Neal Preserve opens
Cindy Lane | SUN
A new sign greeted visitors to Neal Preserve
at the grand opening on Wednesday, April 9.
BRADENTON – After eight years of archeological investigation, environmental restoration and construction, Neal Preserve opened last week.
Former state representative and local developer Pat Neal, for whom the preserve is named, and several of his family members joined Bradenton Mayor Wayne Poston, several Manatee County commissioners and a few dozen nature lovers for the ribbon-cutting ceremony on Wednesday, April 9.
Neal, who purchased the land in 1982, told the group that it is important to preserve land in its natural state and that he is pleased that this part of Bradenton will be “preserved for all time.”
The land has been used since 3,000 B.C., and is now “ours forever,” said Charlie Hunsicker, director of Manatee County’s Parks and Natural Resources Department.
Manatee County Commissioner and former Bradenton Beach Mayor John Chappie thanked Hunsicker for his efforts in securing the property and all the preserves the county.
Purchased by Manatee County in 2005 with county funds, a partial donation by Neal and grant funding through the Florida Communities Trust, Neal Preserve features an observation tower that overlooks Anna Maria Island, the Intracoastal Waterway, Perico Island and Bradenton; shady boardwalks; reconstructed prehistoric Native American burial mounds and middens; interpretative signs; a kiosk with historical and archeological information; and a picnic pavilion.
The preserve also boasts the rare, endangered Florida cotton plant, flowering now.
Neal Preserve is located on the south side of Manatee Avenue just east of the Manatee Avenue bridge to Anna Maria Island.