Peaceful preserve opens in busy West Bradenton

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MANATEE COUNTY, Fla. - There is a new place to enjoy nature in Manatee County. Neal Preserve officially opened in Bradenton Wednesday after quite some time under construction.

The preserve is comprised of 120 acres off Manatee Avenue West on Perico Island in Bradenton, just east of the Manatee Avenue Bridge.

Purchased by Manatee County in 2005, it's emerging as a small piece of nature in an otherwise busy rural area.

And the preserve has quite a long history. “Our archeologists have estimated that there has been use at this site from 3000 BC to 1000 AD," sat Melissa Nell of Manatee County Parks.

Archeologists have found artifacts and even burial mounds at the site. "Some of the unique pieces that have been found out here include whelk columns and some pottery shards, which is especially unique because here at Neal Preserve we actually have the Perico Island culture, and they had some unique markings on their pottery."

The Civil Works Administration, created by President Roosevelt under the New Deal, came to the area in the 1930’s and collected the artifacts. "They came through, monitored by the Smithsonian, excavated the mounds; and when we acquired the property, our archeologist Bill Burger suggested that we create the mounds to give people an idea of what they would have been like,” says Nell.

Visitors to the preserve can stand at the top of an observation tower and get a great view of the preserve and Anna Maria Sound.

Neal Preserve is open seven days a week, sunrise to sunset.