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Interactive tool offers virtual guides through Sarasota nature areas

The story maps developed by Sarasota County allow visits to parks, gardens and more without leaving home.

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  • | 5:00 a.m. December 19, 2023
Celery Fields is a mecca for birders and other nature lovers.
Celery Fields is a mecca for birders and other nature lovers.
Photo by Nancy Guth
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Sarasota County has developed a digital tool that will allow viewers to take a virtual hike through its many natural areas or explore shared gardening spaces in the area, with a pair of new interactive web applications.

The “story map” tools, available on computer, tablet or smartphone, allow users to learn more about the habitats, wildlife, history and more at an array of county preserves and parks, and to obtain information about the locations and history of community and demonstration gardens. They also offer an accessibility option for those who may have difficulty visiting these spaces.

The maps may be accessed at

Sarasota County offers new story maps as virtual guides to nature areas.
Courtesy image

“With the abundance of research indicating the health benefits of spending time in nature, these story maps provide an opportunity to explore and connect with Sarasota County’s natural resources,” said Katherine Clements, ecology and natural resources educator with Sarasota County Extension, in a news release. “Viewing images of nature has been shown to provide similar benefits, and we invite you to experience our natural areas and gardens from anywhere you are.”

As Sarasota County grows, county leaders continue to look for innovative ways to connect residents and visitors alike with outdoor- and nature-related experiences and activities available at county locations. The new story maps combine text, maps, images, videos and more into interactive applications that allow users to explore areas of the county they might not otherwise visit in person.

Developed in collaboration with several county departments and offices — Extension and Sustainability; Parks, Recreation and Natural Resources; Libraries and Historical Resources; and Enterprise Information Technology — the tools offer detailed information about each site.

  • With the Natural Areas Story Map, users can take a virtual, guided hike along a trail in some of the county’s natural areas to learn more about the plants, animals and habitats found at each site. They may also view photos taken along the trail and may use the app while visiting sites in person to enhance the experience.
  • The Community and Demonstration Gardens Story Map highlights the locations of gardens, links to venue information and provides history of the gardens and photos of resources at each site. The tool helps showcase how gardens serve as community connection spaces and areas to grow fresh food and support sustainable landscaping and native wildlife.
  • The new story maps join a Water Quality Initiatives Story Map released by the county earlier this year. That tool provides information about the county’s commitment to water quality, with investments totaling hundreds of millions of dollars for infrastructure improvements, restoration projects and more.


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