Yes, beautify Manatee gateways for economy

September 24, 2013 

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Barricades line State Road 64 east of Carlton Arms Boulevard as work continues. The project to resurface the existing roadway and expand it from four to six lanes is proceeding longer than expected due to holidays and weather delays. A completion date of August has been extended to late October to early November. GRANT JEFFERIES/Bradenton Herald

GJEFFERIES@BRADENTON.COM Buy Photo

Manatee County should indeed embark on a broad effort to embellish the key gateways into the community ahead of the 2017 World Rowing Championships. County Administrator Ed Hunzeker issued that challenge at the best setting possible, the 2013 Keep Manatee Beautiful Awards Celebration.

The organization honors outstanding endeavors by citizens who enrich the county's communities and our quality of life through visible improvements. As the keynote speaker at the celebration, Hunzeker's speech title laid out his goal -- "Future Beautification of Manatee County."

As we've previously stated, the international rowing event will be a prime showcase for the region with an anticipated 100,000 competitors and visitors coming and a worldwide viewing audience of a predicted 130 million.

Manatee beautification efforts will serve to boost the appeal of the county and the economy.

Landscaped medians along two key arterials off Interstate 75 -- State Roads 70 and 64 -- would match the appeal along University Parkway, the other gateway off the highway.

Stronger signage is also vital in order to steer visitors to our best assets, from the historic fishing village of Cortez to the superb beaches on Anna Maria Island to the many attractions along Riverwalk in downtown Bradenton.

In his speech, Hunzeker told the audience of 175 people, "We have done a lot in Manatee County, but we haven't done enough. We have great beaches and we have Riverwalk and we have IMG and Premier Sports Academy in Lakewood Ranch, but we need to revisit the look of our community. We need to improve our curb appeal."

We couldn't agree more with his assessment that county medians are lackluster and landscaping is essential. "If you look at our community development districts, that is the look I envision in our public medians," Hunzeker said.

That's a steep challenge, for sure, one that demands a public-private partnership to achieve, as Hunzeker explained. We encourage participation from the development, tourism and real estate industries.

Keep Manatee Beautiful Executive Director Ingrid McClellan expressed enthusiasm for the project, stating, "Our reaction is that we have been ready to get started yesterday."

Here's an opportunity to corral the volunteer and community spirit among the awards ceremony crowd of residents dedicated to civic improvement.

While Hunzeker specifically cited S.R. 70 and 64, we would add another key gateway into Manatee County as one in dire need of beautification -- the southern entrance via Tamiami Trail, also known as U.S. 41 and 14th Street West.

This seven-lane stretch of asphalt should mirror the Sarasota County gateway with landscaped medians instead of a wide open turn lane that invites head-on collisions.

We encourage Manatee County government to take the lead in establishing a community-wide effort to produce results from this idea -- beautification that will pay dividends well beyond one event.

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