.

I wish for more community involvement from citizens. Perhaps if we do a better job of keeping them informed, we will accomplish this goal.

I wish for a date that we will make a final decision on how best to handle our poor communication issues.
I wish for many more tax dollars to cross the bridges and return to Longboat Key.

I wish for better cooperation from all parties involved in commission activities, including all commissioners so that all our wishes are accomplishments and we have an even better Longboat Key.

Many wishes involve complex issues that will consume substantial time and outside resources. Thank you to voters who returned me to office until March 2016 so that I have more time to work on these and other issues and not just wish for solutions.

Commissioner Phill Younger
Before looking to the future, I would like to note some good things that have been accomplished in 2013. For example: The long-increasing and festering pension debt for all employee groups has been stopped. Commission consensus ended the turmoil surrounding the controversial cell tower issue by agreeing that communications can be achieved without a tower. Re-codification of our land-use ordinances so that they will be in line with today’s realities and to adequately protect our citizens has begun.

Following the usual litany of items: peace on earth, goodwill to mankind, etc., for Longboat Key’s future in particular is:

• Completing fair and balanced re-codification of our land use ordinances

• Maintaining prudent control on our finances and millage rate, with no tax increases

• Resolving bureaucratic red tape issues so that we may begin actual implementation of our shoreline protection and beach nourishment projects

• Resolution of The Colony issues

• Leveraging the recent ULI evaluation and efforts by our subsequent committee to provide positive enhancements for our community

• Resolving issues surrounding the feasibility, benefits and possible location of a Community Center

• Continuing to prudently serve and protect all our residents, properties and interests, while recognizing that tourism and business must be reasonably and properly balanced to maintain and enhance our lifestyle

• That we will all arise each morning with an appreciation of our friends and loved ones and the opportunity to witness another day in this paradise in which we live

• To continue representing all residents in a fair and beneficial manner so as to keep Longboat Key an island known to us all as “paradise”

Commissioner Pat Zunz
My 2014 wish list for Longboat Key has two avenues to follow for a much-needed civil dialogue on Longboat Key. One avenue is neighborhood oriented, and the other is an island-wide approach.

I would like to see a series of neighborhood dialogues about some of the ideas ULI has recommended. These dialogues should address issues to specific neighborhoods as well as some island-wide issues. I think the town manager would be willing to help facilitate these neighborhood dialogues.

I would like to see some community-wide events at Joan M. Durante Park and Bayfront Park. At Durante Park I would like to see a bring-your-own sandwiches and drinks for an afternoon or evening of socialization and discussion, perhaps with the town manager as a facilitator of the discussion topics. At Bayfront Park I would like to see morning or afternoon “athletic” events — badminton, bocce, softball, tennis, kayaking — activities to bring people together for some fun.

And for a more ambitious island-wide undertaking, I would like to see something similar to the Symphony by the Sea, which recently enjoyed tremendous success on the island to the north of us. Perhaps we could do something similar at Durante Park, and have it catered by some of our wonderful Longboat Key restaurants.

Longboat Key Police Chief Pete Cumming
• Replace worn-out out crime scene van with a properly outfitted mini van.
• Update the police department’s patrol and support fleet.
• Increase our Marine Patrol unit to at least two officers for seven-day coverage.
• Establish a Citizens Police Academy and/or crime-prevention programs educating residents and improving community relationship with the police department.
• Create a full-time community affairs officer position to work with residents and homeowner associations.
• Update the police locker room and add a fitness center.
• Equip each officer with a laptop/tablet.
• Increase manpower to decrease overtime and improve the level of service.
• Add a bicycle officer to patrol behind the gates and Bay Isles shopping center.

Longboat Key Fire Rescue Chief Paul Dezzi
• A patient care electronic reporting system
• A combination mobile data terminal and tablet for reporting
• A communication repeaters in each vehicle for safety of responders while in high-rise buildings
• An updated incident command vehicle
• Updated breathing apparatus to be compatible with neighboring fire departments
• Accountability system for firefighter safety
• Updated fitness equipment for all town employees
• Stable workforce

Weldon Frost
• Settlement of a way to get rid of the $28 million pension unfunded liability.
• Settlement of the ongoing nonsense of the Colony so that the place can once again be a magnet for tourists who will help the local business community.
• Proceed with the ULI recommendations one way or the other so that we don’t have to wait the mandatory three years to get anything done on this island.

Commission Candidate Armando Linde
Here is my best wishes list for Longboat Key in 2014:

Above all, good health and harmony for one and all. ’Tis the season to forget old grudges and forgive past mistakes. After all, we truly live in a happy place!

Let’s aim at seeking unity of purpose in the months ahead as together we search for options to preserve and enhance the elegance of Longboat Key, its status as a premier community and its fame as an enviable resort destination.

Recent initiatives proposing the establishment of a focal point of activity on the island has led to a healthy conversation on how best to foster community spirit and a sense of pride among residents. As we seek common ground on ways to proceed, my wish is that we keep our feet firmly on the ground and consider options that are viable, affordable and benefit all island residents.

I wish wisdom to our governing body, various committees and town staff as they work through ways to streamline regulations without disturbing the feel of the island. There are funding challenges ahead, but they are far from insurmountable if we remain clear-headed and tackle them intelligently, as I am sure we will.

In this connection, we ought to find ways in 2014 to retain a more equitable share of the tax money the counties collect from us.

Finally, this is a wish and a promise on my part that the political campaign for the March election be conducted in a clean and positive manner, one that will serve to crystallize the issues facing the community and give voters clear choices.

As always, my very best wishes to everyone on Longboat Key …

Commission candidate Irwin Pastor
• I wish a wonderful happy healthy and prosperous New Year to Longboat Key residents and businesses.

• For a white knight to appear to facilitate and resolve the Colony issues.

• For the Longboat Key community to participate and support the Urban Land Institute Implementation Committee effort to recommend and evaluate the possible changes necessary to maintain and enhance the character of Longboat Key.

• For the Longboat Key Commission to have the insight and wisdom to make the necessary changes in the Comprehensive Plan and the modernization of Longboat Key’s codes and zoning to maintain and enhance the character of Longboat Key.

• That our town is successful in pursuing a legislative amendment to the new Florida state law HB537, which undermines and stalls land-use policies that our community has adopted and followed since 1984.

• That I be elected as Longboat Key commissioner at-large in the March 25 election. This would give me the opportunity to work with the commission and the town Staff to help facilitate and implement positive change for our residents and businesses of Longboat Key.

Happy New Year to all!

Commission candidate Ray Rajewski
That hurricanes stay far away from our shores.
Flood and wind insurance rates remain reasonable
The Colony issues are resolved and re-development begins.
Whitney Plaza begins to show signs of improvement.
2014 is an important election year; be informed and vote.
May God protect our service men and women overseas.
Continued good health and prosperity for all residents of Longboat Key. Enjoy all that it has to offer.

Jeff Mayers, general manager of the Longboat Key Club
• Continued growth in tourism
• Growth in the number of businesses on the Key
• Phenomenal weather particularly during the winter and spring seasons
• No hurricane activity
• Health and prosperity for our residents
• Membership growth for the Longboat Key Chamber of Commerce
• Creation of projects to enhance the quality of life through the Longboat Key Foundation

Bob Gault
I wish that the Colony Beach Tennis Resort parties will come to their senses, come to an agreement, level the property and build a new beautiful resort of which we can be proud.

I wish that the Longboat Key Hilton Beachfront Resort project will be approved as soon as possible so we can get that resort renovated and add additional hotel rooms.

I wish that the Longboat Key Club will present a new renovation-and-expansion project for the island to give us a beautiful new club that will help the vitality of this island.

Rabbi Jonathan Katz
I wish town leaders would challenge FDOT regulations that prevent communities from using stylized signposts that would provide measure of unique civic character. Longboat Key along Gulf of Mexico Drive would look so much more attractive and inviting if it featured distinctive signposts.

I wish more Jewish residents of Longboat Key would support the only Jewish congregation on Longboat Key.

I wish more people living in paradise would complain less and be thankful more. The glass is always much more half-full than half-empty on Longboat Key.

I wish there was a coffee shop in the Publix shopping center.

I wish there was a nice playground where children, parents and grandparents could spend some nice quality time together.

I wish Longboat Key had an inventive motto.

I wish there could be a small stage setup in the vicinity of Publix for community concerts and/or outdoor films.

I wish there was a weekly farmers market on the Key.

Lenny Landau
I love Longboat Key, and most people I know love it as well. However, although we all love Longboat Key, there are differences in our views of what the future will bring.

There are those who believe that all is well and that the best course of action is to do nothing. Others, like myself, believe that a do-nothing policy will hasten the demise of our beloved island.

Although the ULI study suggested many actions, in my opinion the most significant benefit was the data presented and observations confirming that a proactive program is required to assure our future … what I refer to as the “call to action.”

Note the following ULI observations:

1. Nearly all purchasing retirement or vacation properties had spent vacation time on Longboat Key

2. High property values with a shrinking pipeline of new purchasers

3. Buyers looking for newer products, which are in short supply: high ceilings, open floor plans, larger modern kitchens

4. Comp Plan and zoning codes are outdated

5. Seasonal traffic congestion

6. Residents and visitors require consistent and reliable wireless communications

7. Businesses struggle to survive in the off-season

My wish for Longboat Key for 2014 is that we come together as a community and agree on the issues.

Then, action plans addressing the issues can be developed that all can embrace and support.

Bob Simmons, chairman of the board of directors for the new Longboat Key Foundation
My wishes for Longboat Key in 2014 include a successful first -year launch of the new Longboat Key Foundation.

The foundation exists “for the support and benefit of exclusively charitable purposes in and for the benefit of Longboat Key and its residents.”

My wish is for the many wonderful and civic-minded residents of Longboat Key to contribute to the Longboat Key Foundation and its endeavors.

Milan Adrian
My wish list for Longboat Key in 2014 includes the following:

• A resolution for the Colony that satisfies all parties fairly, including the demolition of the existing facilities and new construction of a world-class resort and tennis facility. Along with this rebuilding, this area of Longboat Key will become the tennis mecca of Southwest Florida because it includes the Longboat Key Public Tennis Center and the Longboat Key Club Tennis Gardens. This wish would create a huge tourist destination and increase demand for housing and raise real estate values.

• Revisit the DROP program for public employees and drop it. The commission passing this outrageous benefit was nothing other than repeating the mistakes of prior commissions. Small benefits eventually become large benefits and costs, and that’s how the town got onto its unfunded pension liability mess to begin with. Drop the DROP.

• Longboat Key voters many years ago rejected a $6 million community center. If any center is to be built, let the financing come from the Sarasota County 1% tax approved a few years ago to fund recreational activities. Longboat Key tax payers contribute an enormous proportion of real estate taxes toward public schools for the few students residing on the island. John Ringling was smart in one regard: He withdrew Longboat Key from the city of Sarasota. What he failed to do is withdraw Longboat Key from both Sarasota and Manatee counties, a far more costly mistake.

• If a town center is to be built, it needs to be in the area surrounding Publix, CVS, post office, tennis center, etc., because that area has already become the unofficial town center with all the amenities clustered together. The Bayfront Park can continue as is and eventually be torn down as it deteriorates and the land is sold for private development.

• On a macro level, America must restore itself as a nation of individuals pursuing his/her own dreams of independence and self-sufficiency to maximize the individual’s prosperity and happiness. Each person pursuing his own goals simultaneously creates a nation of communal prosperity where everyone benefits and thrives. Communism does not work — the collapse of the Soviet Union and central planning is proof positive. Each maximizing his own results in the ultimate prosperity of all.

Bradford Saivetz
1. That the residents of Longboat Key awake from their deep slumber and apathy and understand that their vote is important and install a Town Commission that works “For the People,” and not for the commercial interests that flourish here

2. That the town commissioners consider paying for the privilege of serving, rather than looking for compensation.

3. That when it comes to spending our money, the town commissioners understand that things that affect our quality of life deserve more consideration than those attracting the casual visitor. (This includes adequate compensation for the Town employees who make this town what it is.)

4. That the Town Commission relinquish its “final say” control over plan approval which, rightfully, should be returned to the Planning and Zoning Board.

5. That the Planning and Zoning Board members be elected by the citizenry and not continue as the “Old Boys Club” and Farm League Team of the Commission.

6. That the town commissioners and Planning and Zoning Board members be elected; two from, and by, the voters in each district and one at-large.

7. That the Town Commission remove itself from supervision over the town staff and allow the town manager do its job.

8. That the town dispense with a town attorney chosen from the local field — and engage a town attorney, properly accredited, who works for the town without any baggage of local affiliations or connections.

9. That the Town turn back the clock and reinstall the zoning laws and the Comprehensive Plan in effect prior to the application relating to the Key Club expansion proposal. The Town has since been doing handsprings in order to accommodate the departures requested in that proposal. Those laws and Comprehensive Plan served us well and helped create the ambiance here.

10. That, in the event that further development plans are proposed in our town, that the reviewing personnel re-read the Zoning Laws with respect to parking areas and see that they require “mature trees” (not Palms) installed at every six parking spaces. I can understand why planning professional present lavishly pre-stamped landscaping plans (I admit guilt in this regard, back in the real world) but, obviously, they do not always result in the same properly landscaped and shaded parking lot which formerly existed in the previous Avenue of the Flowers and, now presentg in the present Centre Shops.

11.That the Town Commission cease to spend their time and our money on their dream of a Community Center, complete with Pickle Ball courts.

12. That the Town Commission cease to spend their time and our money on their dream of a Town Center, complete with dog runs and Realty Offices.

Madelyn Spoll
• Residents working together to bring LBK into the future

• Island-wide communication (cellular and/or Wi-Fi) and that it be the best available now and not wait for some future technology to come down the line

• The completion of the Comprehensive Plan and codes, done as a priority, not something that drags on forever.

• Bayfront Park being turned into a recreational area using the plan put forth by Sarasota County as a starting point.

David Novak
For those considering a residence here, welcome. For those looking to leave, thanks for being part of us.

For those eager to contribute, there’s a cause that can use your talents. For those seeking rest and relaxation, don’t overdose. For those declining with age, you can still grow in importance. For those who service us with their labor and skills, take pride in that we wouldn’t be the same without you.

Ann Roth and Gaele Barhold, former co-presidents of the former Longboat Key Public Interest Committee (PIC)
Our wish would be to have a collegiality among our leaders and citizens that would alleviate the impediments to the necessary revitalization of Longboat Key while maintaining its character and insuring its future.

Bud, Vera, Mark and Mike Freeman
Many thanks for giving us the opportunity of extending our wish list for 2014.

1. We wish for speed bumps along Bayview Drive to control speeding by some drivers who pay no attention to signage. Note: This request has not been checked with our neighbors but is a personal observation that has worsened over the past year.

2. We wish for safer access to Gulf of Mexico Drive from Bayview Drive. At the entrance to Bayview Drive off/on the GMD from Bayview Drive, the town graciously planted shrubs, which are desirable to a point. The point is, these shrubs are apparently planted without regard to automotive safe access to and from GMD. We wish for relief.

3. As 32-year, full-time residents, we have, over the years, noted a heavy increase in bicycle traffic along GMD. The roadside bike paths are about half the needed width for safety concerns, making it necessary, all too often, for motorists to cross the yellow lines to keep clear of bikers. This condition is exacerbated by seasonal traffic increases when many much-older (some infirm) drivers are traveling GMD. There appears to be enough space on either side of the roadway for another 2 feet of paved bike path without an adverse effect upon the scenery. (I personally always use the original bike path/sidewalk as a result.) Frankly, the roadside path is downright dangerous to life and limbs and takes just one thoughtless zig or zag of a biker to cause a disaster. We doubt anything will be done about this but thought it worth noting anyway for the record.

4. We wish that all wannabes who run for local office would be required to have lived here on the Key full time for at least 10 years prior to filing to run for office. After 32 years on the Key, we have come to believe this would provide a far better understanding of Longboat’s needs than lesser-time residents.

5. We also wish to thank you and all members of the Observer for providing us with the Observer. We enjoy it very much and watched it grow with Longboat Key.

6. We wish the islanders would come out and support our library and long-suffering Historical Society. The history of financial support should be embarrassing to everyone.

7. We also wish to thank the town for a great job in keeping Longboat Key as it is. Those I have spoken with feel we Longboaters enjoy the best there is in facilities to include fire and personnel protection and great administration.

Thanks for this opportunity and very best wishes to you and everyone there for a wonderful holiday season and prosperous New Year.

Rusty Chinnis
This year, I wish the Town Commission carefully weigh the benefits and costs of beach nourishment, particularly putting hardened structures on the beaches. There are lots of examples of the use of structures that could be examined to assess their ability to perform as intended.

I believe a review of the in-place structures will reveal that they are marginally effective and may actually be detrimental. I would suggest anyone involved in the process or interested in it. Google and watch the documentary “Shored Up.”

It’s my wish that the commission consider more open space projects for the Key. One suggestion would be on the north end of the Key perhaps in the Village on the east side of Palm Drive bordered on the west by vacant lots on Longboat Drive South.

I also wish the commission continues to listen to the people of the Village to maintain the area’s character.
I wish the town would financially support Sarasota Bay Watch, the 501(c)3, environmental organization that is working to protect and enhance the quality of Sarasota Bay. Sarasota Bay Watch is the organization that has released 54 million scallop larvae in the last two years in an effort to re-establish stable breeding populations.

Dr. Michael P. Crosby, president and CEO of Mote Marine Laboratory
Ocean literacy: Our community is fascinated with the oceans, just like our scientists and educators at Mote. However, many underestimate how much our oceans matter to life on Earth. More than 2.6 billion people rely on seafood as a major source of protein. Half of Earth’s oxygen comes from phytoplankton, tiny ocean life forms. Our own Sarasota Bay is an estuary of national significance, providing essential habitat for many animals. A major goal of our informal science-education programs here is to help more members of our community understand why oceans matter and why science is important in helping to inform decisions that may impact marine and coastal ecosystems.

Volunteerism: Like many nonprofits, Mote benefits immeasurably from hardworking volunteers — in our case, more than 1,600 this year. In 2014, I hope to see this selfless spirit grow to benefit all nonprofits in need and our entire community.

Working together: I would like to see more local organizations team up to solve problems important to our community. I’ve experienced the power of teamwork firsthand during our efforts to restore depleted scallop populations here. Mote scientists are developing and implementing shellfish restoration projects by working closely with community volunteers in Sarasota Bay Watch, the Sarasota Bay Estuary Program and other partners — including international partners from Japan and even local high schools students. I hope such teamwork will flourish in the future.

Appreciation: The New Year is a great time to renew our appreciation for iconic programs that give back to Sarasota. For example, Mote’s Sea Turtle Patrol has monitored local nesting beaches to help conserve endangered sea turtles, providing data to local municipalities and educating local residents, for more than 31 years — even while funding sources have fluctuated, declined or disappeared. I encourage readers to find the program most meaningful to them and support it however they can.




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Being a supervisor is a family tradition for Brock

“As a whole, I can say how proud I am that we have so many smart and capable county employees that are full of ideas and can take the ball and run with,” he continued. “We’ve allowed them to do that and I think we are seeing a lot of (benefits) in not only the dollars, but the morale of the employees.”

One of the things Brock has said he is most proud of during his tenure on the board is the restoration project done on the Jasper County Courthouse. A remodeled basement and the instillation of geothermal heating and cooling were among some of the new features.

Brock is also proud that this current board doesn’t just pass the budget based on a year by year basis, but prefers to look at trajectories for 10 to 15 years in the future to ensure that the county is in good shape long after they are out of office.

Just like board chairman Dennis Stevenson, Brock works comes in multiple days a week to check in on the goings on within the county and serves on a number of other boards and committees.

On a day in which he and the other members of the board have already met and approved a number of items, Brock took a look the snowy grounds behind the care facility as he tries to think of a simple answer to a complicated question:

What is the typical day like as member of the board of supervisors?

“I don’t know if there is such a thing,” Brock said. “It’s really nothing typical about it. One day you’re on geothermal, trying to educate yourself and make a decision on that, and the next day its mental health reorganization and the next day it could be building a demolition out at the county home.”

“There’s nothing real typical about it, and it seems like you need to know a little about a lot,” he finished.

Staff writer Ty Rushing may be contacted at (641) 792-3121, ext. 426, or at

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Northfield streetscape a little thing with big impact

Posted: Tuesday, December 24, 2013 1:06 pm

Updated: 3:45 pm, Tue Dec 24, 2013.

Northfield streetscape a little thing with big impact


Witt Brothers has become the latest business to take advantage of a city program that provides money to help businesses improve their exteriors.

We hope more businesses will become aware of the program and join in.

The auto shop at 701 Division St. earlier this month entered into a cost-sharing agreement with the city to construct a raised planter bed and erect 15 linear feet of arched fencing similar to that of three other businesses downtown and the Riverwalk.

The City Council approved an amount not to exceed $4,000 for the streetscape enhancement project. The money will come from Tax Increment Finance District 4, which encompasses downtown.

The Quarterback Club in 2010, Eco Gardens in 2011 and NAPA Auto Parts in 2012 are all businesses that have utilized the city’s streetscape improvement program to date. They have all used the same style of fence, which matches the style of fence the city chose in its public spaces as well.

The program is a key initiative of the Downtown Streetscape Framework Plan that was passed by the City Council back in 2006. This isn’t Big Brother, or some scary push to force businesses to conform to a certain look. Rather it’s an incentive for businesses that don’t always have a lot of extra money to spend on bushes, fencing and flowers. The city provides some of the money for a project and the businesses do the rest.

The results are lovely. Drive by the Quarterback Club, on arguably one of the most visible blocks in the city, to see the effect of the program on a downtown business. Fencing and shrubs surround the front of the building, offering a bit of privacy for the new outdoor dining area.

This isn’t to say that businesses in general are lax about the look of their buildings or the landscaping on their lots. We are certain their money is being spent on important priorities. This program is just a good way for downtown property owners to get some help with simple improvements that have significant aesthetic value overall.

Reach Managing Editor Jaci Smith at 333-3134, or follow her at @FDNJaciSmith

© 2013 All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


Tuesday, December 24, 2013 1:06 pm.

Updated: 3:45 pm.

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Milwaukee Brewers hope to start rolling out the rain barrels

It won’t be easy rolling out these barrels, Milwaukee.

Groundskeepers at Miller Park next year could be tapping extra-large kegs set out at three locations around the outside of the stadium. Each barrel would hold 1,500 gallons, or more than 48 regular barrels of beer.

When rain falls on Miller Park’s expansive 8.5-acre roof, some of the water would drain to the barrels instead of storm sewers that discharge to the Menomonee River, as part of a proposed storm-water management plan.

The three barrels would collect nearly 100,000 gallons of rain during the plant growing seasons of spring, summer and fall, according to a preliminary study by The Sigma Group of Milwaukee for the stadium district board.

A tanker truck could pull up to each barrel and be filled with water for irrigating flowers and plots of trees, shrubs and grass planted around the parking lots and walkways. The baseball club’s irrigation truck uses 1,000 gallons of water a day in June and September, and double that amount, or 2,000 gallons a day, in July and August, a Sigma Group report says.

Installing the barrels would reduce by 53% the amount of drinking water from the Milwaukee Water Works that is purchased by the Brewers baseball club for exterior irrigation, Miller Park Stadium District Executive Director Mike Duckett said.

The 4,500 gallons of storage capacity with three barrels also would be a small first step toward decreasing peak flows of storm water in each rainstorm from the stadium property to the Menomonee River, Duckett said.

A state storm-water discharge permit issued to the stadium district this year required it to study options for collecting and using rainwater, described as “harvesting” by regulators.

Apart from the extra-large barrels, Sigma also evaluated porous pavement, underground cisterns for interior turf irrigation, and small rain gardens or basins constructed along roads and parking lots to intercept some of the rainwater that usually flows to storm sewers.

The consultant’s recommendation to start the harvest with three rain barrels, and expand from there in the future, appears to be the most cost-effective strategy for the team, said Bryan Hartsook, a water resources engineer with the state Department of Natural Resources in Waukesha. Hartsook wrote the state permit.

Hartsook likes the use of big, above-ground tanks — each barrel would stand nearly 8 feet tall and six feet wide — to attract the attention of fans and educate the public about the benefits of reusing rainwater, he said.

Proposed exterior locations would ensure the tall rain barrels are visible to everyone attending games: at the clock tower outside the north wall of the stadium, in line with home plate; outside the right field corner; and outside the left field corner.

Hartsook notified Duckett on Thursday that the report satisfies the permit requirement.

When the rain barrels fill in a storm, a bypass pipe would divert water back to storm sewers to prevent spilling onto parking lots and exterior walkways. Water also would be diverted to storm sewers in winter when there is no need to harvest rain or melting snow for irrigation, according to the consultant’s report.

The cost of buying and installing each extra-large rain barrel is estimated at $30,000 to $35,000, The Sigma Group says. The price includes cutting into existing roof drainage pipes to reroute rain to the barrels, and providing bypass pipes to divert overflow back to storm sewers.

Barrel naming rights

The Brewers baseball club likely will sell corporate sponsorships, or naming rights, to each barrel as a way to reduce its costs, Duckett said.

The stadium district also plans to apply in early 2014 for a green infrastructure grant from the Milwaukee Metropolitan Sewerage District to pare costs of the installation, he said. In 2012, MMSD contributed $1.2 million in grants to help businesses and communities pay for constructing porous pavement, drainage swales, below-ground cisterns and other storm-water runoff controls.

Duckett said he has not asked the stadium district board to fund any portion of the costs. The Brewers likely will be tagged for whatever share is not covered by sponsorships and grants since the stadium district board is focused on retiring the Miller Park 0.1% sales tax as quickly as possible, he said.

Miller Park opened in 2001, and sales tax revenue in part pays off stadium construction debt.

In March of this year, the stadium district’s financial adviser reported the sales tax could be sunset between 2016 and 2020. The timing will be dependent on annual sales tax revenue, Duckett said.

Installing oversize rain barrels is in line with other recent Brewers projects aimed at conserving water, increasing energy efficiency and boosting recycling of waste, as part of a “Brewing a Greener Game” initiative started in 2011.

The park recycles 7 to 8 tons of waste from each game. The installation of high-efficiency urinals and other conservation measures saves more than 5 million gallons of water a year.

Last year, Miller Park became the first baseball stadium with a retractable roof to be LEED certified — Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design — by the U.S. Green Building Council. The certification recognizes buildings designed to lower operating costs, reduce waste sent to landfills and conserve energy and water.


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GARDENING: Adding winter interest to your garden

Winter interest

Winter interest

There are several types of plants, both annual and perennial, that birds love to feed on during the winter.

Amy Andrychowicz

Posted: Tuesday, December 24, 2013 7:00 am

GARDENING: Adding winter interest to your garden


Chanhassen Villager


I’ve been thinking a lot about winter interest in the garden lately. It’s probably because December has not been kind to us so far, giving us lots of cold and snow. On these frigid days when nobody wants to be outside, I appreciate the winter interest in my gardens more than ever.

Incorporating winter interest into the garden is a way to continue to enjoy the gardens even after everything goes dormant and the landscape would otherwise be baron. Some people leave plants in the garden so that birds and animals have a source of food in the winter; others purposely add plants, colorful structures and hardscapes into the design of their landscaping with winter interest in mind.

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Tuesday, December 24, 2013 7:00 am.

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