Early January (2010) has been unusually cold on Anna Maria Island. So cold that we came alarmingly close to that Florida “four letter word”: snow. Early one morning I looked outside and it was raining. The outdoor thermometer registered 32 degrees. Although it did snow just to the north of Tampa, we were spared.
Still, the temperatures remained low for most of a week, barely making it into the forties for a daytime high. We were less cold than much of the country, but still cold enough to want to stay inside. We left the heat off at night, and the house temperature dropped into the low fifties. One morning it was 48 degrees.
It was sad to see the effects of this coldest spell in ten years on the wildlife. One morning we saw lots of large fish swimming in strange circular motions near the surface of the water. These jack crevalles were suffering and most of them died, along with snook and many other tropical species.
We have seen a dead pelican float by, and a dead egret floating across the bay. We marvel at the dedication and endurance of a parent great blue heron who has continued to sit in its nest through these frigid times. We wonder what has happened to the eggs or tiny chicks that may have been in the nest when the temperatures dropped. In general, it’s disturbing to think of what might happen to the birds’ food supply with thousands of fish now dead from the cold.
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 is a great place to spend Spring Break, as long as you’re not looking for a party. Not every college student is an extrovert. Many are looking for something a lot more interesting than joining a herd of students who are experimenting for the first time with alcohol, sex and drugs. For those college students who are mature enough to already be clear about these things, and who are intelligent enough to want to do more with their time than run with the crowds, Anna Maria Island is a lovely destination for Spring Break or any other holiday.