Sarasota Bay preserve opens after decades of grassroots efforts and environmental restoration
CORTEZ – After 23 years of grassroots efforts and environmental restoration, “FISH Preserve,” 100 acres of coastal wetland, will host its inaugural event. The Florida Institute for Saltwater Heritage (FISH) championed and fundraised for the protection of the land in 2000. The preserve neighbors the historically significant Cortez Fishing Village and has a prominent link to the waters of Sarasota Bay.
Following its acquisition, the preserve underwent years of environmental restoration that removed exotic vegetation and added waterways to connect flow to the Bay and restore aquatic habitats. Restoration of the FISH Preserve was a collaborative effort between FISH, the Sarasota Bay Estuary Program, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, the Southwest Florida Water Management District, The United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
Local wildlife has already moved in, but an official ribbon-cutting ceremony is slated for November 3. The sold-out event will feature speeches from the US EPA Region 4 Regional Administrator Jeaneanne Gettle and Manatee County Commissioner Kevin Van Ostenbridge. The ceremony will mark the preserve as fully restored, but public recreation is limited to a few foot trails. However, FISH and its partners are actively pursuing ways to incorporate boardwalks, trails, and signage into the preserve.
“The water quality in Sarasota Bay is improving. Large-scale restoration projects like FISH Preserve build on that progress to help restore our fish and wildlife populations,” said Dave Tomasko, Executive Director of the Sarasota Bay Estuary Program.
Source: Sarasota Bay Estuary Program