EAST MANATEE -- In the next few months, two long-anticipated county parks in East Manatee are set to open.
The first phase of the 175-acre Tom Bennett regional park at Interstate 75 and Kay Road is scheduled to open at 9 a.m. Nov. 12, Cindy Turner, director of Manatee County Parks and Recreation, said Tuesday.
About two months later, a 25-acre park at 7110 44th Ave. E., north of Creekwood, is expected to open, Turner said.
Tom Bennett and Creekwood will be the most significant parks to open in East Manatee since Jiggs Landing, 6106 63rd St. E., last December.
Construction of Bennett Park, which started in May 2010, was a long-cherished dream of the park’s namesake, who sold the property to the county at $1 million off its appraised value.
Bennett, who developed apartments and shopping centers, did not live to see the start of construction of the park. He died at 82 in 2006.
The county has turned former pasture and woodlands into a passive park, offering residents a tranquil place to paddle their kayaks or canoes, and have a picnic. The park also includes a fishing pier, children’s play area, restrooms and parking.
Future plans call for an amphitheater, swimming pool, tennis courts and more.
One amenity that residents won’t find at Bennett is a dog park. For that, they can look to Creekwood.
Creekwood becomes the third county park to have a place for dogs, the other two being G.T. Bray in west Bradenton and Buffalo Creek in the Ellenton-Parrish area, Turner said.
Other amenities at Creekwood include a play lot, pavilion, playing field, picnic tables, parking lot and restrooms.
Due to funding constraints, some of the originally planned landscaping at Creekwood had to be deferred.
Rather than cutting playground equipment or another amenity, the decision was made to defer some of the landscaping until a later date, Turner said.
The fact that the county was able to complete the parks is attributed in large measure to partnerships and grants, said commission Chair Carol Whitmore.
Florida Communities Trust provided a grant of $2.3 million to assist Manatee County, which put up $1.5 million, to buy the Bennett property, the Herald previously reported.
Centex made an $850,000 commitment to build the Creekwood park, the Herald has reported.
“The taxpayers need to know that these parks are tied in with grants,” Whitmore said Tuesday.
Otherwise, the county would have been unable to acquire the land or build the parks, she said.
With the impending opening of the parks, residents will have new recreation areas and a place to “take a deep breath,” Whitmore said.
Both of the parks were in the works for about a decade.
Plans for a park at Creekwood were originally included in the development of regional impact for the neighborhood at the northwest corner of State Road 70 and I-75.
When construction on the Creekwood park started a year ago, a Pulte Group spokeswoman called the project “a public-private partnership in which the County of Manatee owns the land and Centex will help fund for the first initial phase,” the Herald previously reported.
James A. Jones Jr., East Manatee editor, can be contacted at (941) 745-7021.