A glorious day for Grassy Point
Pat copeland | SUN
After the ribbon cutting, people flock to walk
the nature trail around the upland portion of the park.
HOLMES BEACH – Neighbors, friends and officials gathered last week on a beautiful sunny day to celebrate the opening of the city’s newest environmental preserve – Grassy Point.
“The beauty, the view, the vision – the landscape is different from anywhere on the Island,” Dr. Jay Leverone, of the Sarasota Bay Estuary Program, declared.
Mayor Rich Bohnenberger gave former commissioner and long time resident Billie Martini credit for initiating the plan to purchase and preserve the area.
“This project is Billie’s vision, and today we see the results of that vision and her dedication to the project,” he told the group. “A lot of people have put a lot of time, money and effort into it.”
Martini cited Director Mark Alderson and Jamie Dubois, of the Sarasota Bay Estuary Program, as well as the late Mayor Bob Van Wagoner as instrumental in developing that vision.
“Everybody has a dream, but you have to take that first step, and Bob took it by calling a meeting with Manatee County officials,” Martini explained.
“It’s been a long-term process,” Leverone added. “My predecessor helped acquire the property and I have managed the project, but Swiftmud (the Southwest Florida Water Management District) provided the money for exotic removal and habitat restoration.”
The 32-acre preserve located along Anna Maria Sound includes a 1,000-foot nature trail around the upland portion, three picnic tables, an informational kiosk, a bicycle rack and four parking spaces.
It is located along the east side of Gulf Drive across from Publix and the Anna Maria Island Center. It is accessed via Avenue C. It will be open only during daylight hours.
The project began in 1999, when the city received state funding to acquire the land and completed the purchase in 2002 with plans to provide passive recreational and educational opportunities, as well as water quality improvement.
Jerry West, of the city’s beautification committee, said, “It’s a nice addition for the city’s residents and tourists and a very sound environmental endeavor to help keep our waterways clear and clean.”
Species originally found on the site include red and black mangrove, salt grass, sea oxide daisy, saltwort, glassworts, buttonwood and coin vine.
Native species that were planted include beach sunflower, railroad vine, beach morning glory, beach elder, muhly grass, red cedar, cabbage plan, sea grape, Virginia live oak, slash pine and gumbo limbo.
“It’s a wonderful place for kids to learn about native plants,” Perico resident Pat Peterfeso said.
Last year, the city’s public works department cleared and leveled the trail using tree trunks from the exotic removal to delineate the nature trail, spread shell on it so it is ADA compliant and added the other amenities.
Future plans include a boardwalk from the end of the trail to Anna Maria Sound with an observation tower midway and an observation deck at the end. Another boardwalk is planned over the wetland portion of the project to connect East Bay Drive with the nature trail.
“The Parks and Beautification Committee will continue to work with the city on this and make recommendations on what to plant,” Chair Melissa Snyder said. “Hopefully we’ll get the funds to do the boardwalk.”
Visitors walking the trail that opening day exclaimed, “Awesome,” “a wonderful addition to the area” and “glorious,” and Trudy Moon, whose business is next to the park, pointed out, “How many people have a park in their back yar
d?” Looking to the future, Holmes Beach Commission Chair David Zaccagnino said there are three empty lots outside the park that are for sale. He said they are virtually unbuildable because in order to develop them, the owner would have to install infrastructure.
“If any beneficial soul who needs a tax break and wants to do a real estate exchange would donate those to the city, we could provide parking right outside the park,” he pointed out.