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Couple remembers how Bradenton used to be

Bradenton Beach, 1953.

Merrie Lynn Parker was 5, and she would play along the beach where Australian pines were knocked into the surf by tides and storms.

Parker would jump off the trees and into the crystal waters. Seashells were abundant. There were oddball ones and sand dollars and those smooth shells, spiraled like a staircase, that her mother Margaret Wang would call “coffee shells.” They were about a quarter-inch long and reminded Parker of a tooth.

She keeps looking for the coffee shells. But today they seem to be gone.

“I remember the island,” Parker says. “It’s certainly a startling thing.”

Her husband, Roy “Chick” Parker, is a third-generation Floridian.

He sees Bradenton through two lenses: Today, and “back then.” Where the two meet is also a startling thing.

He used to hunt quail in west Bradenton, among other birds and wild game. One area in particular was rich with Palmetto scrubs and provided habitat for the quail.

Today, that area is no longer for hunting food, but purchasing it.

That area is the Albertson’s on Manatee Avenue West.

Anglers used to fish in the fingers off Anna Maria Island, off the seawalls, or maybe there weren’t even seawalls yet. The Parkers were newlyweds. The area was private ownership, but no signs were posted. They would catch a mess of mullet.

Today, the canals are divided and built upon. Where they newlyweds used to foray in the wild is now someone’s backyard.

The Parkers, still residents in west Bradenton, are not giving up just yet.

Merrie Lynn Parker is a secretary-treasurer of Manatee-Sarasota Fish and Game. She is planning an environmental summit for 7 p.m. Oct. 27 at the Palma Sola Botanical Park, which will include a pot luck and round-table discussion. On hand will be Craig Pittman, author of “Paving Paradise,” a chronology of some of the important dates of wetland protection.

One of the themes of the book and the summit will be how wetland mitigation hasn’t been working.

“We’ll describe all the agencies responsible for permitting the destruction of wetlands and the whole concept of mitigation,” Parker said.

Also, on Dec. 12 and 13, the Parkers, partners with the Department of Natural Resources, and Manatee County, will host a weekend retreat to Duette Preserve, where adults can learn the significance of uplands and how important it is to restore them.

The Parkers are not taking reservations for the Duette retreat but are taking them for the environmental summit.

Call 792-8314 for more details.

Nick Walter, Herald outdoors writer, can be reached at 745-7013.

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