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Johnson Preserve relaunches with completed amenities

A wide, shelled trail offers a shady walk through the Johnson Preserve at Braden River.
A wide, shelled trail offers a shady walk through the Johnson Preserve at Braden River.
Photo by Lesley Dwyer
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When walking through Johnson Preserve, River Club resident Jane Blythe said she still cries a little each time.

They’re tears of joy. 

During the three years leading up to Manatee County’s 2018 purchase of the 44-acre property, neighbors met every Monday night to find a way to save the land from being developed.

“When it comes to these preserves, it takes the community coming together to be sure we do have these little gems around the county,” Commissioner Jason Bearden said. “There’s not anymore of these. Once this is gone, this is gone.”

The preserve has been open to the public since shortly after the purchase, but Manatee County held a relaunch on May 9 to celebrate the amenities being complete. 

The amenities were intentionally kept minimal. There’s a shelled path, a couple benches, a small parking lot, a pavilion and a kayak launch. 

The trail to the kayak launch was only cleared two weeks ago. Aedan Stockdale, the education and volunteer division manager for Natural Resources, described the trail as “rustic.” Kayakers will need some sort of wheels to help them navigate down to the water. It’s too far of a walk to drag a kayak.

Jane Blythe, Margi Haas, Peggy Klimek and Mary Ann Toal are some of the neighbors who helped fight for the conservation of Johnson Preserve.
Photo by Lesley Dwyer

“We expect more people that are going to use it are probably going to come off the Braden River or from Jiggs Landing,” Stockdale said. “You can pull off here and have a landing and have a stopping point.”

River Club resident Margi Haas is more excited about the birding opportunities the preserve offers. 

“We’re finding cool and unusual birds that you don’t usually find in a residential area like this, so it’s exciting,” Haas said. 

The area was already known to be a breeding spot for swallow-tailed kites, which Haas described as beautiful hawks, but she’s also been spotting red headed woodpeckers in the preserve. She said those birds are usually found in more remote areas. 

Haas was one of the neighbors who gave up her Monday nights to save the property. 

“(The preserve) is amazing, and it’s kind of hard to believe we did it – in a great way,” she said. 

Gary Hebert led the group as president of Keep Woods, the nonprofit formed by neighbors to stop the development. Hebert received a standing ovation when taking the podium. 

He ended his speech simply by saying, “Welcome to a slice of heaven.”



Lesley Dwyer

Lesley Dwyer is a staff writer for East County and a graduate of the University of South Florida. After earning a bachelor’s degree in professional and technical writing, she freelanced for the Sarasota Herald-Tribune. Lesley has lived in the Sarasota area for over 25 years.

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