HOLMES BEACH -- A little slice of paradise will be celebrated Thursday when Holmes Beach hosts a grand opening for its new, 32-acre preserve.
The Grassy Point Preserve, which sits off East Bay Drive overlooking Grassy Point Bayou, features 9 acres of uplands and 23 acres of wetlands, said Joe Duennes, the superintendent of public works for the city of Holmes Beach.
It boasts 3,000 lineal feet overlooking the bay, he said.
So far, the preserve's amenities are modest, amounting to four picnic tables and a 1,000-foot path that circles the perimeter of the property, Duennes said.
It's been in the works at least 12 years,
maybe more, said Manatee County Commissioner Carol Whitmore, a former mayor of Holmes Beach.
"It's a wonderful, wonderful place, and a very big preserve for the island," she said, referring to Anna Maria Island.
She added that it also helps to filter water runoff that can pollute the bay, and preserves environmentally important habitat.
The property was acquired through a Florida Community Land Trust grant, and restored courtesy of a joint partnership, said Jay Leverone, staff scientist for the Sarasota Bay Estuary Program. He wasn't sure how much money the grant entailed, he said.
"It was a beautiful piece of property, but it needed some assistance," he said.
The uplands were restored by removing exotics like Brazilian pepper and Australian pine, and planting native trees, he said. Among the native plants that flourish there now are red cedar, sea grape and gumbo limbo.
"That was quite a bit of effort," he said, adding, "There's lots more to be done."
The preserve will attract insects and butterflies and other smaller species native to the state, he predicted.
"But the real beauty is, it's one of the few remaining coastal natural settings we have to enjoy," Leverone said.
Before it was acquired for a preserve, the property was being considered for construction of stilt homes, built out over the water, said Manatee County Natural Resources Director Charlie Hunsicker.
One reason the parcel was deemed valuable for conservation was that there are so little mangrove and salt flats and high marsh vegetative communities remaining on Anna Maria Island, he said.
For the future, city officials may recommend a boardwalk project for the preserve that could be funded with money coming here resulting from the 2010 BP oil spill, Hunsicker said.
The grand opening is slated to begin at 9 a.m. Thursday, officials said.
Sara Kennedy, Herald reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7031. Follow her on Twitter @saraswrites.com.