Left: Kayakers waited to take part in the first “official” paddle at Robinson Preserve. Center: Visitors can enjoy views like this from the new observation tower (right).
Manatee County residents and visitors have a new place to experience nature. The 487-acre Robinson Preserve, which is located in northwestern Manatee County, is now open to outdoor enthusiasts.
The District joined Manatee County in celebrating the grand opening in July.
Pat Glass, Governing Board member and Manasota Basin Board co-chair ex officio, encouraged everyone to experience this “gem that has been added to Manatee County’s necklace of jewels.”
Visitors can explore more than three miles of trails and canoe or kayak through the preserve’s waterways. The preserve is also a great place for other passive recreation such as biking, fishing and bird watching. Other amenities include an observation tower, boardwalks, observation platforms, docks and public restrooms.
As part of the project, the District worked with the county to restore 150 acres of intertidal wetlands and uplands. The restoration targeted the creation and enhancement of coastal uplands, and open water and intertidal habitats. Exotic plants, including Australian pine and Brazilian pepper, were removed and replaced with native plants. The county is responsible for managing the long-term operation and maintenance of the site.
The restored habitat will provide significant water quality benefits to both Tampa Bay and Sarasota Bay, which are Surface Water Improvement and Management (SWIM) Program priority water bodies.
Manatee County purchased the land with the help of the Florida Communities Trust and a donation by the landowner. The total project cost is approximately $18 million, of which $10 million was for land acquisition. The county contributed $4 million for the land purchase.
The county and the District jointly funded the restoration of 150 acres of intertidal wetlands and uplands, and each budgeted $3.3 million for design and construction. The District’s share included $1.37 million from the Manasota Basin Board and $1.97 million from the state SWIM Program.
Other project partners include the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the Sarasota Bay Estuary Program.
The preserve, located northwest of Bradenton, will remain open while the county completes a few more projects, including paving the main trail in the fall and finishing the cleanup and remodeling of a historic building.