Monday, April 30, 2012

Comic book lovers to enjoy Free Comic Book Day this Saturday

By Nick Williams

Saturday will mark the 11th edition of Free Comic Book Day, an international event in which comic stores around the globe give away selected publications for free.

Since its creation, Free Comic Book Day has been held on the first Saturday of May each year.

The Manatee County Public Library system will distribute 1,500 comic books on Saturday at four locations between 11 a.m.-12 p.m. Young children and teenagers are allowed one comic each at any of four libraries, which are the Braden River Branch located at 4915 53rd Ave. in Bradenton, the Rocky Bluff Library located at 6750 U.S. Highway 301 North in Ellenton, the South Manatee Branch Library at 6081 26th St. West in Bradenton and the Central Library located at 1301 Barcarrota Blvd. in Bradenton.

Last year, The Comic Shack in Bradenton welcomed 400 visitors to its store located at 5602 14th Street West and a similar turnout is expected on Saturday.

"Its the biggest PR day of the year for comics," said Mark Wolfking, senior partner of The Comic Shack.

Between 30 and 40 titles will be available for free, Wolfking said.

"It's about people that love comics and maybe didn't know about the store," he said. "It's our way to say thank you to our customers."

Eleven years later, the event's founder, Joe Field (photo), is amazed by the global appeal.

 “There are almost 50 countries involved,” said Field, owner of Flying Colors Comics in Concord, Ca. “This is almost a worldwide event.”

Field brainstormed the idea to inspire new readers, reconnect former readers and reward all comic readers.

“The words tell a part of the story, the pictures tell another and the reader fills the blanks in the panels,” he said. “It’s an intimate experience.”

Last year, the day attracted 1 million visitors to comic stores around the world and roughly 30 million comic books have been given away since its inception, Field said. This year, 3.5 million comic books have been pre-ordered for the event.

“To a lot of people, it has a holiday feel to it,” Field said.
Field is expecting hundreds at his store on Saturday, which will include authors and illustrators Zach Weiner, Eric Jones, Landry Walker and Georges Jeanty.
"It keeps growing every year," he said.
For more information on Free Comic Book Day and to locate comic shops in the area that will be participating, visit or For more information about the county library system, visit

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Lakewood Ranch Community Fund board expands

The Lakewood Ranch Community Fund, a philanthropic organization dedicated to enhancing life in and around Lakewood Ranch, has announced the appointment of three new members to its board of directors:

Julienne K. Smith, owner and broker of Property World-Smith Realty;  Rick W. Fawley, AIA, NCARB, president of Fawley | Bryant; and Garrett B. Shinn, CPA, senior accountant at Shinn & Company, LLC.

The Fund also announced the appointment of Dr. William L. Soscia, cataract and lens replacement surgeon at Center For Sight, to the Planned Giving Committee.

Julie Smith
Julie Smith has been an active real estate broker in Wisconsin and Florida since 1979. After a successful tenure with Century 21, she formed her own company, Property World-Smith Realty, in 1985. She is a member of the National Association of Realtors, Sarasota Association of Realtors and Sarasota Commercial Association of Realtors. Julie was instrumental in creating the first Women’s Giving Circle, the Lakewood Ranch Women’s Charitable Fund, which serves as a model for a number of other subsequent funds.

Rick Fawley
Rick Fawley, AIA, NCARB, is a respected local architect known for his community service and prolific contributions to a number of business, education and non-profit organizations. He is a member of Lakewood Ranch Business Alliance, Sarasota Economic Development Corporation, City of Bradenton Downtown Redevelopment Steering Committee, Manatee County Economic Development, the Board of Directors of the Greater Sarasota Chamber of Commerce, and the Manatee County Schools Foundation to name only a few of his affiliations.

Garrett Shinn
Garrett Shinn, CPA, is a licensed Certified Public Accountant practicing in both tax and audit planning and consulting. He is a member of the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants and the Florida Institute of Certified Public Accountants.

Dr. William Soscia
Dr. Soscia is a graduate from the U.S. Military Academy at West Point. He is a decorated Army officer, serving in the Persian Gulf War in Iraq. Dr. Soscia has extensive experience in cataract and lens replacement surgery with advanced premium intraocular lenses. He also is experienced in refractive procedures such as LASIK, CK and refractive lens exchange. Dr. Soscia serves as a clinical assistant professor at LECOM, is board certified by the American Board of Ophthalmology, and is a member of the American Medical Association, Florida Medical Association, Manatee Medical Society, American Academy of Ophthalmology, and American Society of Cataract and Refractive Surgery.

 For more information, visit

Marge Kinnan Scholarship winners announced

Marge Kinnan scholarship winners: Jacob Martin Kargauer, Julia Mria Barrow, and Marena Taylor. (provided photo)
The Democratic Women’s Club of Manatee County recently held its annual Marge Kinnan Scholarship luncheon at the Bradenton Country Club.

Scholarship recipients included Jacob Martin Kargauer from Braden River High School - $1,000,  Julia Marie Barrow of Lakewood High School -  $750 and  Marena Taylor of Manatee High School - $500.

The students were honored  for their academics, community hours, and activities in their respective schools.

University Park has earth-friendly news, too

Left to right:  Maureen Hager, Michelles Atkinson, coordinator for Florida Friendly program, Emily Vosnos, Henley Neighborhood Chair.  Polly Curran not shown.  Provided photo by Polly Curran

Michelle Atkinson recently presented representatives of the Henley neighborhood of University Park with a certificate for its common area as Certified Florida Friendly.

Atkinson is the coordinator for the University of Florida program through the Manatee County Extension Services. 

Also recognized were the homes of Emily Vosnos, neighborhood chair, and representatives Maureen Hager and Polly Curran. 

This is the first neighborhood in the University Park community to achieve this designation by applying the 9 principals of Florida Friendly Landscaping. 

To learn more about this program go to: 

The goal is to continue to educate the community in best practices for drought-tolerant, drought-resistant, right plant-right place concept. This program and assistance from the county extension services is free to all residents. 

Getting green at Stoneybrook in Heritage Harbour

Heritage Harbour residents add Florida-friendly plants to their community. (Provided photo)
Getting earth friendly at Heritage Harbour. (provided photo)
Residents of Stoneybrook at Heritage Harbour  planted Florida natives like wax myrtle, beautyberry and muhly grass in the wetland buffer at Stone Harbour Loop on Earth Day, Linda Buxbaum reports.

Planting muhly grass. (provided photo)
The residents first had a class on responsible water use and landscaping with plants that use less water with Michelle Atkinson, extension coordinator of Florida Friendly Program, as guest speaker.

Plants were provided by the South District Community Development District as part of the effort to manage water quality.

 The event was also sponsored by the Stoneybrook Homeowner Association Advisory Council, which is focusing on water usage management.

 Check out the photos Linda sent us.

Finishing up Earth Day with root beer floats at Stoneybrook in Heritage Harbour.
(provided photo)

Friday, April 27, 2012

Manatee Youth Rowing program aims for national bid

By Nick Williams

This Saturday and Sunday, the Manatee County Youth Rowing Program will have a chance to emerge as an up and coming program. The Florida Scholastic Championship Regatta held at the Florida Aquatic Center in Sarasota will host 40 high school and club teams from across the state and depending on their finish, teams can qualify for the National Scholastic Championships in New Jersey.

Trish Jackson, director of the program, is "hopefully optimistic" good things will happen this weekend.

"We're a fairly new program," she said. "The competition will be really steep."

The program consists of three high school teams -- Palmetto, Manatee High and Southeast. Palmetto started the program last January while Southeast created its team this past August. The teams train at the Fort Hamer Rowing Facility in Parrish. So far, Palmetto has won medals in single, double and junior varsity boat races.

If the program can't earn a bid this weekend, they will have another opportunity at the Southeast District Youth Championships May 12-13 at the aquatic center.

"It would be an incredible accomplishment," Jackson said.

Read more about the regatta this weekend:

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Workshops will address local water issues

By Nick Williams

In conjunction with Water Conservation Month across the state, the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Science Manatee County Extension Service office will hold a two-day seminar aimed to educate concerned citizens and policy makers on local water issues.

Water School 2012 will take place Thursday and Friday and will offer workshops on environmental considerations, urban development and land management impact on water quality, panel discussions on the future of water resources and successful trials in Manatee County. On Friday, there will be a bus tour to four locations within the county that deal with water issues.

Though registration ended Tuesday, those interested can still attend Thursday’s workshops beginning at 8:30 a.m. at the extension office located at 1303 17th Street West in Palmetto. Lunch and materials will only be provided to those who have pre-registered. Friday’s bus tour, which will run from 8 a.m.-3 p.m., is for registrants only.

Manatee Technical Institute campus in East Manatee starting to look just the way the architect drew it

Artist's conception of how the Manatee Technical Institute campus will look when completed.
A work in progress. The new MTI campus this week. (Photo by Jim Jones)
Manatee Technical Institute's new campus on State Road 70 East and Caruso Road is changing the East Manatee landscape.

Not only with an impressive new facility with lots of gleaming glass going up next door to Braden River High School, and just a little west of Interstate 75, but with class offerings starting next year. Those class offerings will relate directly to the job market and will be life-changers for untold thousands in years to come.

Ground was broken on the site in June 2011 with a projected completion date of December 2012.

The project is on schedule and move-in is slated for January 2013, says  Margi Nanney, Manatee school district spokeswoman.

Here is former Bradenton Herald education reporter Angeline Taylor's story from the groundbreaking:

School Superintendent Tim McGonegal stood atop a backhoe that dug into the earth a stone’s throw from Braden River High School on State Road 70 Tuesday. School Board members and district officials held shovels in front of McGonegal.

The occasion: breaking ground for Manatee Technical Institute’s new main campus.

Construction is slated to begin on the new $44 million, 210,000-square- foot facility this month. It’s scheduled to be complete by December 2012 and will open for students in January 2013. About 50 people including state Rep. Jim Boyd, R-Bradenton, law enforcement officers and firefighters came to the ground-breaking program held at the future site of the technical institute.

“What a fantastic location to put a world-class institution as MTI,” McGonegal said to the seated guests. “Thank you for being here and when we have a grand opening we will invite you back.”

John Ziemnicki, chairman of MTI’s board of governors, said, “This project has  required leadership, foresight, careful planning and ingenuity. It is now a dream come true.”

School Board Chairman Robert Gause said, “this is going to be a state-of-the-art facility.”

Doug Wagner, director of adult, career and technical education, explained that district officials and MTI Director Mary Cantrell had redesigned the facility three times. He said it was 48 years ago that the district started workforce programs for Manatee County students.

“Getting here has not been easy,” Wagner said. “But we realize breaking ground on this beautiful building has been worth the wait.”

Notables such as former school superintendent Dan Nolan and MTI board member emeritus Dr. Richard Conard also were in attendance.

“This represents bringing together all of our other facilities,” Dr. Conard said.

But he doesn’t want school officials to forget the ingenuity that brought the current MTI site together on 34th street.

“We don’t want to forget -- what we call -- the miracle on 34th Street,” he said, lovingly referring to the current site. “It has served us well.”

MTI’s medical and dental center, at Lakewood Ranch, is named after Dr. Conard. The facility also houses programs for first responders, including police officers and firefighters.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Executive named for SunCoast aquatic center

 Paul Blackketter speaks during a presentation to the Manatee County Commission  in May 2011, backed by members of the Palmetto rowing crew team. (Herald file photo)

MANATEE —The SunCoast Aquatic Nature Center Association, a nonprofit corporation established to manage the emerging rowing facilities in Manatee and Sarasota counties announced the appointment Monday of Paul Blackketter to the position of chief operating officer.

 “Paul has been at the forefront of the efforts to create world class facilities that will make this area the epicenter for rowing and other athletic activities.  We are pleased to have him as the first employee of the Association.   We look forward to expanding our staff capabilities in the future as Paul puts together a world class team,” said Treasurer John Cranor.

 A recent grant approved by the Florida Legislature and Governor Scott provides funding for state of the art facilities, which will seek to attract global competition in rowing and other amateur sports.

Blackketter will be providing leadership through the construction phase as well as promotion and fundraising for the facilities.

 “I am honored to be selected for this position and pledge to the community and the association that I will do my utmost to establish this region as “the” area for rowing and amateur athletic activities in the world,” Blackketter said.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

To your good health!

Ever wanted to run with abandon down Manatee Avenue without fear of being plowed down?

Yeah, me too, all the time.

Actually, I'm thinking about doing just that, considering there will be hundreds of runners 6:15 p.m. Saturday, April  28, for the DeSoto 5K Run, which immediately precedes the Grand Parade. There is safety in numbers.

The Bradenton Runners Club says  “the run before the parade” is the closest most of us will ever get to being a participant in the Boston Marathon. Thousands of spectators will have their lawn chairs out there for the parade and they will cheer the runners on, too.

Runners board buses at the Manatee County School Board Administration Building on Manatee Avenue for a ride up to Manatee High School, where the race begins. The 3.1 mile race ends back at the Manatee School District building.

 The race is open to runners and walkers of all abilities, and is  timed with age group awards at the finish.


While we're on a bit of a health kick, here is something else for your calendar:

A month-long celebration of Healthy Counties, Healthy Families ends Thursday, April 26, with the Spring into Health event at Bennett Park. The free event is set for 3 – 7 p.m., and will feature healthy activities for families, games, healthy snacks from local vendors and drawings for giveaways including a $100 gift card to Dick’s Sporting Goods.

“We’ve been working for the past month to plan an event that promotes healthy choices for the entire family at a fun and free atmosphere,” said Brenda Rogers, Manatee Community Services director. “I think there’s going to be something there for everyone. It’s also a great chance for the public to see the new Bennett Park.”

Bennett Park opened in November and is located at 400 Cypress Creek Blvd., Bradenton.

Haile Middle School students receive Patriot Pens awards from Braden River VFW

Left to right, Sar-Kate Dyson, Taylor Lewis, VFW Commander Dave Daily and Brianna McVaugh 

Braden River Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 12055 Commander David Daily recently awarded three first-place awards for the annual Patriots Pen essay contest.

Under the direction of Haile Middle School Language Arts Department Chair Dana Mills, more than 200 middle school students wrote and entered an essay on the subject “Are you proud of your country?”

Braden River VFW Post 12055 then selected three winners for awards and for advancement to VFW District judging. Conducted nationwide, this VFW sponsored youth essay competition gives students an opportunity to write essays expressing their views on democracy.

Each student entry received a certificate, an engraved plaque and a check for $100.

Brianna McVaugh has won this award each of the three years she entered. In her first winning year in 2010, she won the next level District judging and advanced to the state judging.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Girl Scouts of Gulfcoast will host fundraising event

By Nick Williams

The Girl Scouts of Gulfcoast Florida will hold a fundraising event on Saturday, April 21 beginning at 11 a.m.

The event, titled Big Girls Day at Camp, is an adult day at Camp Honi Hanta, Bradenton's Girl Scout camp located at 4825 51st Street East. Former Girl Scouts will be able to experience activities available at the camp, which include wall climbing, kayaking, hiking and yoga.

For more information, contact 941-921-5358.

Girl Scouts of America recently turned 100. You can read more about the local chapter's involvement here:

Thursday, April 19, 2012

For all you Manatee County sidewalk superintendents, get a load of this!

Manatee charter school site on Wednesday morning. (Photo by Jim Jones)
Manatee Charter School site Wednesday evening. (Herald photo by Jim Jones)
For some weeks, construction has been underway on site preparations for Manatee Charter School in a former cattle pasture off 30th Street East between 38th Avenue and 51st Avenue.

Things looked like they were ramping up Wednesday morning so I stopped to shoot a photograph of the site, which seemed  to still be little more than foundation.

Wednesday night as I drove past the same site, it was very surprising to see the shape of a two-story building had emerged. It was like a giant mushroom had come out of nowhere.

For more about the school, read education reporter Christine Hawes' previous story below:


Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Imagine that: a principal in a kiddie pool at Lakewood Ranch

That's Stephen Sajewski under the straw hat. (provided photo)

Stephen Sajewski, school leader at Imagine Charter School at Lakewood Ranch, agreed to sit in a kiddie pool and read books to students if the school book fair met its goal of $8,000 in sales.

Families and children beat the goal by buying $10,000 worth of books at the Scholastic Book Fair.

Sawjewski put on a pair of water wings and kept his end of the bargain by reading to students for 100 minutes. 

In addition to the books that children took home, Scholastic donated about $6,000 of books to the school media center.

Alligators an impressive part of the local scenery, with or without stripes

Greenfield Plantation alligator, probably one of many. (Photo provided by Gene Caufield)
Gene Caufield of Greenfield Plantation called this week to ask about the alligator in a pond behind his house.

Gene thought it was an unusual gator because it had stripes. He had never seen one like it before.

Could it be a mutant of some kind? A new species of gator?

In checking with Gary Morse of the  Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, I learned that nope, it's just a young alligator.

Young gators often have stripes, Morse said.

Maybe it's Mother Nature's way of providing a little camouflage, like spots on a fawn.

Take a look at Gene's photo he offered of the gator sunning on the bank. When I arrived, the gator was submerged near the bank, with only the nostrils and eyes protruding above the surface.

After a few moments, the gator seemed to grow nervous and moved away to the opposite side of the pond. That's a good sign because the experts tell us gators shouldn't get comfortable around people.

Don't feed them, don't bother them, and don't let little dogs and babies near them. Otherwise, enjoy watching them, this ancient part of natural Florida, from a distance.

For anyone who has lived in Florida any length of time, probably none of  this is news. If there is a pond in your neighborhood, you may have seen a gator, as well as turtles, fish, wading birds, or even an otter.

For more on gators, visit the link below to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission website:

and check out our gallery:


Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Off-duty sheriffs will begin patrolling Lakewood Ranch

By Nick Williams

LAKEWOOD RANCH -- Ryan Heise, Lakewood Ranch Director of Operations, said Tuesday off-duty Manatee County Sheriffs will begin patrolling Lakewood Ranch this week.

For months, district supervisors have sought to implement a contract with the sheriff’s office to pay off-duty deputies for additional traffic control but county officials told the districts the traffic signs in the communities had to be brought up to federal standards first. With $4,000 spent on new signs by the districts, a county inspector informed Heise last week the upgraded signs met approval.

The county inspector toured the communities on March 23.

The problem with previous signs stems from changes to the federal Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices. District 2, which consists of Country Club North and Edgewater, spent $3,000 and District 5 (Country Club South) spent $1,000. Signs that don’t meet state standards could be a problem if drivers getting tickets contest them in court.

Board members are also hoping the off-duty officers will monitor golf cart drivers. Supervisors have expressed concerns of underage youths driving golf carts in the area. Florida law states a golf cart may not be operated on public roads or streets by any person under the age of 14, but supervisors have described witnessing drivers under 14 operating the carts.

The supervisors feel it is a safety issue and discussed possibly raising the age limit within the district.

Monday, April 16, 2012

LECOM recognized by Bradenton Mayor

By Nick Williams

As part of National Osteopathic Medicine Week, the Lake Erie College of Osteopathic Medicine was recognized by the Bradenton Community to recognize the commitment and professionalism of the nation’s osteopathic physicians.

National Osteopathic Medicine Week runs April 15-21.

Bradenton Mayor Wayne Poston presented an official proclamation to LECOM Associate Dean of Academic Affairs Robert George, osteopathic physicians and representatives from LECOM’s Student Government Association.

The event, which is promoted by the American Osteopathic Association and is held each year to coincide with the founding date of the AOA (April 19, 1897), aims to increase awareness of osteopathic medicine in communities across the country.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

University Park photographers win photography awards in Venice

Polly Curran, from left, Clyde Butcher, and Judy Kramer. (provided photo) 

Photography and Digital Arts, a juried exhibition at the Venice Art Center from April 13 to May 4, was sponsored and juried by award-winning environmental photographer Clyde Butcher and wife, Niki.

Award winners include Judy Kramer, first place and Polly Curran, merit award, both residents of University Park Country Club.

MOMS Club of Lakewood Ranch collects 648 pounds of aid for food bank

 Anja Schwarzbauer helps out at Lakewood Ranch Moms Club food drive. Provided photo
The children of the MOMS Club of Lakewood Ranch organized a food drive for the Food Bank of Manatee County in honor of National Nutrition Month in March.

The little philanthropists distributed fliers throughout their neighborhoods asking for canned food donations.  Then they spent their weekends collecting bags left by their neighbors.

The children dropped off their donations to the Food Bank on April 9.

Cindy Sloan, director at the Food Bank, was there to greet them, provide a tour of the Food Bank, and to recap this important lesson of volunteerism.

The children helped to unload the donations and watched as they were carried away to be weighed. The collection weighed more than the combined weight in food and diapers of the children  – 648 pounds.

The MOMS Club of Lakewood Ranch presented a check for $500 to the Food Bank during the tour.  The money will be used for high-need baby and toddler items, such as diapers, formula, and baby food. 

For information on how to donate or volunteer to the Food Bank of Manatee call 941-747-FOOD.

The MOMS Club of Lakewood Ranch is a group of nearly 160 local moms. For more, visit:

For a gallery of photos from the benefit, visit:

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Lakewood Ranch events benefit fight against diabetes

Tour de Cure at Lakewood Ranch. (provided photo)

The  Tour de Cure at Lakewood Ranch on April 1 hosted 550 riders from Tampa to Fort Myers and raised more than $130,000 for the  American Diabetes Association.

There is another event at Lakewood  Ranch set for April 14 to benefit the fight against juvenile diabetes. In case you missed Nick Williams' story which focused on two local families battling the disease, take a look:

Bookapalooza returning to Tara Goodwill book store

Goodwill's Tara book store will have its third-annual Bookapalooza on Saturday. (Herald file photo)

TARA — Goodwill’s Tara bookstore, 7200 55th Ave. E., will have its third-annual Bookapalooza 9 a.m. - 7 p.m. April 14.

Books will be offered at 25 percent off the regular sales price. In addition, there will be 50 cent and $1 books, a chance to win a $25 gift certificate, balloons for the kids and refreshments.

All proceeds from the book sale go to support Goodwill’s various mission services, including job placement and job training for people with disabilities and other barriers to opportunity.

 Bookapalooza promotes literacy in the community and features rare, out of print, and unusual books, some of which are signed.

Information:  941-755-9864

Dr. Temple Grandin to speak at event in Ona

Temple Grandin in Ona. (provided photo)

By Nick Williams

Dr. Temple Grandin, an autistic professor at Colorado State University, author, speaker and animal behavior expert whose life story was retold in a HBO movie in 2010, will speak at One Field Day event at the University of Florida’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences Range Cattle Research & Education Center in Ona on Thursday.

The center is located at 3401 Experiment Station in Ona.

The event, which has sold out, begins at 8 a.m. and will end at 4:30 p.m. Grandin will speak from 9:50-10:50 a.m. on animal behavior.

In North America, almost half of the cattle are handled in a center track restrainer system that Grandin designed for meat plants.

The movie won an Emmy Award for most Oustanding Made for Television Movie. Actress Claire Danes won an Emmy and Golden Globe for her portrayal of Grandin.

Follow on Twitter @_1NickWilliams

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Nate Benderson: one life, so much accomplished

It's hard to believe Nate Benderson is gone.

He died April 7 after a short illness. He was 94.

Best known as a business giant, he brought Benderson Development to University Park and Manatee County from Buffalo, N.Y.

Nathan Benderson shown recently with Rabbi Mendy Bukiet. (Herald file photo)

Everybody knows about his local shopping centers. They seem to be everywhere, well run, beautifully landscaped, constantly evolving.

It was always a pleasure seeing Mr. Benderson. You might run into him at Nate's Place, the animal rescue operation next door to company headquarters, or see him in the office, with the bicycle he rode nearby.

The last time I saw him was at the grand opening of Chabad of Bradenton and Lakewood Ranch. He prayed over the new house of worship with Rabbi Mendy Bukiet.

I asked him if he was still riding his bicycle and he smiled and said that indeed he was. Certainly an inspiration for anyone wondering if they should work on their physical conditioning.

Beyond business, he had considerable influence in a any number of areas.

For more on his life, see Monday's Herald.

And take a  read of a couple of recent stories from Herald archives. The stories may or may not have his name attached, but you better believe he had everything to do with them.

I visited the Benderson website tonight. All it said was: "In loving memory Nathan Benderson.

Here is a gallery of photos from recent years:

Tampa Bay Lightning update set for Lakewood Ranch

LAKEWOOD RANCH  — April Breakfast of Champions  “A Journey of New Ownership” will be the topic at the Lakewood Ranch Business Alliance meeting 7:30-9 a.m. Wednesday  at Lakewood Ranch Golf and Country Club.

Speaker Tod Leiweke, CEO of Tampa Bay Sports and Entertainment,  will speak about the new Tampa Bay Lightning Identity, Tampa Bay Times Forum Upgrades and community focus.

Cost: members: $20, non-members: $30.

For more information on the Lightning:

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Water resource grant applications invited

Christina and Bob Mendoza look over a map showing the lake system at River Club for a project in 2011. (Herald file photo) 

 Community members who want to help protect the water resources in their area may apply online for a Community Education Grant from the Southwest Florida Water Management District.

There always seems to be interest in the program, both in East Manatee and the Bradenton-Palmetto area.

 The  goal of the program is to engage and educate adults about water conservation, protection and preservation.

 The program is intended to motivate communities to get involved in protecting their water resources through various educational activities. These grants offer reimbursement up to $7,500 to help fund projects that provide communities an opportunity to learn about water resources.

To apply, visit The electronic application allows applicants to save, review and change portions of their proposals before submitting. Grant applications are due May 31.
Individuals, service groups, volunteers, government agencies, nongovernment organizations and others are encouraged to apply.

 Potential projects should provide education on any or all of the following topics: water quality, water conservation, flood protection, natural systems and watersheds. Examples of past projects include pond restorations, cleanups, watershed education events, workshops and exhibits.

 Projects must take place between Nov. 1, 2012 and July 31, 2013.

 To discuss project ideas, call Robin Grantham at 1-800-423-1476, ext. 4779.

 In addition to grant funding, a variety of free materials is available and can be ordered on the District’s website at

Check out our story on a River Club project in 2011:

Process of building Fort Hamer Bridge moves one step forward

Artist's conception of what bridge at Fort Hamer would look like.

By Nick Williams

This week, the U.S. Coast Guard is currently reviewing the Environmental Impact Statement submitted by the Manatee County government for approval to begin designing a two-lane bridge at Fort Hamer.

Once the statement is deemed satisfactory, the Coast Guard will issue a notice of availability for the public to review the plans, allowing the county to schedule public hearings.

The county submitted a draft to the Coast Guard during the third week of March. The Coast Guard's environmental contractor reviewed the statement last week, said county spokesperson Nick Azzara.

An EIS is a document required by the National Environmental Policy Act for certain actions "significantly affecting the quality of the human environment".

A decade ago, county officials anticipated building a six-lane bridge at Fort Hamer. The process to build the bridge was delayed when the county halted a federal impact study that would award it federal funding. The county then decided to build a two-lane bridge and fund the construction locally, but just as the county reached an agreed with URS Corporation Southern to design the bridge for $2.9 million, the Coast Guard required that the county expand the environmental study to include a Rye Road alternative, as well as the study on the Fort Hamer location.

The EIS submitted in March includes responses to the Coast Guard’s comments and concerns from previous construction plans.

Follow on Twitter @_1NickWilliams

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Dilemma over road signs in Lakewood Ranch over?

By Nick Williams

For months, Lakewood Ranch community development district supervisors have sought to implement a contract with the Manatee County Sheriff’s Office to pay off-duty deputies for additional traffic control in the gated Country Club and Edgewater villages.

But Manatee County officials told the districts the traffic signs in the communities had to be brought up to federal standards first.

The districts have spent $4,000 on new signs.

Fortunately, the long awaited approval for the new signs may be just days away.

The county inspector toured the communities on March 23 and seemed to be pleased with the upgrades.

"We have a good feeling about it," said Ryan Heise, Lakewood Ranch operations director.

The problem with previous signs stems from changes to the federal Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices. District 2, which consists of Country Club North and Edgewater, spent $3,000 and District 5 (Country Club South) spent $1,000.

Signs that don’t meet state standards could be a problem if drivers getting tickets contest them in court.
Heise said he has not been given a date when the results of the inspection will be released.
Board members are also hoping the off-duty officers will monitor golf cart drivers once they are permitted to patrol the area. Supervisors have expressed concerns of underage youths driving golf carts in the area. Florida law states a golf cart may not be operated on public roads or streets by any person under the age of 14, but supervisors have described witnessing drivers under 14 operating the carts.
The supervisors feel it is a safety issue and discussed possibly raising the age limit within the district.

Follow on Twitter @_1NickWilliams

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Wall-to-wall tailgaters and spectators at Lakewood Ranch polo match

Jaymie Klauber was among those at Sunday's polo match. (Herald photo)
You might think that with the polo season nearly at an end, interest would be waning just about now at Sarasota Polo Club.

Not so, based on what I saw Sunday at Lakewood Ranch during The Robert A. Uihlein Memorial Tournament. No, it was goal line to goal line on both sides of the field as cheerful tailgaters and spectators turned out in droves.

Check out our gallery. You might see yourself there, or maybe you'll see someone you know:

Robert A. Uihlein was president of the Jos. Schlitz Brewing Co. in Milwaukee, who died of leukemia at age 60 in 1976. He was an accomplished and passionate polo player. His family of course will also be linked forever to Lakewood Ranch as owners of the property before it became a super successful master planned community.

There is one more polo match this season, and it is set for April 8.