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Grand opening of Perico Preserve May 14th at 9 a.m.

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Perico Preserve, Manatee County’s newest conservation land, will open to the public on Saturday, May 14 at 9 a.m.

Photo by Damon Moore, Manatee County

BRADENTON – Manatee Parks and Natural Resources will host a ribbon cutting ceremony that includes guest speakers, educational exhibits and naturalist-guided tours of the site.

The 176-acre preserve is located on the north side of Manatee Avenue, east of the Anna Maria Bridge and Neal Preserve. The preserve features a packed-shell trail with boardwalks and bridges that loops around a large seagrass basin, a favorite feeding ground of many wading and shore birds. The ribbon cutting coincides with International Migratory Bird Day, and the grand opening will celebrate birds, a perfect match for the intention of the preserve to serve as both rookery and reserve.

“A major focus of this coastal site is that it’s intended to serve as a haven for birds and wildlife,” said Melissa Nell, Parks and Parks & Natural Resources Volunteer and Education Division Manager.

Along the trail, visitors will find platforms that overlook the seagrass basin and a bird blind for quiet wildlife viewing. There are park benches and shaded swing benches to provide visitors with places to relax and enjoy the beautiful surroundings.

Nell said during an extensive restoration, Perico designers planned and gave special attention to developing habitat that would host a wide variety of species, specifically wading birds. In the center of the preserve’s 16-acre seagrass habitat is a specially designed rookery island intended to serve as a nesting site for wading birds.

The Rookery at Perico Preserve recently won a 2016 National Environmental Excellence Award from the National Association of Environmental Professionals.

The upland portion of the site is made up of abandoned farmland with exotic plants such as Brazilian pepper trees and Australian pine that were removed during restoration. The site has undergone an extensive transformation, to restore natural habitats. Thousands of native plants were planted during the restoration. The remaining 120 acres of the property remain preserved mangrove forest and bayou with seagrass.

Natural Resources staff credited Southwest Florida Water Management District, Sarasota Bay Estuary Program and Tampa Bay Estuary Program and hundreds of volunteers who helped make the restoration project a reality.