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Florida’s Sarasota County has agreed to buy the 1.8-acre Gulf Beach campground – located on prime coastal property along picturesque Siesta Key – for $6.2 million.
The Sarasota Herald Tribune reported the acquisition marks the county’s third foray into the waterfront market in the last six months.
County Commissioner Paul Mercier questioned why the price was so high – $3.4 million an acre – for “a sliver” of beachfront property. The tract is only 108 feet wide on the Gulf of Mexico.
But the sliver cuts between two long stretches of county beaches – the 11-acre Turtle Beach Park to the south and a 6-acre beach to the north. The purchase creates a continuous stretch of park and beach that is 2,900 feet long.
The long stretch also qualifies the county for an added $1 million in state funding for beach renourishment and maintenance projects over the next year, said Parks Director John McCarthy.
Besides being a strategic piece of property, McCarthy hopes the county will keep and operate the RV park.
McCarthy noted that the classic Sarasota County experience – a visiting tourist who falls in love with the place and moves here – becomes rarer with each waterfront hotel or motel that converts to condominiums. Operating the RV park would help counter that trend.
“All of this starts with someone visiting the beach and falling in love with it,” McCarthy said.
Besides, the park, which charges $48 to $78 a night for its 48 RV slots, can be a source of revenue to offset the purchase price, he said.
County commissioners voted unanimously Wednesday (Jan. 25) to approve the purchase, but there will be public meetings on what to do with the property.
Even if the county keeps operating the park, it might follow the practice of many RV campgrounds and not allow long-term rentals.