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Fishing for new business at Manatee County preserve

Florida Boat Tours takes over the concession at Jiggs Landing.

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  • | 8:50 a.m. January 30, 2019
Florida Boat Tours owner Denise Kleiner and employee Brandon Palazzo are eager to share their love of nature with the community at the new Jiggs Landing Outpost.
Florida Boat Tours owner Denise Kleiner and employee Brandon Palazzo are eager to share their love of nature with the community at the new Jiggs Landing Outpost.
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Denise Kleiner loves life along the Braden River.

Now she gets to share that passion in a new way.

Her business, Florida Boat Tours, has taken over as concessionaire at Manatee County’s Jiggs Landing preserve.

Residents already can rent the pavilions, cabins and kayaks and schedule boat tours through an online booking system, but Kleiner has changes in store for the concession area itself, which will be renamed Jiggs Landing Outpost.

“We envision the outpost as a gathering place for the community,” Kleiner said. “We want to offer convenient, quality goods. We see the opening of the concession as a bridge for us to share the love we have of the river and wildlife with the community.”

Kleiner hopes to turn the concession area into a retro space that pays homage to the original Jiggs Landing Fish Camp, which opened in 1944 — 75 years ago this year.

It is under renovation now, but by the time Kleiner holds the grand opening March 16 for Jiggs Landing Outpost, there will be ice cream dipping cabinets with 12 flavors of Big Olaf ice cream, coffee and tea, baked goods from a local bakery and soups, salads and sandwiches for purchase from the neighboring Linger Lodge Restaurant.

The concession also will have T-shirts, eco-focused souvenirs and artisan crafts, such as bird earrings made from recycled cereal boxes. A state-of-the-art refrigerated bait vending machine will provide worms and crickets to fisherman.

On Sunday afternoons, the post will offer live music.

To assist with operations, Kleiner has brought in nature guide and boat captain Brandon Palazzo, who has guided boat and kayak tours in Homosassa, Costa Rica and other places. Both Kleiner and Palazzo are U.S. Coast Guard certified captains.

They’ll give boat tours of the Braden River on Duffy USA-made electric boats, offering group and private tours educating guests about wildlife on the Braden River.

Kleiner has operated Florida Boat Tours since March 1, 2018, and said business “took off.”

“I couldn’t believe the response,” she said.

She was eager to expand when the opportunity became available.

She and Palazzo hope to make Jiggs Landing a destination for ecotourism and for environmental education. The boat tours already are used to educate visitors about the river’s native wildlife, but the pair hope to create other educational opportunities.

With permission from Manatee County, which owns and operates the park, they hope eventually to enhance the park by adding native wildflowers to an existing “grow zone” area between the park’s entrance and grass overflow parking area. The “grow zone” or an area to promote the growth of natural grasses and wildflowers.

Palazzo said he would like to add more grow zones and other features that could be used for education. For example, water from rain gutters could empty into rain barrels for drip irrigation systems to accommodate more garden areas between or around buildings.

“It’s going to be so beautiful it’s going to inspire more people to grow native plants,” Palazzo said.

Along the boardwalk, he wants to clear out invasive species and restore the natural ecosystem. He and Kleiner hope such areas can be places used to teach residents about native plants and wildlife and how to incorporate native plants into their own yards.

“It will show people it can be beautiful and native,” Palazzo said. “We want this to be an educational hub. It will be a fun place and an educational place for adults and children.”

Kleiner said, “We want to bring the community together.”