ANNA MARIA ISLAND -- Colorful beach-changing cabanas will pop up on Anna Maria Island in the next few weeks.
The installations are part of Manatee County's effort in alleviating the stress on its current restrooms on the island, filled to the brim with beachgoers.
After presenting a prototype at a recent Coalition of Barrier Island Elected Officials meeting, one station was planted about 250 feet north of the Coquina Concession at Coquina Beach on July 2.
"It was used for the July 4th weekend," said Charlie Bishop, director of the Manatee County Property Management Department. "I'm hearing from my staff it was a huge success."
The beach-changing caban
as, which will be maintained by the Property Management Department and are being built in-house, are smaller than 50 square feet and feature a skylight, bench, multiple hooks and an occupied/unoccupied door lever. Bishop said there are also plans to install timed mag locks; the stations don't have overnight locks as of now.
"We have the ability to go to 25 to 30 (beach-changing cabanas), but for this initial first wave, we're only building five," Bishop said Monday.
The county plans to get community feedback before it proceeds with adding more changing stations.
According to Bishop, the other four stations will be installed in four to six weeks -- three at Coquina Beach and two at Manatee Public Beach.
As for the color of the cabanas, there was some debate among island officials about which direction to go. Holmes Beach Commissioner David Zaccagnino liked colorful stations. SueLynn, mayor of Anna Maria, and Holmes Beach Commissioner Jean Peelen disagreed and spoke for more toned-down hues.
After hiring a consultant, the county went with its signature colors, rust and turqoise.
In an email, Nicholas Azzara, information outreach manager for the county, said the colors are the latest in a series of efforts to rebrand Manatee County assets with the two hues.
"In Sept. 2012, the County Commission formally adopted a new marketing and branding campaign for use by the Bradenton Area Convention and Visitors Bureau. That campaign included the new sunshine logo and primary colors (rust and turquoise) that were drawn from elements of the geographic area," Azzara stated in the email. "You'll notice the new logo and colors on MCAT buses, County vehicles and some signage and on many uniforms."
The beach-changing cabanas also are open on the bottom, which makes Bradenton Beach Mayor William Shearon happy.
"That helps to get air circulating so it's not too hot in there," Shearon said Monday afternoon, adding that police officers will also be able to see if anyone is sleeping in the stations.
According to Shearon, many of the island's free trolley drivers have problems using the county restrooms because of long lines.
"Mom bring her three kids and the only place to change is in the restroom," Shearon said.
These stations may provide some relief.
"I know it will definitely help," Shearon said.
Amaris Castillo, Law Enforcement/Island Reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7051. You can follow her on Twitter @AmarisCastillo.