Newspaper article Sarasota Herald Tribune

County to Open North Port Preserve

Newspaper article Sarasota Herald Tribune

County to Open North Port Preserve

Article excerpt

WALTON RANCH

NORTH PORT -- The Walton Ranch, a 3,700-acre nature preserve off Interstate 75 and Toledo Blade Boulevard, will open to the public Monday morning.

Sarasota County officials will bring scissors for a 10 a.m. ribbon-cutting ceremony, but outdoor enthusiasts might want to ride bikes or wear hiking boots.

Some of the prettiest parts of the ranch run along a five-mile loop trail. A section called Shady Lane offers a canopy of pines, palms and oaks draped with Spanish moss.

"Equestrians will love it," said Chris Meyer, a county land manager. "Hikers and bikers, everyone will love it."

There are 19 miles of trails in the Walton Ranch. Seven benches and 18 picnic tables have been placed along trails near the entrance, which offers a portable rest room.

White-tailed deer, wild hogs and grazing cattle share the dry prairie and mesic hammock with a variety of birds.

"It'll be popular with birders," Meyer said. "We have crested caracara and swallowtail kites. …

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