Joan M. Durante Park

Acquired by the town of Longboat Key in the 1980s, this 32 acre park once harbored a small community.  The cabins have since been removed, native vegetation was preserved and the mangrove ecosystem has been restored.  Visitors can now wander along a network of shell fragment trails and boardwalks to explore both the mangroves and a coastal hammock forest of red cedar, cabbage palm, saw palmetto and seagrape.  Along the way, bridges cross tidal creeks (vital nurseries for marine fish) and decks provide sweeping views of Sarasota Bay.

Among the wide variety of wildlife that inhabit Joan M. Durante Park are ospreys, wading birds, belted kingfishers, anhingas, gray kingbirds, red-bellied woodpeckers, palm warblers (winter), mangrove crabs and fiddler crabs.  From the bayside decks, one can observe brown and American white pelicans, double-crested cormorants, various herons and egrets, wintering red-breasted mergansers and loons and a host of gulls and terns; the visitor can also scan the shallows for starfish, sea urchins, horseshoe crabs and other marine life.

On this cloudy, breezy morning, ospreys were especially noisy and abundant, calling from the top of trees or fishing over the windswept bay.  Little blue herons and white ibis hunted along the tidal creeks, cormorants and brown pelicans cruised above the choppy bay, royal terns dove for their breakfast and a lone box turtle dozed at the edge of a trail.  As usual, we enjoyed a pleasant stroll through a beautiful and fascinating ecosystem.