High School Sports

Tapping into area’s heritage

EAST MANATEE — Sandy Metcalf admitted to getting emotional when she first saw Manatee County’s plans for Jiggs Landing Park.

From 1953 to 1964, Jiggs Landing was her home. Back then it could be a lonely place, miles from anywhere else. But on weekends, it was different as anglers filled the cabins and their children became her playmates.

Friday, Charlie Hunsicker spoke words that touched Metcalf’s heart: “That simpler time can still be with us today. We have been given the opportunity to take from the past and bring it into the future.”

Hunsicker, director of the Natural Resources Department for Manatee County, unveiled the plans for a $1.2 million project that will transform a 5-acre triangle of land jutting out into the Braden River and Evers Reservoir into a park in 2010.

Formerly a 1940s-era fishing camp, there’s not much to see at the site now, other than a nice view of the water and a beaten up boat ramp. The ramshackle fishing cabins have been demolished, except one that has been moved to one side for restoration.

The cabin is even older than the fish camp. Members of the Old Braden River Historical Society who are working to save the cabin say it was originally built for employee housing for the Nocatee Crate Co. in the early 1900s. The cabins were moved to Jiggs Landing in the 1940s.

When restored, the cabin will have displays that tell its history, and the history of Jiggs Landing, at the southwest corner of Braden River Road and Linger Lodge Road.

The new park will include showers and restrooms, picnic pavilions, rental cabins, a playground area, parking, a boat ramp and docks and slips. It will also have a caretaker’s residence to guard against vandalism.

To protect the fresh water flowing around two sides of the park, permeable material will be used to encourage water to quickly sink into land, rather than wash into the river or reservoir.

Only about three of the five acres will be built on to provide a healthy buffer, Hunsicker said.

Braden River is unique in that it flows west and north. “It’s just about the end point of a very beautiful water system that begins in Lakewood Ranch,” Hunsicker said.

“The river, the topography and the development along it is unique,” Hunsicker said.

Metcalf said Jiggs Landing is a remnant of Old Florida, but even as a child, she said she realized that it was a unique setting.

“We have lots of pictures to share and there are lots of stories to tell,” said Metcalf, now a resident of The Villages near Ocala.

She hauled out a yellowed newspaper from 1962 that showed people riding out a flood at Jiggs Landing in boats. She said the water rose to the keyboard of her piano.

Peggy Christ, a member of the Old Braden River Historical Society board of directors, said the park project is the best way to share natural resources. She said Jiggs Landing has a “wonderful ambience.”

Hunsicker said the county has moved slowly and deliberately on the project to make sure things are done right, and in the process was able to win state grants that will pay for the majority of work at the park.

James A. Jones Jr., East Manatee editor, can be contacted at 708-7916.