EAST MANATEE — The sound of a chain saw filled the air Tuesday as dock builder Clifford Nicholas carefully cut five inches off a sunken wooden piling that will soon be part of an 870-foot boardwalk at Jiggs Landing Preserve.
At the same time, carpenter Paul Higgins was hammering nails into the first of four wooden rental cabins erected a few steps from the boardwalk and about 70 yards from the verdant Braden River, dotted with alligators, birds and turtles.
Nicholas, who works for Wood Dock and Seawall of Cortez and Higgins, an employee of Remco Builders of Bradenton, are just two of many vendors at work completing a $1.5 million transformation of what was once the historic Jiggs Landing fish camp into Jiggs Landing Preserve, a county park and boat launch.
Located near what is now the intersection of Braden River Road and Linger Lodge Road, Jiggs Landing Preserve is on target to open for the public by the end of summer, said project manager Mike Sosadeeter.
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“We have not really set a date,” Sosadeeter said. “But it should be open by the end of August.”
The county purchased Jiggs Landing in 2005 and is using state grants to complete the amenities at the park.
The transformed Jiggs Landing Preserve is slated to have a concession stand and bathrooms, a pavilion, a playground, four rental cabins, a boat ramp, a boardwalk, docks and slips, a replica of an historical cabin and perhaps a park ranger cabin, In 1944, Alphonso Jiggs and his wife, Agnes Spicer Metcalf, purchased seven acres along the Braden River and built a fish camp. Their camp had a boat ramp, cabins, groceries, bait and tackle, and boats and motors to rent.
The lifestyle of the campers and their relationship with the river over the past 65 years is a history that the county hopes to preserve.
The county is being aided in this mission by members of Old Braden River Historical Society, a local group dedicated to raising awareness of the river’s history.
The county and Old Braden River Historical Society members had hoped to save one original cabin and turn it into a museum. But its condition was too far gone and it was razed along with the rest of the original structures.
Instead, a replica of a fish cabin is being built.
Old Braden River Historical Society members are ecstatic about the upcoming opening, member Peg Christ said Tuesday. “It will change the whole ambience of that area,” Christ said. “We have not been able to enjoy Jiggs because of the condition it had fallen into. Now, it’s inviting.”
Christ said that the Old Braden River Historical Society plans to turn the replica cabin into a museum and is looking for items that were in fish camps in the 1940s. “They are specialized pieces that date back that old,” Christ said. “We are asking the public if they want to donate and put their family name on the items.”
A list of items needed for the museum will be posted on www.oldbradenriver.org in a few days, Christ said.
The park got a thumb’s up Tuesday from Sarasota’s Ron Fletcher, who drove in from Sarasota to launch his kayak at the boat launch, to paddle and to fish.
“This is going to be a nice place,” said Fletcher the retired director of human resources for the city of Hartford, Conn. “I like to come here for about an hour of paddling on the Braden River. It’s peaceful, not overly developed and there’s still animal life here. I see alligators. It’s very pleasant just to paddle and fish.
“There’s such a yen to develop land now that you just have to find a way to maintain some wildlife,” Fletcher added.