Bird Key is a picturesque community located on the south end of Lido Key. The island has a small inlet separating it from Main Island known as Bird Pass, which is where the island gets its name. For decades, Bird Key has been heralded as an exclusive neighborhood and home to some of Sarasota’s most affluent citizens. Unfortunately for residents who live there year round, that reputation is beginning to show signs of tarnish thanks to those very same residents.
Bird Key was incorporated into the city limits back in 1947 and over time homes have been built along both sides of the island with access provided by two draw bridges each about 800 feet long. The first bridge provides private access but the other bridge will allow to cross including people not staying on the island. The latest controversy is about the public bridge and whether or not boats can travel through it when a resident living on the island wants to leave for whatever reason.
In order for a boat to navigate the narrow passage of Bird Pass, they must be able to maintain normal speeds at which boats travel. No one likes being stuck behind someone going slow in front of them as it only makes navigating the waterway more difficult. Unfortunately, this whole controversy began because some residents don’t want people to use their roads unless they are residents (the dock fee was $300 per year but has since been waived). However, these days there is no hourly rate so why would anyone care if you were crossing their draw? Well according to the stories making the social media rounds, some boaters actually have been told that speed limits are enforced.
Increasingly, non-residents are expressing their annoyance at how privileged these folks feel they are by violating the most basic rules of sharing public waterways. At a minimum, common courtesy should be extended to everyone regardless of where they live or if they’re just visiting as guests in your neighborhood. Apparently not according to many living on Bird Key and with each passing day it seems more and more people are taking note.
Also, Sarasota County sheriff’s deputies have posted two new speed limit signs on the bridge but no one knows who is responsible for placing them there. These signs are in addition to a third sign that has been up since November 1, 2014 and warns boaters not to travel at speeds greater than five miles per hour when boats pass through.
Until these issues are settled, it will be interesting to see how this story unfolds. This reporter recommends residents of Bird Key take heed to what goes on in their community and be mindful of the fact that all waterways should be fair game for everyone no matter where they live or how much you paid for your dock fee. As expected, some residents living on the island still think public boat access should only occur during specific hours of the day.
If you’re considering living on a key, this is something else to think about and perhaps avoid. Unfortunately for these residents who don’t want people using their property or travel through it, they will have to find another home now that many are seeking alternate routes whenever possible. Just be careful how you approach others as there may still be lingering resentment from years past when boaters were actually charged in order to use the private bridge.