Our Neighborhoods | Palma Sola's glory is its ecological diversity

skennedy@bradenton.comJanuary 5, 2014 

PALMA SOLA -- Palma Sola Bay's ecological diversity is a neighborhood claim to fame.

"The coolest thing about Palma Sola Bay is I can take people out there, and 10 out of 10 times, they see dolphins, there's always manatees there somewhere, all types of birds, everything is in Palma Sola Bay," said Capt. Kathe Tupin Fannon, the fourth generation of a family of commercial fishermen who regularly takes sightseers through the bay.

They catch mullet, flounder, mangrove snapper, red fish and trout, the 52-year-old said.

On the bay's sandbars, a great flock of white pelicans perches like a living cloud.

The bay's quiet beauty and wild inhabitants, ironically, are what's attracting development and more people.

The neighborhood's quiet demeanor, wealth of natural beauty, and proximity to the beach are selling points for a new condo development called Palma Sola Bay Club, at 77th Street West and 34th Avenue West.

"Our property is only four miles to Bradenton Beach, and six miles to Manatee Beach, but you don't have that frantic tourist atmosphere over there, traffic and all the hassle," said Brian Maher, who sells condo units for Premier Sothebys International Realty.

The company plans to put in a kayak launch across

the street for those who buy homes in the 207-unit development, which sits across Palma Sola Boulevard from the bay.

The Palma Sola area occupies much of a peninsula sandwiched between Anna Maria Island to its west and Bradenton to the east. It is generally bounded by Terra Ceia Bay on the north, Cortez Road on the south, 75th Street on the east and Palma Sola Bay on the west.

Eric Paul Geraldson, 55, whose family moved into the area in 1958, recalled that a guava tree grove thrived where the county's popular Robinson Preserve is now.

"Nobody lived out there," Geraldson recalled. "We lived in the boonies, with sulfur water, rattlesnakes, and sand gnats."

He went to Palma Sola Elementary, was bused to Lincoln Memorial Middle School, and attended Manatee High School and the University of Florida before returning to help run the family farm.

As a youth, he and many of his friends worked on the farm, planting and caring for the crops.

Geraldson now is a farm manager at Gamble Creek in Parrish, where he and other partners, including local restaurateur Ed Chiles, share an operation that grows vegetables for use in restaurants.

His son, Ryan Geraldson, 21, also grew up in Palma Sola and still lives there.

Among his favorite things about the neighborhood is "watching it change into what it is, and how they've tried to conserve the neighborhood," the younger Geraldson said.

"It's been built up, but a lot's been preserved," he said. "It's unique: You can't go anywhere else and be in the middle of an urban area with a farm or nursery."

He now operates a community farm on his family's former property off 99th Street Northwest through a nonprofit organization.

One of the aspects he doesn't much care for is the drainage problems that arise from development. Neighbors in the area and developers have been bickering about how much development is too much for years.

The area offers many diversions, such as horse surfing and horseback riding along a beach that lines the Palma Sola Causeway; social events at the Palma Sola Botanical Park, 9800 17th Ave. N.W.; and many lovely residential neighborhoods and bustling commercial districts.

Bob Gurtz, manager for Palma Sola Kayaks, at 11510 36th Ave W., owns the Parrot Cove Marine, and also rents kayaks next door.

"I find a lot of people are interested in kayaking Palma Sola Bay because it is quiet, peaceful, surrounded by nature," he said. "You can kayak in seagrass flats, most people see dolphins," he said.

Near Gurtz's business is the Manatee Fruit Co. flower farm -- row after row of greenhouses with bright blossoms everywhere -- and a big employer, too. It is located off of Cortez Road near 75th Street West.

"It's really a great community," Gurtz said. "I found it later in life, I feel very fortunate, too."

The New Jersey native has lived there almost 10 years.

"It's nice and quiet and peaceful, people are friendly," he said.

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

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