Nature lovers welcome expansion of Manatee's popular Robinson Preserve

skennedy@bradenton.comDecember 30, 2012 

ROBINSON PRESERVE -- It was a perfect, sunny and breezy day for exploring outdoors, and the mild weather drew a happy crowd Saturday to Manatee County's popular Robinson Preserve.

Bikers, kayakers, walkers, runners, people with fishing gear, seniors entertaining grandchildren -- the 487-acre preserve on the northwest edge of Bradenton was dotted with active nature lovers.

In plain sight from the main body of the preserve was the 150-acre parcel added Thursday as part of a complex, $3.2 million, end-of-the-year transaction.

Some of those using the preserve Saturday didn't know the details, but were glad to hear that the park will be expanded.

Jerry Tucker said he visits the area every year from New York, where he heard from his friends that it was 27 degrees and snowing.

He confessed to torturing them via text-message about Florida's benign climate as he took a spin around the preserve.

"We love this park. We usually bring our dog," said Tucker, 51, a retired police officer. "I think it'd be great to add another portion to the park."

He and Kris Tucker, 41, a manager, said they were staying with relatives, and like to walk, bike ride and run at the preserve. Looking chilled out on a bike was Brandon Augustine, 12.

They were surprised to hear how the acquisition was accomplished:

Because state money for ecologically important lands dried up during the recession, county officials had worked out a different financing arrangement.

The Mosaic Company Foundation, affiliated with a fertilizer company that needs permission from the county for phosphate mining projects, donated the money to a nonprofit foundation, which then bought the land from the Robinson family, and conveyed it to the county.

"It feels like Old Florida," said Jeff Hoyle, 49, a Bradenton firefighter, who added he was glad it would be expanded.

"We enjoy the park; it's a positive for us, we come periodically, we're walkers and bikers," said Hoyle.

Saturday he and his wife, Terrie, were hosting their 5-year-old grandson at the preserve, they said.

Walking through with fishing rods was Chris Lassen, 30, who works on boat rigging. "I drove all the way from Ellenton," he said.

"It's nice to have this, there's not too many like this."

He said he planned to catch redfish in the tidal pools at the preserve, at 1704 99th St. NW., Bradenton.

"It's still water," he explained. "The fish seem to like it."

Sara Kennedy, Herald reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7031. Follow her on Twitter @sarawrites.com.

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