Newspaper article Sarasota Herald Tribune

Made in the Shade

Newspaper article Sarasota Herald Tribune

Made in the Shade

Article excerpt

At new Blackburn Point Park, people savor an old view under Australian pines

OSPREY -- A bigger and better Blackburn Point Park opens Thursday, but local fans already are checking out $4.4 million worth of boat ramps and parking lots, boardwalks and picnic areas.

A common reaction?

Relief.

"They left it much better than I thought they would," said Kathy Meyer of Osprey. "It still looks a little wild."

She and her husband love the quiet and shade of the Australian pines at Blackburn Point. They bring folding chairs and admire ospreys nesting atop channel markers in Little Sarasota Bay. They drink light beer, eat cheese and crackers and agree that this is their favorite place on the Gulf Coast.

"It's natural," Meyer said. "It looks like an Old Florida hangout."

On cue, she heard the cheery ding-ding-ding of a familiar sound at Blackburn Point.

"And the swinging bridge," Meyer said, smiling as a sailboat cruised past. "We love the swinging bridge."

Public access

In 2006, Sarasota County paid $15.9 million for 12 additional acres at Blackburn Point, where there already was a parking lot and boat ramp.

Next came years of planning and permitting. Now work is nearly complete on improvements that include:

nA two-lane boat ramp.

nParking for 56 boat trailers.

nShort trails and sidewalks.

nPicnic shelter and fishing pier.

nBoat moorings and a boardwalk.

"The most important thing is public access to the water," said George Tatge, a county parks manager. "That's what this park represents."

For thousands of years, tribes of Native Americans lived along the sheltered water of Little Sarasota Bay. A century ago, they were followed by early settlers such as the Blackburn family.

"There's a long history of access to the water here," Tatge said. "We're working on some interpretive signage to explain that history."

On a tour of Blackburn Point, the parks manager was interrupted by a snowbird in a plaid hat. Joe Schott had a simple message.

"Please don't cut the pines," he said. "They're the only shade."

When Tatge began to explain some of the problems associated with Australian pines, a non-native tree with shallow roots, Schott shook his head. …

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