Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Young Manatee rowers pay close attention to London Olympians

By Nick Williams

Trish Jackson, the Manatee County Youth Rowing Program director, has been intensely keeping tabs on rowing events during the 2012 Summer Olympics in London.

Charged with guiding and developing Manatee's young rowers at Fort Hamer Park in Parrish, the program's training site, Jackson has enjoyed studying Olympic competition.

"I've been very impressed from what I've seen," she said. "The (American) women's 8 was magnificent."

And she's not the only Manatee rower enthused by Olympic rowing. Since early July, Jackson has operated the county's Long Skinny Summer Boat Camp, a summer camp for youths entering 6th through high school seniors. At the camp, kids learn about rowing terminology, rowing on the water, cardio conditioning, and nutrition.

Jackson said the campers are also watching the events closely.

"It's great to see them paying attention," she said.

The camp is divided into three sessions. The final session began on Monday, Aug. 6, and ends Aug. 10, when a mini-regatta will be held at Fort Hamer Park. The regatta will begin at 11 a.m.

The camp runs Monday-Friday between 7:30 a.m.-noon. For more information on the camp, contact Trish at manateerowing@live.com.

By watching the Olympics, Jackson said the campers have come to appreciate the hard work it takes to be great.

"They learn about the sacrifices the athletes have made to get there," she said. "It's inspiring."   

In April, the Manatee youth rowing program made history at the Florida Scholastic Rowing Championships when four boats from Palmetto High qualified for the Scholastic Rowing National Championships in Camden, N.J.

Monday, July 30, 2012

Kangaroo at animal rescue loses fight for life

By Nick Williams


For a while, it appeared Poppy, a 1-year-old female kangaroo taken in by Majical Miniatures, a non-profit wild and exotic animal rescue sanctuary in Parrish, would overcome a sad situation.

About five weeks ago, Majical Miniatures took Poppy in and immediately ordered surgical procedure to pin her heel bone back to her foot. Poppy's only other option was euthanasia.

The surgery was a success and Poppy started her long road back to recovery. But a few weeks after the procedure, she showed signs of respiratory failure. She died on Tuesday.

"It was the last thing we expected," said Jan Doherty, vice president of the organization. "Sometimes it will happen from things going on chronologically."

Poppy was born and raised in a small captive area and was unable to roam to allow her tendons and ligaments to stretch fully. When Poppy was purchased and shipped to a second and larger location, her heel bones broke away from her major foot bones when she tried to run for the first time.

"She taught us a lot about what you can go through at a young age and tolerate," Doherty said.

At Majical Miniatures, Poppy was able to live like a kangaroo. She ate regularly and roamed her habitat.

"It was tough on all of us," Doherty said. "She was pretty special little girl. She was a fighter and she really tried."

Majical Miniatures needed to pay roughly $4,000 for Poppy's procedure. The non-profit is asking for donations to offset the expenses.

For more information on Majical Miniatures, click here

Hunger: It's a massive and heart-breaking problem in Manatee County

The lucky ones are those able to help the hungry in Manatee County. Herald file photo.

By any measure, homelessness and hunger in Manatee County, and the rest of Florida is almost too heart-breaking and tragic to think about. Except, how can we not?

Florida is home to 10 percent of all homeless families in the United States.

On any given day, there are 58,000 homeless people in the state, according to the Florida Council on Homelessness.

Florida has the third-highest number of homeless people in the country.

Few have gone unscathed during the Great Recession, but for those of us who have been blessed with a roof over our heads, plenty to eat, and a steady paycheck, we are fortunate beyond words.

All that said, the Food Bank of Manatee is seeking help from local businesses for the 12th Annual Empty Bowls benefit, to be held in October.

Empty Bowls is set for Oct. 18  at Renaissance on 9th, 1816 9th St. W., Bradenton, and Oct. 19  at Lakewood Ranch Main Street. Tickets are $20 and will be available for purchase online at www.foodbankofmanatee.org, by calling 941-749-0100, or at the door.

Sadly, the number of sponsors for Empty Bowls has declined in recent years.

“A lot of big corporations have cut sponsorship dollars, but local businesses still have the ability to help us make a difference,”   Food Bank Director Cindy Sloan said in a press release.

The Food Bank’s distribution in June was more than its collections, as a result of increasing community need.

Those interested in learning more can call 941-749-0100 or visitwww.foodbankofmanatee.org.

For more on the Community Coalition on Homelessness, visit:

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Lakewood Ranch's Main Street serves as venue for charities

By Nick Williams

On Main Street in Lakewood Ranch, visitors can enjoy shopping at various boutiques, eating at fine restaurants and watch the latest Hollywood movie at the cineplex.

And just by partaking in the venue’s monthly musical festival, visitors can contribute to many local charities that help those in need in Manatee County and surrounding communities.

Since January, $400,000 in donations have been raised for non-profits from events held on Main Street. The number includes money raised by organizations that have used the strip and the monthly ‘Music On Main’, a free concert on the first Friday of every month. Vendors at Music on Main give 10 percent of their earnings to a selected charity, which changes every month.

The shopping center has been involved with helping charities for the past six years.

A few of the organizations to hold events on Main Street include the American Diabetes Association, Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation, the Center for Autism Resources and Education and Take Stock in Children.

“It’s a great venue,” said Julia DeCastro, property manager for Main Street. “It’s the only one of its kind around here.”

DeCastro said the shopping center is rented to organizations at very minimal costs.

The Humane Society at Lakewood Ranch and Community Haven are just a few of the local charities the free concert has benefited.

“It’s helping the local community,” DeCastro said.

HOPE Family Services, a non-profit group that provides help to victims and survivors of domestic violence, will benefit from the Aug. 3 free concert.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Soccer club breaks ground on new facility

By Nick Williams

Photo provided by Brenden Moriarty 

The construction of a 1,200-square-foot facility for the Braden River Soccer Club is under way.

The project will be broken into two parts: a 600-square-foot interior facility that will serve as a meeting room and a 600-square-foot under roof outdoor facility.

The club will fund the project, which will cost between $50,000 to $100,000, according to club president Brenden Moriarty.

The expansion is part of a 15,000-square-foot expansion at Lakewood Ranch Park.

The Braden River Soccer Club has 1,300 youths between ages 4-18 participating in its program. Last year, the club fielded 75 developmental teams in age groups 4 to 13 as well as 31 competitive teams in age groups 8 to 18.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

What separates the great from the near-greats? Little things, says Trevor Moawad

Trevor Moawad
Nothing like Trevor Moawad had ever hit the Lakewood Ranch Business Alliance before.

Moawad, director of the IMG Performance Institute, packed a lot into his presentation July 18 on what it takes to be a success in any endeavor.

You could tell he brought out the desire to excel in a room full of people who work hard to succeed every day.

It was a rare opportunity to get coaching and motivation from one of the best in the world.

And to hear names dropped by a sports world insider. Who knew that Denver quarterback Peyton Manning had been in Bradenton this week?

He also offered an insight into what makes tennis player Maria Sharapova great. It was during her struggle to overcome a shoulder injury that he heard her say that if she couldn't get back to the top, she would quit the game. Sharapova didn't want people to refer to what she used to be, but rather  what she is now.

In a stirring comeback, she reclaimed the No. 1 World Tennis Association ranking this year with her win in the French Open.

Maybe the bottom line of his talk is that we can be masters of our destiny. Will power, preparation, careful planning, a positive outlook can take us far.

What separates the greats from the near greats is often preparation and consistency, to allow peak performance even when the heat is on.

For more, see our story.


For more on Moawad, visit:


For more on Sharapova, visit her website:


Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Lakewood Ranch plans to use radio frequency to irrigate

By Nick Williams

A radio antenna is expected to be included in the Lakewood Ranch Inter-District Authority's $2.2 million maintenance facility, a feature that will allow field management staff to better control wireless irrigation systems.

Currently, half of the irrigation valves used on Lakewood Ranch common areas can be controlled via smart phone applications.

"We have something similar (to the antenna) but we want to improve," said Ryan Heise, operations director for Lakewood Ranch.

"It would seem to me, in terms of public relations, and I consider this low hanging fruits if we can control irrigation zones with computers instead of going around and manually shutting them down," said Tom Green, IDA chairman.

Efficient irrigation continues to be a topic of interest among residents and district officials. Braden River Utilities, a subsidiary of Schroeder-Manatee Ranch, the developer of Lakewood Ranch, permits irrigation once a week. The community welcomed the heavy downpour from Tropical Storm Debby, but residents have expressed concerns to district supervisors about water systems running during rainfall. Heise said the systems won't shut off until a certain threshold is met and turning off valves in a once-a-week watering system is bad practice, as the downpour may not irrigate the earth to maintenance standards.

Over the last three years, the various community development districts and the IDA have contributed to an irrigation fund, Heise said. The funds go towards upgrading the district's irrigation system to improve irrigation methods.

In March, contractor Azad Shah of LPA Group made a suggestion to the districts to install roughly $1.7 million worth of improvements on pipes, which would include looping the pipes, and spend roughly $1.8 million to construct improvements of random irrigation.

Monday, July 16, 2012

LWR Business Alliance committee to hold campaign fundraiser

By Nick Williams

The Lakewood Ranch Business Alliance's Government Affairs Committee will host a meet and greet campaign fundraiser for its endorsed Manatee County candidates  5-7 p.m.  July 24  at the Gold Coast Eagle Distributing building, 7051 Wireless Court, Lakewood Ranch.

The candidates endorsed by the committee are Larry Bustle, county commission incumbent district 1, John Chappie, county commission district 3, Betsy Benac, county commission district 7, Robert Moates, county school board district 2 candidate and Linda Schaich, county school board district 4.

Campaign contributions will be accepted at the door. All contributions must be written to the candidates directly.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Manatee still waiting on Fort Hamer Bridge review

By Nick Williams

Manatee County government expected to receive feedback on the environmental impact statement submitted to the U.S. Coast Guard for approval to begin designing a two-lane bridge at Fort Hamer on June 18.

The county is still waiting on the Coast Guard's review of the statement.

The county submitted a draft to the Coast Guard in late March. 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.

Though the design is incomplete, cost estimates at this stage of the design are between $21 million and $28 million.
Nick Azzara, county spokesman, said the Coast Guard is not under a deadline to submit feedback.

Building the bridge has spurred debate among county residents. It has also been a topic discussed during forums between county commission district candidates.

According to the EIS draft submitted to the Coast Guard, the bridge would improve traffic flow, improve emergency response time and coverage, improve hurricane evacuation flow, increase safety, improve air quality, and provide an alternative to Interstate 75 for north/south travelers. Bicycle lanes and sidewalks along the corridor and across the river on the bridge would be provided.

The draft also addresses the environmental impact, stating the bridge would directly affect 5.3 acres of wetlands and indirectly affect an additional 1.12 acres of marsh and seagrass in the Manatee River. The impact to the wetlands would have a minimal effect on wildlife, according to the draft, which is concurred by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Greenbrook Village of Lakewood Ranch plans safety meeting

Greenbrook Village's quarterly safety meeting is set for 7 p.m.  July 9 at Lakewood Ranch Town Hall.

Keith Davey
Greenbrook residents, if you have a safety concern, this meeting is for you.

All Greenbrook residents are invited to attend. Anyone planning to attend is asked to RSVP to district supervisor Keith Davey at Keith.Davey@lwrtownhall.com.

 Topics to be discussed:

·         Greenbrook Security Patrol provided by U.S. Security Associates.
·         Crime Mapping website.
·         Speeding on neighborhood streets and Greenbrook Boulevard.
·         Traffic cones placed in streets by residents.
·         Street parking across from the Nolan Middle School.
·         Solicitation within the neighborhoods.
·         Neighborhood drug use.
·         Pedestrian crossing signal at the corner of Lorraine and State Road 70.
·         Non-working lamp post lights.
·         Landscape maintenance to eliminate hazards for pedestrians and bike riders.
·         Restraining animals while driving in your car.

Representatives from the Manatee County Sheriff's Office and U.S. Security Associates will be attending the meeting.

If you have any specific topics that should be discussed at this meeting,  send them to Keith Davey.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Lakewood Ranch swimmer comes up short in quest to make Olympic team

Danielle Valley

Danielle Valley’s quest to make the U.S. Olympic swim team and compete in the games in London came to an end Sunday night in Omaha, Neb.

Valley, a 17-year-old Lakewood Ranch High School student and state swimming champion, finished eighth in the 800 meter freestyle finals.

She faced long odds to get into Sunday’s finals, aided by shaving more than seven seconds off her qualifying time in preliminaries to take the eighth spot in the finals.

Sunday’s final was telecast on NBC. When her name was flashed on the screen, her hometown was listed as Lakewood Ranch.

Valley, who will be a senior this fall, is a member of the Sarasota YMCA Sharks club team.

During the Olympic trials, Valley also competed in the 400 freestyle and finished 35th.