Many beach-goers prefer to spend their fun-in-the-sun days on the Palma Sola Causeway, if for nothing else, to avoid a busy Anna Maria Island.
The occasional strawberry or watermelon vendor will set up shop and if so inclined, a horse ride into Palma Sola Bay is always an option. Kayak rentals aren’t far away and Palma Sola Park is a great spot to cook up some lunch. Also, the causeway’s beaches are among the few are beach fronts you can take your dog.
However, when the sun goes down, the scenic gateway into Manatee County’s slice of paradise draws a different kind of visitor, sometimes the illicit kind.
The emphasis of a proposed enforcement crackdown is to eliminate the presence of people who overstay their welcome. The parking lots and beaches along the causeway are supposed to be devoid of people at midnight and overnight parking and/or camping is prohibited. Officials believe it’s these illegal stays that are causing excessive amounts of trash to pile up.
In a Jan. 21 letter to the editor, the writer opines on the issue, noting the causeway, “has become nothing more than a used car selling, RV parking (for weeks at a time), horse pooping sideshow. What has happened to a once nice drive to the beach?”
He goes on to say, “The causeway looks horrible with all this junk going on.”
Comments from readers were mixed but it did catch the attention of Councilman Gene Gallo. The causeway is not only in his ward, but is where he proposed to his late wife Pat.
It’s a special place in the city’s treasure trove of parks and Gallo wants to ensure it stays that way. Gallo responded to the letter writer, calling for action.
Enforcement on the causeway can be tricky, however. The state owns the road, but most of the causeway is in city limits. Manatee County owns Palma Sola Park where the grills, restrooms and picnic tables are, and has essentially taken ownership of the Palma Sola boat ramp.
Gallo said it shouldn’t be that much of an obstacle and urged the Bradenton Police Department to enhance nighttime patrols to, at least, ensure the overnight parking and camping comes to an end.
“It closes at midnight and people are supposed to leave like any other park, so the police department can do enforcement at that time of night,” said Bill Lisch, city attorney.
Jim McLellan, public works director, said his department is already working to add signs outlining what the ordinance requires from visitors, “so that should help those who would not necessarily ignore it anyways.”
For those who do ignore the rules, Police Chief Melanie Bevan said her department will handle that end of it.