Whitney Beach resident Herman Kruegle hopes to preserve and present Cortez Village's fishing history with a walking trail to the FISH Preserve.
Cortez Village has been a commercial fishing village since its inception in the 1880s.
Now, Whitney Beach resident Herman Kruegle is working to preserve and present the village’s history.
Kruegle is on the board of The Florida Institute for Saltwater Heritage, or FISH, which is dedicated to the promotion, education and preservation of Cortez’s commercial fishing and maritime cultures, its website said.
Kruegle’s goal is to get funding for a walking trail throughout the FISH Preserve, ending at the adjacent Florida Maritime Museum.
“It would be a trail in the sense that there would be markers saying what things are,” he said. “It’s pretty much grass, and it will probably, for awhile, remain that way.”
FISH leaders would like a building constructed, the “Cortez Heritage Center,” on the preserve that will serve as a welcome center for FISH, a site to store restored historic boats and be the entry point for the Cortez Historic Trail.
Three boats have been restored that need a stronger structure to house them.
Kruegle said they are really looking for funding for the building. He estimates it will cost about $100,000.
Kruegle’s determination comes from two sources. He’s always been interested in woodworking. Originally, he joined FISH to work on boat restoration projects and learn about the history of the Cortez fishing village.
“As I got to know Cortez more and more, and the people, [I saw] how hard they work,” he said. “I wanted to help out in some way, and the idea I mentioned [the trail] really came from Mary Fullford Green.”
Which brings him to his second source of motivation: Green is 92. Kruegle knew she couldn’t carry this project on her own, so when she asked for help, he volunteered.
The ideal trail path would include an entrance at FISH Boatworks on 116th Street. There, people could park and proceed to a welcome booth. The trail would begin at Boatworks, continue to the historic boat shed, which isn’t built yet, and carry on to the Cortez Historical Society, also known as the Cortez Cultural Center. The Cortez Historical Society is on FISH property.
From there, visitors could cross a short bridge to the Bratton Store and the Florida Maritime Museum. The trail could be walked in the opposite direction, too.
Boatworks is a facility used for restoring wooden boats up to 25-30 feet. On the trail, visitors would be able to visit the building and see all the equipment and tools used to restore those boats. The historical society building is home to materials used in period clothing and tidbits from Cortez’s early residents.
The first stop over the bridge would be the Bratton Store, which was salvaged from the only building left in the wake of a 1921 hurricane, Kruegle said.
Finally, visitors would find themselves at the Florida Maritime Museum.
“The Maritime Museum is on Manatee County property, and so it’s really separate from FISH, but we wanted to include it in this trail so that people can go through and get a history of as much as they can,” Kruegle said.
Kruegle said he has found that not many people are aware of the history of Cortez or FISH, so this trail, unlike other reserves Kruegle has seen, will showcase history more than anything.
“What I have seen being unique about the FISH Preserve is that it has all these different buildings with this history in it,” Kruegle said. “Other reserves … the others are pretty much walking, canoe, things like that, and this would be a destination where you would get the history of the village.”