Newspaper article Sarasota Herald Tribune

On Busy Beach Day, Staking out Sand

Newspaper article Sarasota Herald Tribune

On Busy Beach Day, Staking out Sand

Article excerpt

he VIP tent was one thing, but some boat race attendees think organizers went too far

There are people who stay away from Lido Beach in droves on the day of the annual Suncoast Superboat Grand Prix.

But that's mostly because everyone else goes. The race and the Independence Day weekend guarantee that Lido is jammed with bathing- suit-clad fun-lovers clamoring for room to set up seaside picnics and sunshades with a view of the really noisy boat race.

Rich Reinel tends to be in that group.

A local native who was a lifeguard on Lido during the late 1960s says some years, he has even at times been among those who try to get to the beach before dawn on race day to stake out a spot.

So with the sandy seaside real estate at such a premium last Sunday, he was among those wondering if it is really legal and right that when event organizers got to take over such a big hunk of the beach to erect the mega-tent, way up by the sea oats, they also got to cordon off the area all the way from there down to the water.

"That was excessive," he said. He said the big tent was OK, but the much bigger real estate grab of all that extra beach was way overdoing it on the biggest beach day of the year.

The Suncoast people charged $75 to get into the tent enjoy refreshments and such. They also had security guards on duty chasing away anyone who didn't pay but wanted to hang out or set up umbrellas on the empty stretch of sand between tent and water.

Organizers acknowledged that, as Reinel said happened to him, security guards were instructed to shoo people away from the beach there to keep sunshades and umbrellas from blocking the view of the race from the tent.

Reinel says he didn't think the view would have been blocked, and he asked if they were really allowed to do that.

Well, both the city and county can and do grant permits for special events, and the permits alter the usual access rules.

Public streets can be closed for a downtown festival, for instance. So there is nothing odd or improper about reserving parts of a public beach for a charity fundraising event like the one that features those flashy race boats.

Organizers told me they had also cordoned off that beach area between tent and gulf each of the past few years. …

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