It’s suddenly high season on Anna Maria Island. You can tell by the tremendous increase in traffic, by the length of time it takes to get a table at restaurants, and by the number of house-guests we locals are welcoming. One of the good things about having guests is that it gets us out to enjoy things we don’t usually do when we’re busy with work and daily routines. There are so many wonderful activities and attractions to enjoy on Anna Maria Island and in the nearby region. This week, a guest was the reason I visited Robinson Preserve for the first time. This lovely preserve is just across the bridge, accessible off of Manatee Avenue.
Opened to the public July of 2008, this 487-acre natural area features 56 acres of diverse marshlands, 10 acres of uplands and open water. There are 2½ miles of kayaking and canoeing streams, and 6 nature trails, with 6 bridges, winding through the mangroves. The 500 foot boardwalk serves bird watchers well, and the trails are great for hiking, biking and horseback riding.
Sponsored in part by the County Conservation Land Management, the preserve houses endangered species like the gopher tortoise, indigo snakes and the Florida scrub jay.
Before leaving the island, my guest and I stopped at Publix to pick up a turkey sandwich, potato salad and carrot salad for our picnic lunch at the preserve. We drove off the island and parked at the trail head on the Palma Sola causeway. The main entrance for the preserve is in Northwest Bradenton, at 17th Avenue Northwest and 99th Street Northwest. How fortunate we islanders are to have this second access option, much closer to home.
As we started walking on the trail, we encountered a surprising number of women walking dogs, speaking very loudly on cell phones about things that had nothing to do with Nature. We wondered why they were there. We were very glad to see that, even with all the dogs on the path, there also was some wildlife to watch in the distance.
The path reminded me of a track on New Zealand’s South Island, except that on that track, the native birds were comfortable enough to walk right on the trail. Here, that would be unlikely, and unwise, considering all the dog traffic. How nice it was, however, that most dog walkers seemed to be picking up after their pets. We only came close to inadvertently stepping in “it” one time in the hour we were on the trail.
In spite of all the dogs, we were delighted to see large flocks of roseate spoonbills. We noticed a tri-color heron, a gnat catcher, and two female mallards. There were ibises and sand pipers, too.
We made it to a lovely boardwalk through mangroves leading to a t-shaped dock. At this point we turned around and headed back to a picnic table, where we enjoyed our lunch. Next time, I look forward to walking or biking the entire preserve, in order to see the observation tower and the view from the top.
How fortunate it is that William Robinson decided to give the county enough of a discount that this property could be restored from farmland back to coastal native vegetation. It’s been a huge restoration project, but the results will endure, and the area’s wildlife and residents will continue to appreciate the beauty for generations to come.