July 24, 2012 — New College of Florida’s shoreline on Sarasota Bay is graced now with a newly constructed dock, an intertidal lagoon and a seawall that has been restored with a more historically accurate pink balustrade modeled after the original seawall built for circus magnate Charles Ringling in 1925-26. The State of Florida funded the project to repair the original seawall, which was on the verge of catastrophic collapse after weathering tides and storms for almost 90 years.
This area of New College’s campus is listed on the National Register of Historic Places as part of the Caples’-Ringlings’ Estates Historic District, which includes the Charles Ringling Mansion (College Hall), the Hester Ringling Sanford Mansion (Cook Hall), Caples Mansion on New College’s Caples Campus, and Ca’ d’Zan at the John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art.
Since the 1920s, the seawall had not only deteriorated, but the sea level had risen about seven inches, leaving the walkway at the base of the wall below normal tide levels. The old seawall was removed and replaced with a sheet-pile seawall built at a higher elevation. In addition, four low-curving seat-walls provide seating, and step lights set in the balustrade columns direct light toward the adjacent esplanade without spilling light toward the bay waters.
The intertidal lagoon is a new element created in the northern half of New College’s Bayfront Campus to provide educational access to the bay. The lagoon is an experimental approach to dealing with aging seawalls and reflects a commitment to increasing intertidal habitat. Two sections of the old Ringling seawall were removed to create tidal flow in and out of the new lagoon, and native vegetation tolerant of tides and saltwater has been planted there. A thatched-roof, outdoor classroom was also constructed to look out northwestward over the lagoon to the open expanse of Sarasota Bay.
The new Joan Marciak Newmark Dock, named in honor of the mother of New College alumna Dr. Christine Hamilton-Hall ’78, is wheelchair-accessible and features flush solar night lights. The edge of the dock has a wide curb for seating, and a stairway leads from the esplanade down to the bay. Due to extensive shallow grass flats west of the dock, the dock is set high above the water level and lacks hardware for tying up watercraft to discourage arrival by motorboat.
The worldwide consulting firm Atkins was responsible for the design and engineering of the seawall project, and Sarasota-based Tandem Construction managed its construction. Two million dollars in Florida PECO (Public Education Capital Outlay) funds were used to complete the project.
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