PALMETTO -- The grandkids were getting a little restless Sunday so grandad Steven Jacobs had an idea.
Hey, lets take them to that Palmetto Estuary Park, Jacobs told his wife, Jennifer.
So, the grandparents put Elexis Jacobs, 11, and Elise Jacobs, 4, in their sport utility vehicle, left their Palmetto Point home and drove a few miles to the park, a 20-acre site on the north shore of the Manatee River, on the west side of U.S. 41/301 North.
We had seen the park from the highway and never knew much about it, said Jennifer Jacobs, explaining why her husbands idea was appealing to her.
One of the advantages of the park was readily apparent to the Jacobses. It is under-used.
In fact, it is perhaps among the least known and least used of all Manatee parks, despite some lovely traits.
The Jacobses were the only ones at the park for quite a while Sunday despite brilliant blue afternoon skies and a Hawaii-like temperature and humidity level.
The Jacobses quickly walked with the children to a play area that contained a pretty cool sliding board, monkey bars and a sky fort, all surrounded by habitats, such as a mangrove swamp, that are part of the Tampa Bay estuarine ecosystem the park is helping to protect.
There is only one entrance to the park, directly off U.S. 41/301 on the west side of the highway, but the Jacobses have seen cars that have just pulled off the road to get to the play area, which is frowned upon by local law enforcement.
There is ample parking for the use the park seems to get.
After 90 minutes or so, the Jacobses were ready to leave.
Heres the familys report card:
The park gets an A for availability of shells, rocks and sticks for tossing and branches for using to play hockey, Elexis said.
The play area gets an A for the fast sliding board, said Elise, who plays hard to prepare for her future, when she will make her living as a rock star, soccer player and cashier.
The park gets an A for a dock-like, wooden walk-out near the parking lot where you can see the water and a large number of wading birds, such as little blue heron, snowy egret, white ibis, Roseate spoonbill, limpkin, tricolor heron and wood stork, Jennifer Jacobs said.
The park gets an A for a nice walking path on white shells, the family said.
The only needed areas of improvement, say the Jacobses, are in the area of amenities that would enhance the play area, like swings for children who visit the park.
All in all, its a pretty nice place to take your family or just go for a stroll, Jennifer Jacobs said. The water is pretty and the kids can learn about nature.
And, best of all, it seems to still be a secret.
Richard Dymond, Herald reporter, can be reached at 748-0411, ext. 6686.