Joan M. Durante Park

Contributing Columnists

This oasis at 5550 Gulf of Mexico Drive is a surprise in many ways.  There are so many distinct and natural areas within the park’s confines. The peaceful splendor of the property strikes you immediately, and the first thought is to explore the wonderland slowly, or in separate visits, to view the different environments.

Thanks to the vision of James Durante, who wanted to commemorate his wife in a lasting and beautiful way, Joan M. Durante Park is today a 32 acre site two miles from the north end of Longboat Key.  Prior to Durante’s offer, the property was inhabited by decaying bungalows, and surrounded by non-native vegetation that posed a genuine threat to the ecosystem.   Mr. Durante came to Longboat in 1994 and offered the Town of Longboat Key $750,000 to restore the neglected location and name the park after his late wife, Joan.

Accepting Mr. Durante’s offer, Longboat Key worked with him and donors from the Federal, State, and Local level to make this piece of earth a showplace and successful parkland for the town to enjoy.  In 1995 work began, removing the Australian pines, Brazilian pepper trees and other invasive varieties. By 2001, they were replaced with native species and an irrigation system for the park.

Mangroves were planted in the wetlands.  There is a Mangrove Forest to explore as well as a Mangrove Nursery.  In the upland area there are Live Oak, Red Cedar, Seagrape, Sabal Palmetto and many more species to restore the Coastal Hammock Forest.  Understory vegetation was planted to stabilize and augment the coastal dune and wetland areas.  And the Salt Marsh section is a common habitat in estuaries. The park is a living science lesson with every walk along the trails.

The land reaches out and offers something for everyone; there is a Pavilion for outdoor meetings.  Not far beyond, there is a lovely little playground with slides and swings for children to enjoy.  There are water view areas that are accessible by boardwalk; there is a kayak launch for those who want to enjoy the terrain by water.  The park experience is entertainment and schooling packed into one lovely surrounding.

The Joan M. Durante Park has garnered many awards for its unique character, creating a haven for both wildlife and man.  It is a major achievement in joining private and public funds and ideas to create a truly remarkable place.

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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2 Responses for “Joan M. Durante Park”

  1. Shirley lange says:

    God bless joan and john….angels on earth

  2. Alan Janssens says:

    I could’t agree more. This is a treasure I enjoy whenever my bike ride seems longer than it should be..and a sit and a sip of water is overdue. Greetings to the raccoons and other ‘critters’ which enjoy it as well..may they stay there safe and sound, away from whatever dangers lurk on the roadways, and what ever unsavory ‘treats’ can be found in unsecured trash bins. Ha!!

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