Long awaited improvements complete, preserve on Anna Maria Island set to reopen

Much of Grassy Point Preserve’s surroundings have changed with the passing tides. But the 34-acre dot of picture perfect mangrove shoreline will officially reopen to the public at 12:30 p.m. April 19 after months of completing an enhancement project.

“It’s a place to relax and enjoy and step back and drop your shoulders,” Holmes Beach Mayor Bob Johnson said.

The preserve — a relatively untouched coastal creature hangout blocked in by businesses and residences over the years — was bought by the state of Florida for Holmes Beach in 2001 after a three-year negotiation process for grant funds, which then went straight to the state land buying program Florida Communities Trust, or FCT. The program had simple stipulations: preserve the sensitive area, protect species on the site and provide a way that people can enjoy the area passively.

As time went on, work was done to improve on the property. In 2007, the city partnered with Sarasota Bay Estuary Program to remove invasive species such as Australian pines and Brazilian peppers, and the second grade class of Anna Maria Island Elementary helped plant native species.

The city commission was finally able to get funds to start the boardwalk, extending the public access into the preserve. In 2015, the Manatee County Tourist Development Council matched the funds. And a boardwalk was eventually born.

While small, Grassy Point is the biggest chunk of land owned by the city of Holmes Beach. A short, shell loop had allowed visitors to momentarily escape traffic on Manatee Avenue. Now, after months of being closed, two boardwalk paths and the addition of a small parking lot will let visitors see a bit more of the preserve, even taking you right to Grassy Point Bayou.

“It’s a different look at Mother Nature and what she brings, and is a reminder of what this island used to be before man conquered it,” Johnson said with a laugh.

While service dogs are the only canine companions allowed in and no vehicles — not even bicycles — are allowed in the preserve, Johnson said he’s pleased with Grassy Point’s relaxing nature. He said being able to see more while preserving the majority of the area is a plus for the community.

“We did that through the use of a boardwalk type of system that is into the mangroves ... so that you can walk along this little pathway and look down and wink at a creature that’s winking back at you and just experience it,” he said.

And that’s not all that’s in the stars for Grassy Point. Mayor Johnson said a kayak launch is in the plans for south of the preserve and outside of the “passive recreation” requirement.

But no matter how long it takes, Grassy Point will be there for humans and marine life to enjoy.

How to access Grassy Point Preserve

From inland: Head west on Manatee Avenue West toward Anna Maria Island. Take a left on Gulf Drive North, another left on 30th Street and one more left onto Avenue C. Parking is available on the east side of Avenue C at the end, where the entrance of Grassy Point Preserve is located.