“Old Florida” is a term people love to use when describing a place that has not been taken over by the development trends of the day. It has been a favorite way to describe Anna Maria Island for many years … both by residents and visitors who truly love the simple charms of the area. It’s also a favorite term of those whose main interest is selling the island to the public. “Old Florida ” is a great marketing slogan.
Unfortunately, even among those who think they love the Old Florida feeling of a place, it is challenging to know how to identify the details that give that feeling. And it’s even more challenging to protect them. Often the details that need to be protected do not sound very glamorous. But getting rid of things that are not glamorous is a sure way to destroy the sense of history and simplicity that are so much a part of Old Florida.
Who wants to argue that an old shack should not be torn down? Especially among those whose main priority is marketing. Who wants to argue against “beautification?” Or replacing an old bridge with a big modern bridge? Or getting rid of invasive, exotic plant species?
For years, people arriving on Anna Maria Island via any of the bridges have had a wonderful close-up view of the water along the way. In fact, many of the island’s more laid-back residents and visitors express their welcoming of bridge openings, as opportunities to enjoy the beauty of the surroundings. They don’t mind pausing for a few minutes to appreciate the place in which they have chosen to spend time.
Although the Anna Maria Island Bridge on Manatee Avenue has recently been repaired and restored to last another ten years, there already is a major bureaucratic process underway to determine the ultimate future of this bridge. In fact, what happens to the bridge ten years from now is almost settled.
On March 26, at St. Bernard Catholic Church in Holmes Beach , the FDOT held the final hearing at which they received public input on options for the Anna Maria Island Bridge ’s future. In addition to filling out questionnaires and comment sheets at the hearing, members of the public spoke and their comments were incorporated into the permanent public record. Those who did not attend the hearing can still enter their feedback into the public record by filling out questionnaires and comment sheets and submitting them to the FDOT by April 9. These forms can be downloaded from the site www.annamariaislandbridge.com. Input also can be given by phoning 863-519-2293.
Anna Maria Island seems to have survived the closure of one of its three bridges for 37 days. The maintenance and repair job was done faster than the projected 45-day project that had been planned. As islanders heave a sigh of relief, it is interesting to look back at the whole issue of bridges and how this is linked to life and business on an island.
The people who have chosen to retire on beautiful Anna Maria Island have chosen Old Florida over the more common new development that lines most of Florida’s coast. For Old Florida to exist there has to be something “missing,” in terms of accessibility and convenience. People who want to live fast and have instant gratification are not looking for Old Florida. Such people are accommodated very well by municipalities and developers who want to grow by catering to the latest trends, and catering to the crowds. An island with small bridges that are not always open is an island that is more likely to retain the charm of Old Florida. But what about those times the Florida retiree needs to get to the hospital fast?