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Quick Point Nature Preserve—a hidden treasure

SHELDON AND JOYCE PALEY
Contributing Columnists
paley@lbknews.com

Quick Point Nature Preserve is located at 100 Gulf of Mexico Drive on the southeast end of Longboat Key.  Its wetlands and mangroves provide vital benefits to Sarasota Bay, particularly in bringing food and shelter to bay life, and serving as a filter against pollution, and protection from erosion.

The Preserve is a woodland filled with winding trails of stony footpaths, and boardwalks connecting one section of Quick Point to another.  It is surrounded by lagoons, whose function is to protect animal life and safeguard the ecosystem of Sarasota Bay.

As we meander along the trails, we pass trees growing toward each other in a tangle of branches; there are wild shrubs and ground cover throughout Quick Point. We walked through the trail to the end, which is in the Uplands region; reaching the furthest Point, we leaned on the Boardwalk railing, catching a full panorama of downtown Sarasota gleaming in the sunlight.  As we wandered back, the sandy shoreline was occupied by fishermen looking for the next great catch and water lovers splashing in the lagoon, totally immersed in the moment.  That is the beauty of Quick Point.

There are different sections of the Preserve, all offering nourishment to the Bay.

The Man-Made Lagoon was excavated to different elevations and depths to attract a variety of animals.  The pond also contains blue-green and brown algae, important to the food chain for some occupants in the lagoon.  Among the many inhabitants are fish such as whelk, conch, mullet and a variety of small fish.  There are wading birds who enjoy the lagoon, such as the Snowy Egret, White Ibis, Herring Gull, Great Blue Heron, Great American Egret and Osprey.

The Natural Lagoon is a pristine mangrove area that has been here 100 years and is a native setting for shore birds and people. It is also a vital habitat for young fish and crabs, playing a role analogous to that of the man-made lagoon.

The Mangroves provide a critical habitat and nursery ground for a wide array of marine life.  Unfortunately, during the 1950’s and 1960’s extensive destruction of mangroves occurred for mosquito control purposes.  Today we understand how essential mangroves are for our wildlife; they also provide erosion protection, and estuary ecology.

The Uplands have two large areas in Quick Point that are the result of previous dredge soil deposition.  The Australian Pine has seriously colonized this land, much to our detriment.  Removal of these pines is one part of a restoration plan for Quick Point.  Australian Pines and Brazilian Peppers are invasive exotic species that spread quickly and overtake indigenous valuable vegetation.  Their elimination is a necessary objective.

Beneficial species to the ecosystem include Cabbage Palms and Red Bay.  Some supportive shrubs are Myrtle Oak, Sea Grape, Sea Myrtle and White Stopper.  Helpful herbs include Arrow leaf, Morning Glory and Narrow-leafed sunflower — to name a few out of many.

Seagrass beds enrich bay life and can be found along the total Quick Point shoreline.  For centuries the grassflats have supported a diverse array of wildlife. Regrettably, since the 1940s and 1950s the bay has lost 30 percent of its seagrass due to stormwater and wastewater discharge.  Recently, however, we have employed improved methods in water processing.  New technologies have led to a slow recovery of seagrass beds.

Residents and visitors can help preserve the area while boating; motorboats can damage grass beds, propellers slicing out trenches that cause irreparable harm.  A balanced ecosystem depends on our caution when entering and exiting those waters. We should all join together in conserving our extraordinary Quick Point Preserve.

Sheldon Paley, a resident of Longboat Key for 20 years and a realtor for 13 years, is affiliated with Premier Sotheby’s International Realty. Prior to moving to Longboat Key, Paley attended Ohio State University; U of Pennsylvania School of Dentistry and Harvard Medical School for 18 months for a degree in Implantation.

Joyce Paley attended Miami University, Ohio State University and Capital University, graduating with a Bachelor of Arts in English and a Major in Professional Writing.

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