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Bradenton’s Robinson Preserve is about to get bigger

BRADENTON – Since Robinson Preserve opened in 2008, senior ranger Randy West and his team have been working to transform the preserve into what is today the second-most popular place in Manatee County.

This summer, the 487-acre preserve in Northwest Bradenton is set to be transformed further with a 150-acre expansion, turning farmland into more nature trails, marshes, emergent islands, a canopy walk and an environmental and education center. In 2014, more than 350,000 visitors went to the preserve, trailing only local beaches as an attraction.

"I think it is going to open up more space," West said. "We are really packed. ...It will gives us a little more space to maneuver."

The estimated $8.8 million expansion is on the southeast edge of the preserve at 1704 99th St. NW. It's expected to begin this summer and construction is expected to take two years, with planting taking place in the third and fourth years, said Charlie Hunsicker, director of the county's parks and natural resources department.

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