Out of the decay of the old Jiggs Landing fish camp and the rubble of what once passed as a boat ramp, Jiggs Landing Preserve is rising.
While most of the new preserve is still fenced off as a construction site, with warnings against trespassing, the new boat ramp is open, its smooth, perfect surface a welcome sight to boaters who long suffered with broken chunks of concrete on the old ramp.
At noon Wednesday, Savannah and William Jackson, a Samoset couple who have been married 51 years, put their boat into the water for a day of bream fishing.
“When we first started coming here, it was terrible,” Savannah Jackson said.
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It was the couple’s first visit to Jiggs Landing in about two months.
Looking beyond the construction fence, Jackson liked what she saw of the $1.5 million project, including the raised wooden boardwalk that spans the length of the preserve.
Also well along at the preserve is construction of a concession stand and restrooms, a pavilion, small cabins reminiscent of the derelict buildings demolished at the site, and housing for a park ranger.
As the Jacksons left the ramp, Jimmy Washington, a Sarasota resident, arrived after a morning of fishing for bass.
“Love it,” Washington said of the improvements at the preserve, located near the intersection of Braden River Road and Linger Lodge Road. “We have been coming out here for years. It’s real nice.”
One possible concern is the gravel parking lot. Washington said he would like to see more parking spaces.
Peggy Christ, a director of Old Braden River Historical Society, said her group is ecstatic about the improvements.
“You don’t realize what this does for our area. We were reminiscing what it was like years ago and how this will let everyone use it,” she said. “Now you will be able to walk on the boardwalk to the point and see the whole Evers Reservoir.”
The Old Braden River Historical Society is planning a river cleanup to launch from the boat ramp Oct. 2. Registration will be at 8:30 a.m. with the launch at 9 a.m.
In May, project manager Mike Sosadeeter said a completion date for the preserve had not been set, but that county staff hoped to open to the public by the end of summer.
On Wednesday, Charlie Hunsicker, director of Manatee Natural Resources, said a grand opening for Jiggs Landing has been firmly set for Dec. 11.
The county purchased the property in 2005.
James A. Jones Jr., East Manatee editor, can be contacted at (941) 745-7021.