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Signage has been installed and parking lots lined, signaling the opening of a nature park that almost wasn’t.
East County Wednesday, Oct. 16, 2013 4 years ago

Nature park officially opens

by: Josh Siegel Staff Writer

EAST COUNTY — Although Conservatory Park didn’t officially open for public use until earlier this month, eager residents were already taking advantage of the neighborhood destination.

Tom Yarger, the construction services manager for the Manatee County Property Management Department, said the county received a certificate of occupancy for the property early this month.

A ribbon cutting at an undetermined near date will celebrate the $3.4 million neighborhood nature park north of University Parkway and West of Whitfield Avenue.

Yarger said problems with getting bathrooms running properly caused the delay in opening, which was slated for May.

People have been seen running and biking on the park’s 1.5-mile nature trail and one-mile fitness path before now, signaling the enthusiasm of a community — the park has 14,345 residential units within three miles — who eagerly awaited its arrival.

“It’s an absolutely beautiful park,” Yarger said. “It’s one of the most heavily vegetated parks we have. It’s a passive park. It’s really a gem.”

Ryland Homes was set to build on 55 acres of wetlands and woodlands that were supposed to be another plot of land bulldozed and built back up into a residential development.

Then, after pleas from neighboring homeowners associations called to preserve it, Manatee County purchased it in 2004 for $3.4 million.

A Florida Communities Trust grant supplied half the money, while the other half came from a local matching arrangement.

The park has a 10-acre lake with a fishing pier/observation deck and a picnic pavilion.

A previously discussed canoe launch was not installed because of safety concerns.

“The side slopes in the lake are very, very steep,” Yarger said. “It’s very dangerous. We don’t encourage swimming.”

Soon, a nature-like playground will be built near a pavilion with picnic tables.

Exercise equipment along the fitness trail will also go in shortly.

The county has striped parking areas and installed signage.

The park’s east entrance is at DeSoto Woods Drive, and a north entrance is at Conservatory Drive.

The east entrance incorporates a roundabout and small parking area, while the north entrance has a roundabout and more parking.

Work on the property began in July.

Contact Josh Siegel at [email protected]


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