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Ken Thompson Park/
Longboat Key & Lido Key Parks
City Island
1700 Ken Thompson Pkwy., Sarasota
This sprawling 84-acre park truly has something for everyone. There are three boat ramps, fishing piers, a playground, and a recreation area with benches and picnic tables.
The park is home to the Sarasota Sailing Squadron, which dates back to the late 1930s and now has 800 member families who take advantage of the organization’s many sailing programs. In addition, the park houses Save Our Seabirds, a nonprofit facility dedicated to caring for and treating the ailments of the island’s many bird varieties.
Also located in the park is the Mote Marine Laboratory & Aquarium, founded in 1955. It houses a massive aquarium, among whose inhabitants in- clude dolphins, manatees, sea turtles and seahors- es. Interactive exhibits like a stingray petting section, educational opportunities and Eco-Boat excursions are part of the Mote experience.
Quick Point Nature Preserve
100 Gulf of Mexico Drive, Longboat Key
Originally called “The Hook,” Quick Point covers 34 acres on the island’s south end. The Town of Longboat Key acquired the land in 1985 from Arvi- da Corporation, which developed most of the Key in the 1970s and 1980s. The preserve has verdant paths which meander around lagoons, mangroves and other native plant species, and even features an osprey nesting pole.
Bicentennial Park
2730 Gulf of Mexico Drive, Longboat Key
Nestled near Longboat Key Town Hall sits a one-acre park known as a choice spot to refresh and reflect. The partly-shaded grounds were ded- icated to the town on the US bicentennial, July 4, 1976. It sits just off the bike path and is an inviting place to pause on benches beneath a canopy of trees. It’s also a prime vantage point to admire the dazzling butterfly garden planted by the Longboat Key Garden Club. The park is recognized as a Florida Model Garden by the state for its low main- tenance and eco-friendly qualities.
Bayfront Park & Recreation Center 4052 Gulf of Mexico Drive, Longboat Key
The Bayfront Park Recreation Center currently houses a large rec center which boasts not only fitness classes and bridge games but also serves as a community gathering spot. Tucked behind the main building are tennis courts, a basketball court and shuffleboard court. Soon to be home to a dog park, rain garden, kayak launch, pickle ball courts and bocce ball when renovations are complete in the spring of 2017.
Joan M. Durante Park
5550 Gulf of Mexico Drive, Longboat Key
A rare jewel on the Key, this 32-acre park is one of the few remaining vacant properties on the island. It’s the winning result of a private/public partnership to restore the land as a viable wetland and coastal hammock forest. Key resident James Durante established the park in 1993 to honor the memory of his late wife. It includes a pavilion, a children’s playground and a lake. Bicycle and boardwalk paths transect the entire property.
North Lido Beach Park
400 Benjamin Franklin Drive, Sarasota
A first-rate choice for swimming and fishing, North Lido Beach Park also has nature trails. The unspoiled beach and dune system makes this a popular place for birdwatching. The park is also an essential sea turtle nesting site.
South Lido Park
2201 Benjamin Franklin Drive, Sarasota
Tucked away at the end of Benjamin Franklin Drive, South Lido Park is a “must” for those who appreciate Mother Earth’s splendor. The 100-acre park gives a panoramic view of downtown Sara- sota and the Gulf of Mexico. Its amenities include a picnic area, a canoe and kayak launch, fishing, jogging/walking trails, a playground, an observation tower and decks.
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