EAST MANATEE -- Every Saturday at 8 a.m., Bradenton’s Bayside Community Church hosts a 90-minute wellness session at Rye Preserve in Parrish.
On the church’s website, the session is described as “an opportunity to come together with others and enjoy fellowship and exercise, including walking, running, biking or kayaking, in a spectacular setting.”
For hundreds who use the preserve along Rye Wilderness Trail regularly, Rye’s opportunities for healthful activity is no secret.
“Let’s see,” said Julia Kuehn, 7, of Myakka City. “We ran down a sandy mountain, we hiked, we saw a bumblebee, we waded in the river and we got wet. It was fun.”
Rye Preserve’s 145 acres include sand pine scrub, oak scrub, oak hammocks and the Manatee River.
Located northwest of the Lake Manatee Dam, visitors can hike nature trails, picnic, fish, ride their horses, take canoe and kayak trips, swing at the playground, or just read a book under a tree from 8 a.m. to sunset. The park is free to the public.
The preserve also features Rye Family Cemetery, a site that touches upon the early pioneers of Manatee County.
Julia’s mom, Anya Kuehn, a reading teacher at Braden River High School, had heard about Rye from her students.
“I would advise people to bring a canoe or kayak,” Kuehn said after she and her husband, Milo, finished their first trip to the park Sunday with a two-hour hike with daughters Julia, 7, and Basia, 9.
“The hiking is pretty easy and the kids enjoyed the river,” Milo Kuehn said.
Not far from where the Kuehns were hiking, Bradenton’s Roberto Enchautegui had staked out a picnic site with his girlfriend, Jennifer Mauldin and her four kids, Trinity, 10, Jessica, 4, Adrian, 9, and Dalton, 7.
“We come every Sunday because it’s quiet, its far away from home and it’s something different,” Enchautegui said.
That same phrase -- something different -- was also uttered by Daniel Valderrama, who works for the banquet division of the Ritz Carlton Hotel in Sarasota. He was at the preserve Sunday with his wife, Luc Santibanec, and their 2-year-old, Daniel.
“It’s our first time here,” Valderrama said. “We wanted something different.”
While others prepared their picnic or worked up an appetite hiking, Loren Albright, 28, and Devorie Bear, 31, were in eight-foot plastic river kayaks paddling down the Manatee River.
They were joined by Albright’s cousins, Matthew Grantham, 14, and Nathan Grantham, 13, both students at King Middle School.
“Rye is the perfect getaway for stressed-out nursing students,” said Bear, who was speaking of herself and her boyfriend, Albright, both of whom are in the nursing program at the University of South Florida in Tampa.
“Kayaking is fun and very peaceful out there on the river,” she added.
Their four kayaks were from the garage of Albright’s aunt and uncle, Dan and Maryann Grantham, of Bradenton.
“You can pick them up used pretty reasonably,” Bear said, thinking of those without a Bradenton aunt and uncle with a well-stocked garage.
“This is a beautiful place,” added Matthew Grantham. “It’s very scenic.”
“We saw lots of cool animals,” added Nathan Grantham, who found an onion from a nearby farm floating on the river.
“We brought our lunch and ate it on the river,” Albright added.
So, what’s the required lunch for a day at Rye?
Said Albright: “Peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and Girl Scout cookies.”
To reach Rye from Interstate 75, exit at State Road 64 going east. At Rye Road, go left. Once across the Rye Bridge, make an immediate right turn.
To reserve a camp or picnic site or for more information call (941) 776-0900.
Richard Dymond, Herald reporter, can be reached at 748-0411, ext. 6686.