EAST MANATEE -- The 2017 World Rowing Championship will be coming to Manatee-Sarasota counties for 10 days.
Manatee County has a choice, county administrator Ed Hunzeker told an audience of 175 Thursday night at the 2013 Keep Manatee Beautiful Awards Celebration at the Polo Grill on Main Street in Lakewood Ranch.
The county can sit on its oars or seize the opportunity of a moment on the world's stage to enhance landscaping and signage to look striking, Hunzeker said.
"We have done a lot in Manatee County, but we haven't done enough," Hunzeker told the audience, which included scores of award winners. "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."
Hunzeker said county medians are lackluster and need landscaping to achieve a well-groomed look.
"If you look at our community development districts, that is the look I envision in our public medians," Hunzeker said.
The county administrator specifically named state roads 70 and 64 and into Manatee Avenue West as thoroughfares in need of a facelift over the next four years.
Hunzeker also said putting up signs will make a huge dif
ference to the visitors.
"We have one of the few remaining fishing villages in the country, but there is no sign to tell people how to get to Cortez," Hunzeker said. "People will be coming into Manatee County from Tampa and Miami. Will they know how to get to IMG, G.T. Bray Park or Port Manatee, where their rowing shells will be delivered? How will they find anything?"
It will take money to fulfill Hunzeker's challenge and he told the crowd that a public-private partnership is the only way.
"We wouldn't cut the budget to do this," Hunzeker said. "It would have to come from the growth portion of the budget. We would like to think the tax base would grow in the future and there will revenues from gas tax and other transportation related taxes for medians. But we will need to partner privately also to put our best foot forward."
Keep Manatee Beautiful Executive Director Ingrid McClellan embraced Hunzeker's suggestions and said she needs volunteers ready to start working and private partners.
"Our reaction is that we have been ready to get started yesterday," McClellan said.
Though enhancing signage and landscaing would involve county funding, it would also require some private effort, Hunzeker said.
McClellan found some volunteer spirit in the banquet room filled with people who claimed awards in 2013 for doing their part to keep Manatee beautiful.
Among them were MaryAnn "Maz" Zyla and Roger "HooDat" Murphree of the Anna Maria Island Privateers who won the 2013 Adopt-A-Road Award.
The Privateers adopted three roads to patrol for litter and quarterly cleanups, including Marina, Palm and Gulf drives, which total 2.75 miles.
"They have one of the longest stretch of road miles adopted, at 2.75 miles and they have been doing it since the 2000, which is not a record, but one of the longest tenures," McClellan said.
"The Privateers have been part of this community forever and will be always be," Zyla said.
Keep Manatee Beautiful award winners
These volunteers surpassed the norm in doing quarterly cleanups and longevity of adoption and marking storm drains to prevent stormwater pollution.
Adopt-A-Highway Program: 1, Ellenton-Parrish Lions clean U.S. 301 from 97th Avenue East to 18th Street East; 2, Florida Power & Light Co. cleans State Road 62, 1 mile east and 1 mile west of plant entrance.
Adopt-A-Road Program: 1, Anna Maria Island Privateers clean 2.75 miles on Marina, Palm and Gulf drives from 52nd Street to 81st Street; and 2, Terra Ceia Village Improvement Association cleans 5.5 miles on Bayshore Drive from Terra Ceia Road/72nd Street West to Terra Ceia Road/73rd Street West and from 21st Avenue West to Rubonia Bridge.
Adopt-A-Shore Program: 1, Lincoln Middle School Student Council cleans Palmetto Estuary Preserve; and 2, Southeast High School Key Club cleans Kingfish boat ramp.
Storm Drain Marking: Daniel Clancy and family marked 213 storm drains.
Green schools have a litter- and graffiti-free campus, landscape using native Florida plants, recycle, conserve natural resources and energy sources, and contribute to the community's physical environment. The following winners were determined by the Education Committee)
Leave Your Mark Schools include these schools: 1, Anna Maria Elementary School; 2, Bayshore High School; 3, Braden River Middle School; 4, Daughtrey Preparatory School of Arts and Sciences; 5, Kinnan Elementary School; 6, Lee Middle School; 7, Lincoln Middle School; 8, Manatee High School; 9. Manatee School of Arts and Sciences; 10, Palmetto High School; 11. Rowlett Elementary School; 12, Southeast High School.
Elementary school: Palma Sola Elementary.
Middle school: Nolan Middle School.
High school: Braden River High School.
Higher education: MTI Main Campus.
Recycling awards honor those going beyond the norm to recycle goods used in the workplace or at home that otherwise would be discarded. Winners include:
Government: Braden River Park.
Small business: Bunker Hill Vineyard & Winery and Ocean-Aire Conditioning Inc.
Large business: Lakewood Ranch Medical Center.
Adult organization: Manatee County UF/IFAS Master Gardener Volunteers.
Individual: Victor Scarlino.
For landscapes that surpassed the norm for design, maintenance, neighborhood enhancement, community awareness, and use of native and drought tolerant plants. Winners include:
Small business winner: Mixon Fruit Farms. Nominees: Blalock Walters, Palmetto Riverside B&B, Tree Umph Adventure Course.
Large business winner: Benderson Development Northwest Promenade.
Public open space winner: Pride Community Park. Nominee: Bradenton Riverwalk.
Public building winner: University of South Florida Sarasota-Manatee.
Neighborhood Community winner: Tanglewood Environmental Preservation Association.
Those demonstrating leadership in cleaning up and improving the community environment through litter prevention, preventing illegal dumping, beautification and minimizing impacts of waste. Winners include:
Law enforcement winner: Manatee County Government Code Enforcement Division.
Small business winners: 1, Historic Green Village, one of only a handful of Net-Zero and LEED Platinum projects in the world; 2, Pine Avenue Restoration Group. Nominee: Flutterby Garden, rare butterfly business thriving in Bradenton.
Large business winner: Lakewood Ranch Community Development Districts. Nominee: Neal Communities.
Community organization winner: Manatee River Garden Club.
Government winners: 1, Florida Forest Service; 2, Manatee River Soil and Water Conservation District. Nominee: Anna Maria Environmental Enhancement and Education Committee.
Media community relations winner: Manatee Chamber of Commerce.
Youth volunteers winner: Christian Retreat Explosive Youth. Nominee: Girl Scouts of Gulf Coast Florida.
Personal contribution winner: Michael Miller of Anna Maria Island.
Richard Dymond, Herald reporter, can be reached at 941-748-0411, ext. 6686.