Quiet nature park quietly opens in Palm Aire

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MANATEE COUNTY - It was once slated to be another neighborhood development in Manatee County, but after years of work and changes, those plans were scrapped in favor of a development that everyone can use. Now Conservatory Park is benefiting not just nature enthusiasts, but homeowners, too.

It was never intended to look like it does now, with winding trails weaving in and out of the trees, a scenic water-view overlook…a spot where anyone can come to relax.

And that's just fine with Bruce Reichert. "When I first started walking it, it was nothing but a dirt path." He's watched the park grow from those dirt paths to what opened earlier this month.

He lives nearby and says even though this is Manatee County's newest park, it hasn't gotten much fanfare. “Nobody even knows its back here. We've got a walkway from Sonoma Townhomes, we can walk back here to the paths. And if it wasn't for that, we wouldn't know it was here."

The 55-acre Conservatory Park, located at 8027 Conservatory Drive in the Palm Aire neighborhood, was supposed to be a planned neighborhood community for Ryland Homes. But back in 2004, the county purchased the land for just under $3.5 million, then spent another million and a half turning it into what we see today.

"Any time we can save some green space, it becomes more and more important in this world." Donna Maloof is president of a nearby neighborhood association. She thinks the park won't just give neighbors a new spot to enjoy, but an economic boost as well. "It can’t help but have a positive effect on our values, but also on our quality of life."

It's also a spot for education, giving visitors a chance not to just see nature, but to understand it too.

Reichert plans on visiting as much as he can. “It’s been pretty hot this summer to walk in, so we're looking forward to this fall when it’s cooler."

Conservatory Park is open from dawn until dusk. There is a 10-acre lake with a fishing pier, and there are shelters to use. One of the last things they have to add is a playground, which is in the works.