Garden Lakes residents plead with county to halt Pearce Canal erosion

jajones1@bradenton.comFebruary 2, 2014 

EAST MANATEE -- Once again, erosion has taken a bite out of the banks of Pearce Canal, felling trees, leaving a section of fence suspended in midair, and creeping ever closer to several homes in the Garden Lakes community.

It has been a constant battle to stop the loss of backyards since the late 1980s, with Manatee County officials periodically reinforcing the banks of the canal with riprap and concrete blocks.

Drought-ending rains last summer undid some of the work done more than a decade ago, residents said, and accelerated the loss of soil into the canal.

Pearce Canal flows from retention ponds near Sarasota-Bradenton International Airport north toward the Braden River and Manatee River, and past Garden Lakes, an over-55 community located south of State Road 70 East,

off 37th Street East.

"In the last 10 years we've lost eight feet behind here," said Mary Lou Moore, president of one of the villages at Garden Lakes.

Pearce Canal behind Moore's house resembles a 20-foot ravine, with trees leaning crazily toward the slow-moving water.

"We are losing ground. We have tried a number of things," said Bill McConnell, a Garden Lakes resident who serves as architecture and engineering committee chairman.

Residents have business cards from about eight county staff members who have visited the community and viewed the erosion. But so far, those visits haven't translated into repairs, other than removal of two trees that fell into the canal.

"We have a serious problem. Please stop the erosion," Moore said.

Pat Harper, president of the master association that represents the 500-member community, said that at this point residents aren't asking the county to restore land that has been lost to erosion. They just want the erosion stopped. "It's a scary thing," Harper said.

Moore was away during the heavy rains that fell last summer, and was shocked when she returned home and saw the fresh erosion.

"I couldn't believe it," Moore said, adding that she is concerned that a new neighborhood planned for the area will add even more runoff into Pearce Canal.

In a letter dated Nov. 1, 2013, attorney Stephen W. Thompson wrote a letter to Ed Hunzeker, Manatee County administrator, on behalf of Garden Lakes.

"For many years this community has suffered significant erosion problems from the Pearce Canal because of, what we believe to be, poor and now non-existent maintenance of the Pearce Canal, This canal is now a county conveyance that is the responsibility of Manatee County," Thompson wrote.

Thompson requested that the county take another look at the problem and work with Garden Lakes on a "resolution and comprehensive solution."

Nick Azzara, county spokesman, said that the Public Works staff member who knows about Pearce Canal was unavailable Friday. Public Works Director Ron Schulhofer would be able to provide a response for the county on Monday, he said.

James A. Jones Jr., East Manatee reporter, can be contacted at 941-745-7053 or on Twitter: @jajones1.

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