Governor stops in Sarasota on Friday morning where he presented the grant to the city for The Bay environmental projects. The grant will be used for environmental restoration and storm-resistant infrastructure.
Gov. Ron DeSantis stopped in Sarasota early Friday to present a grant of $10.4 million toward The Bay Sarasota project. The grant will be used for environmental restoration and infrastructure along the park’s shoreline.
DeSantis briefly met with Mayor Erik Arroyo and members of the Bay Park Conservancy, the group leading the project in partnership with the city.
“It was a brief, short-notice kind of thing. The governor spoke briefly and it was a very low-key announcement,” said AG Lafley, the CEO of Bay Park Conservancy. “But it secured a $10 million grant from the state of Florida for environmental projects.”
The Bay, a planned 53-acre park and event venue near the Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall, includes half a mile of shoreline that the new grant will be used to restore. The land along the shoreline will be elevated, native plants will be planted and infrastructure will be made storm-resistant.
With the new grant, shoreline projects are expected to be completed in the next four to six years, according to Bay Park Conservancy Chief Implementation Officer Bill Waddill. The park in its entirety is expected to be completed in eight to 10 years.
“This gives us the ability to develop a more-resilient shoreline,” Waddill said. “If we’re building on this park for 50 or 100 years, it’s important to make it resilient. It’s great to see millions of dollars going into environmental causes. It shows something great about the officials here in Florida.”
Bay Park Conservancy has planned to elevate roads in the park to prevent flooding and mentioned sea-level data and weather trends in its grant proposal. Among the roads, Van Wezel Way, which leads to the performing arts venue.
While the projects intend to preserve the park and historic buildings, restoring the natural environment along the shoreline has also been a focus and has already seen progress this year. Man-made structures have been replaced with natural shoreline material and the new grant will further those efforts.
“The first phase of environmental restoration has already taken place,” Lafley said. “It’s taking down the man-made stuff and restoring it to it’s natural state. We’ve already totally restored the bayou and mangroves and have created a bridge across the bayou.”
Hog Creek, a narrow stream within the park, is a specific area the grant will be used towards. The creek’s water will be restored with native, natural materials in an effort to further restore the area.
The Bay Park Conservancy has planned to build an open space lawn, a circular boardwalk, a food and beverage pavilion and a mangrove bayou in the park once all projects are completed. While the park, which is expected to host events, has prompted concerns from residents who live in the area, it could benefit the entire community, according to Lafley.
“This is great for Sarasota,” Lafley said. “I love what the mayor (Arroyo) said today. He said, ‘I don’t care if you’re a Republican or Democrat, a Libertarian or a vegetarian. What happened today is good for Sarasota.’”