Durante Park: A Longboat Key Success Story
Posted by William True on
Joan M. Durante Community Park is about two miles from the northern tip of Longboat Key.
This breathtaking, 32-acre public park features a charming pavilion, beautiful fountains, ornamental grasses, and much more. Care has been taken to preserve the native species, and you’ll see live oaks, sabal palms, banyan trees, and a variety of other colorful Florida foliage. In fact, Durante Park has been the site of a concerted effort to restore and augment one of Longboat Key’s few undeveloped land areas.
By the late 1980s, what’s now Durante Park was the site of several dilapidated bungalows and wildly overgrown vegetation. Non-native species had invaded, posing a threat to the ecosystem and the native species. In 1994, a donor named James Durante offered the Town of Longboat Key $750,000 to develop and restore the site in honor of his late wife, Joan. Work began in 1995, when the invasive Australian pines and Brazilian pepper trees, along with other species, were removed. In 2001, a number of native species were installed and an irrigation system for the park was established. Boardwalks, trails, gazebos, bridges, and benches have been set at strategic locations to provide the park’s visitors with an optimal educational and aesthetic experience. Additional funding was provided by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, Florida’s Department of Environmental Protection, the Sarasota Bay National Estuary Program, and Sarasota’s Marie Selby Botanical Gardens.
Joan M. Durante Community Park is a triumph; federal, state, and local agencies, working in concert with the community and with private donors, have succeeded in restoring the area into the charming park that Longboat Key’s residents and visitors enjoy so much today. Durante Park has received awards including the “Outstanding Ecosystem Restoration Award” from Florida’s Urban Forestry Council, and the “Image Manatee Beautification Award” given by Manatee County’s Chamber of Commerce.
Leashed pets are always welcome at Durante Park, and most areas of the park are handicapped-friendly. Fishing in Sarasota Bay from the fishing pier is immensely popular; so is the state-of-the art playground. Picnic tables, restrooms, and plenty of free parking are always available. Admission is also free. Joan M. Durante Community Park is open daily, from sunrise to sunset, and it’s located at 5550 Gulf of Mexico Drive on Longboat Key.