Durante Park: A Longboat Key Success Story.
Joan M. Durante Community Park is about two miles from the northern tip of Longboat Key. This breathtaking, 32-acre public park features a pavilion, beautiful fountains, ornamental grasses, and much more. Care has been taken to preserve the native species, and you’ll see beautiful native Florida foliage such as live oaks, sabal palms, banyan trees, and a ariety of other colorful plants. 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.
What is now Durante Park was once the site of several dilapidated bungalows and wildly overgrown vegetation. Non-native species had invaded which posed a real threat to the local ecosystem and 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 species such as Australian pines and Brazilian pepper trees 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 visitors with the opportunity to relax and enjoy nature. 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, worked in hand-in-hand with the community and private donors to restore 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. A popular local pastime is fishing from the pier into the Sarasota Bay, and the children love to play on 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.