Fla. County Votes to Keep Beach Camping
Campers won their battle to keep Turtle Beach Campground in Sarasota, Fla., when commissioners voted unanimously Wednesday (Jan. 10) to include camping in any plans they consider for updating Turtle Beach Park.
The decision comes after more than a year of debate over what to do with the 1.75-acre campground that the county bought for $6.2 million in 2006. Campers came out in force at public meetings on the issue, contradicting reports from neighbors of the campground who said it was mostly used by out-of-towners and that it attracts a noisy and undesirable element, according to the Sarasota Herald-Tribune.
Commissioners barely looked at three mix-and-match plans from county consultant Glatting Jackson Kercher Anglin before wading into the issue.
They had already heard from about a dozen local campers and their children, who used commissioners' public comments time to lobby to keep the campground open.
Siesta Key resident Damir Strmel was alone in her opposition to retaining camping during public comments, though the Siesta Key Association and individual residents of the key have come out strongly against the campground.
Strmel said retaining camping at the site violates the county's comprehensive plan, which calls for parks that serve the most taxpayers.
"Even today, there are 10 sites rented and only one of them has a Florida plate," Strmel told commissioners.
But campers pointed to Sarasota's abundant parks and the uniqueness of the campground – it is one of a handful of such beachfront sites in the state – and said it is a tourist draw as well as a favorite getaway for them and their families.
The county runs the campground and charges $30 to $60 a night per space.
After voting on the camping issue, commissioners planned a tour of the park in the near future to get a better idea of their options.