FDOT: “Litter reduction and protecting our beaches”

FDOT: “Litter reduction and protecting our beaches”

Photo: Dirk Shadd, Tampa Times

“Pockets of open space dot Gandy Beach. Each one is an opening to the blue waters of Tampa Bay, canopied by billowing mangroves. It’s picturesque — just don’t look too close.

If you did, then you might see the beer can peeking out of the sand like a burrowed crab. Or the plastic bag swaying from a mangrove branch.

The empty gallon of water sitting squarely near the shore? Well, that’s a little harder to miss.

But the Florida Department of Transportation is hoping a new project will stop people from littering and parking in the mangroves at Gandy Beach in St. Petersburg. The agency is spending about $70,000 to install bollards — large wooden posts — in front of mangroves lining the beach, Kristen Carson, a spokesperson for the department, said in an email Wednesday.

Gandy Beach averages about 8,000 pounds of trash a day that’s picked up as both litter and from trash cans, according to Carson.

Dana Paganelli, a frequent visitor to the beach, says she’s happy about the bollards. She floated near the shore Wednesday in a pastel-colored pool float. Usually, she said, she’ll bring her own bag and fill it with the garbage she finds at the beach and throw it out later…

The Florida Department of Transportation began installing the posts last week, and the entire project will wrap up in about two weeks. Carson said the agency expects to install about 880 posts.

After the bollards are installed and cars can no longer reach the shore, the agency’s maintenance contractor will begin planting small mangroves in the open areas where the plant could not grow previously due to car traffic…”

— Michaela Mulligan, Times

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Scenic Manatee: “Palma Sola Causeway sign rules to be enforced”

Scenic Manatee: “Palma Sola Causeway sign rules to be enforced”

Photo: Kristin Swain, Anna Maria Island Sun

“As long as money doesn’t exchange hands, watercraft rentals and other businesses are allowed to operate on the Palma Sola Scenic Highway corridor.

Anyone who’s traveled the Palma Sola Scenic Highway has seen the roadside businesses popping up along Manatee Avenue – kayak, paddleboard, horseback riding and now, Jet Ski rentals.

While the Palma Sola Scenic Highway Corridor Management Entity (CME) can’t stop the businesses from being there, they are working to reduce the visual impact on the scenic highway. Members met Aug. 10 to discuss improvements planned for the roadside and how they can help reduce the impact of the various businesses that have sprung up along the causeway’s beach areas…

Co-chairs of the committee Ingrid McClellan and Craig Keys said they’d be willing to speak with vendors along the causeway and city of Bradenton code enforcement officials about the proliferation of signage in the area. No advertising signage is allowed on the scenic highway and, while McClellan said they’d been allowing businesses to slide with sandwich board signs, she’s noticed much larger business signs being used, including banners and flag signs that are pushed into the ground.

Members of the group agreed to not allow any business signage on the causeway going forward unless it’s small and a part of a vehicle…”

— Kristin Swain, Anna Maria Island Sun

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1000 Friends of Florida’s Transportation Policy, Planning and Implementation Report

1000 Friends of Florida’s Transportation Policy, Planning and Implementation Report

Photo: 1000 Friends of Florida

This primer provides a brief overview of major components of Florida’s transportation policy, planning and implementation process. Policy planning typically involves developing high level plans to address needs for and appropriate means of transportation within a given geographic area. Project plans entail evaluation, planning, design and implementation for a specific corridor, roadway, bike trail or other means of transportation. Many transportation processes and projects rely on an amalgam of federal, state and local public funding so multiple review processes may apply and include opportunities for public input. As is always the case, the earlier citizens engage in the process the greater the chance of making a difference in the outcome.”

— 1000 Friends of Florida

“Walton commissioners could fast-track development along U.S. 331”

“Walton commissioners could fast-track development along U.S. 331”

Illustration: Walton County
“Walton County commissioners have taken a first look at a set of proposals that could reshape the economic potential of the U.S. Highway 331 corridor…

The proposed development standards — more specifically, the establishment of scenic overlay districts — would apply restrictive development standards extending to 400 feet from the affected sections of the two routes…

But as a result of recent action by the Walton County Planning Commission, new-vehicle sales lots — originally proposed as an excluded use — would be allowed along the scenic corridors, if that provision survives further review and action by the County Commission…

One of those sections extends from Choctawhatchee Bay north and west to the edges of the city of Freeport, and also incorporates acreage roughly bisected by SR 20.

A second section, bounded by the south side of Interstate 10, extends north and west from the southern edge of DeFuniak Springs.

…Adoption of the amendments would mean that neither the Planning Commission nor the County Commission would get to review any project that met existing county requirements for job creation or economic development…

Leigh Moore, executive director of Scenic Walton… cautioned commissioners to take a longer-term view of the proposed scenic corridor requirements.

‘I understand the concern about economic development, and I also encourage that to be a major focus,’ Moore said, ‘but please keep in mind … that if you don’t have some good aesthetic and (traffic) access management guidelines, then in the medium- and longer-term it ends up hurting economic development …’

Moore said Scenic Walton is not against growth along the U.S. 331 corridor.

‘But we want to do it in the right way, and that requires some local government control and regulation over what can and can’t happen in that corridor,’ she said…”

— Jim Thompson, Northwest Florida Daily News
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“H.R. 2, the Moving Forward Act (formerly the INVEST in America Act) passes the House”

“H.R. 2, the Moving Forward Act (formerly the INVEST in America Act) passes the House”

“H.R. 2, the Moving Forward Act (formerly the INVEST in America Act) passes the House

On July 1, at 5:23 p.m., H.R. 2, the Moving Forward Act, passed the House by a vote of 233-188 – a moment that marked a huge victory for Scenic America and all those who care about our nation’s scenic resources.

It’s hard to overstate the importance of the Moving Forward Act when it comes to our country’s scenic beauty. This bill includes funding for more than $1.5 trillion in infrastructure projects, including roads, bridges, schools, housing, and transit systems, over the next five years.

Over the month of June, Scenic America and our supporters all worked tirelessly during the bill’s review and amendment period to ensure that scenic priorities were included – and bad billboard amendments were defeated.

Federal bills like this often run to over 2,000 pages, and the process of adding amendments to them is usually long and complex.

But the Moving Forward Act includes 3 major wins for scenic beauty:

Funding for Scenic Byways

H.R. 2 authorizes funding for the National Scenic Byways Program for the first time in 8 years, a total of $325 million over 5 years. That funding breaks down as follows: $55 million in Fiscal Year (FY) 2021, $60 million in FY22, $65 million in FY23, $70 million in FY24, and $75 million in FY25.

During a House Session on June 18, members of both parties shared personal stories of cherished byways and scenic areas in their home districts. Click to see a statement by Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney (D-NY), Highways and Transit Subcommittee Ranking Member Rodney Davis (R-IL), and several other supporters, about the importance of the program.

The Scenic Byways Program hadn’t been accepting nominations for 10 years before the 2019 passage of the 2019 Reviving America’s Scenic Byways Act, something we only achieved as a result of activating our allies in the Scenic Byways Coalition.

Undergrounding of Utility Wires

Undergrounding also made enormous progress under this bill as well, through the $25 billion per year National Highway Performance Program.

Scenic America was able to get the following language in the bill as an acceptable use of the funds: “Undergrounding public utilities in the course of other infrastructure improvements eligible under this section to mitigate the cost of recurring damages from extreme weather events, wildfire or other natural disasters.”

In addition, a Dig Once Task Force was created to encourage undergrounding of broadband, and Scenic America advocated for the placement of “one representative from a public interest organization” to that Task Force.

NO Billboard Amendments

A last-minute dramatic turn was the end-of-day, right-before-the-weekend introduction of Amendment 316, which would have changed the current safety requirements in the Highway Beautification Act. The change would allow a billboard to be anywhere “within 200 feet of a highway” including in the highway median or 2 feet off the highway.

This proposed amendment was a direct attack by the billboard industry on the legacy of Lady Bird Johnson’s Highway Beautification Act, but Scenic America and our supporters mobilized right away and was able to defeat the amendment. The House Rules Committee rejected it definitively, which means that we beat the billboard industry in a straight-up legislative fist fight in Congress.

Next Steps

What happens now? The Senate has their own bill, S. 2302, so they won’t take up H.R. 2. They will continue to work on S. 2302 and once they pass it, these two bills will go to a conference committee.

S. 2302 has two wins for us—it includes funding for gateway communities and encourages native plants as part of the Federal Lands Access Program (FLAP) and it includes no pro-billboard measures.

The Senate will act on their own legislation either later on in 2020 or early in 2021. If there is a change in party in the Senate, then the process in the Senate may start over, but this is a must-pass bill, so eventually it will have to pass. We will keep you informed about further actions.

A Huge Collective Effort

These are huge victories, and we didn’t do it alone.

We would like to thank the following people for their help in adding funding for Scenic Byways into H.R. 2: Reps. Sean Patrick Maloney (D-NY), Rodney Davis (R-IL), and Lizzie Fletcher (D-TX), for their outstanding bipartisan leadership. Furthermore, we would specifically like to thank Reps. Garret Graves (R-LA), Dina Titus (D-NV), Randy Weber (R-TX), and Albio Sires (D-NJ) for speaking in favor of the Byways funding and for their continued support. We also want to thank Chairman Peter DeFazio (D-OR) for speaking in support of Byways funding and highlighting the great value Scenic Byways bring to our nation.

We want to thank every Scenic America supporter who contacted their legislators, forwarded an email, or spread the word about this piece of legislation. Without your support and efforts, we would not be here today. There is more that we need to do together, but this is a terrific start.”

— Mark Falzone, Scenic America

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“Ormond Beach to plant over 100 palm trees in Granada Boulevard medians. Lethal Bronzing Disease has infected and killed palm trees in 31 Florida counties. City staff said that likely won’t happen here.”

“Ormond Beach to plant over 100 palm trees in Granada Boulevard medians. Lethal Bronzing Disease has infected and killed palm trees in 31 Florida counties. City staff said that likely won’t happen here.”

Photo: Brian Bahder, UF/IFAS
“For over a decade, palm trees in Florida have been facing a plague with no cure…Lethal Bronzing Disease (LBD).

City Landscape Architect Cara Culliver said there have been no cases of the disease in Volusia County. The palms that were chosen for the project are Phoenix dactylifera ‘Medjool’ palms, which she said are less susceptible….

Don Spence, an associate professor of Biology at Bethune-Cookman University with a doctorate in plant pathology, likened the spread of LBD to malaria — just like mosquitos spread the disease in humans, insects spread LBD to different trees.

Plants infected with LBD don’t live long-term, Spence said. And while the disease has yet to be documented in Volusia, it doesn’t mean it never will be. Medjool palms, he said, are susceptible to the disease because they share the same Phoenix genus.

‘It’s just outside of our borders and it likely will be here in the near future,’ Spence said… Native vs. non-native

The planting of Medjool palm trees poses another question: Why not opt to plant native species?

The Medjool is native to the Atlantic Coast of Morocco, according to the GroundWorks website. Crape Myrtles originated in Asia.

Culliver said requirements from the Florida Department of Transportation play a big role in plant selection. All proposed trees and palms must have 8-foot trunk at installation to create for motor vehicle visibility. That limits what can be planted.

Cities are also bound to follow the FDOT Bold Landscape Standards, meaning they have to plant large mature palms or trees to create a bigger visual impact. The Medjool palms and Crape Myrtles abide by these requirements.

However, Culliver said that some native plants are used in medians across the state, including Coontie, Dwarf Yaupon, Holly, Muhly grass and sand cordgrass.

Spence said that while there are many native plants the city can use, the problem derives from maintaining grass in the medians. That can adversely impact the planted trees…”

— Jarleene Almenas, Ormond Beach Observer
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