SMR is developing four new parks, all to be finished by the end of the year.
Bob Simons and Rob Engel drove along White Eagle Boulevard, passing pristine lakes, new home construction and a multiuse path weaving along the roadway.
Before long, Engel drove his SUV onto overgrown land marked with wooden stakes. To the left, oaks draped in Spanish moss stood tall inside the moat of dark soil turned up around them.
“This is the fun stuff,” said Simons, president of LWR Development, a subsidiary of Lakewood Ranch developer Schroeder-Manatee Ranch. “We spend a lot of money on parks. It sets land aside for the residents that are here, and it’s a great amenity for them.”
The spot, part of a future 40.8-acre park south of the future Arbour Grande community that will be known as Community Park, is just one piece of the overall picture. It is just one park of four that are under development by SMR along White Eagle Boulevard and are slated to open before the year’s end.
All four parks will be connected with a trail system. A fifth park, now just designated as Parcel DD just south of State Road 64, has yet to be planned in terms of its size and amenities.
The largest of the parks under construction, and the farthest south — Patton Park — encompasses Kent Lake, just north of State Road 70 across White Eagle Boulevard from Our Lady of the Angels Catholic Church.
The project just came under county review, but, once built, it will be the starting point for a major parks-and-trail system that connects with the other three parks.
One of those parks, now called County Park, will be turned over to Manatee County to maintain.
“I think it will be one of the coolest park systems in Lakewood Ranch when it’s finished,” Simons said.
The 88.6-acre trailhead at Patton Park will have a boat launch for canoes and kayaks, a tot lot playground and other features. The bulk of the acreage is Kent Lake itself, which has a path around its perimeter.
From there, pedestrians or bicyclists can embark on hikes or rides that could take them more than 25 miles from start to finish.
The next park north from Patton Park will be an 11.8-acre site east of the Harmony development, and just south of Malachite Drive. It will have a pavilion and offer a resting area for people who want a scenic view or are traveling the length of the trail and need to take a break.
The next stop north is a 15-acre county-owned park immediately east of B.D. Gullett Elementary School. SMR will build the park, which features ballfields and tennis courts, and give it to the county once completed.
Then, there’s the 40.8-acre Community Park that runs between the Arbor Grande and Mallory Park communities. Although it’s passive in nature, it will have a tot lot, multiuse fields, a pavilion and other features. A dog park will have a shallow pond for pups to use, complete with a ramp, of sorts, from which they can launch into the water after balls.
The parks currently under design and construction will cost about a combined $3 million to complete.
All are connected by a multiuse trail that runs along White Eagle Boulevard and weaves behind homes on property owned by the Lakewood Ranch Stewardship District, a governmental body formed to finance, construct and maintain infrastructure within its boundaries. A channel created by engineers serves to carry stormwater runoff from higher-elevated land to the north down to Kent Lake, a source of irrigation water, to the south. It also provides a scenic backdrop for the trail, while creating a natural barrier between the public trail system and any homes that back up to it.
“The key to Patton Park is that it ties Kent Lake with this whole system,” Simons said.
“It gives you this system to get you off the road,” added Engel, an engineer with Stantec.