JOAN M. DURANTE PARK is a 32-acre site located on Sarasota Bay two miles from the north end of Longboat Key. The site had previously been developed with cabins, these had been demolished and invasive exotic vegetation had taken over the site by the time the Town acquired it in the late eighties. Great care was taken to protect the native vegetation and desirable trees on the site, such as Live Oaks, Red Cedar, Sabal Palms, Banyon, Mango, Green Buttonwood, Mahoe and Mangroves. Mangroves were planted in the wetland areas and Live Oak, Red Cedar, Wax Myrtle, Green Buttonwood, Sabal Palmetto, Seagrape, and Gumbo Limbo were planted in the upland areas to restore the coastal hammock forest. A variety of understory species were also planted to stabilize and enhance the new coastal dune and wetland areas.
Featured Birds: Close to 170 bird species have been reported by eBirders. This park features boardwalks through the mangroves where you might see migrating warblers, sandpipers, waterfowl, and shorebirds. The Live Oak are great places to see kingbirds, thrashers, and woodpeckers. Rarities have included Canada and Blackburnian Warblers, White-winged Dove, Philadelphia Vireo and Yellow-billed Cuckoo.
Insider’s Tips: Before leaving the parking area, look for movement in the trees that border the pond and entry drive. From there, head toward the elevated pavilion adjacent to the parking lot. Its views into the canopy and over the main lawn make it easier to spot activity. During spring and fall, look for migrating species such as Black-throated Green Warbler, Tennessee Warbler, Northern Parula, Rose-breasted Grosbeak, Scarlet and Summer Tanager, Yellow-throated Vireo, and others as they forage in the trees. Trails at the opposite side of the lawn lead to Sarasota Bay and several panoramic views of the water. Along the way, check the understory for thrushes such as Veery, Swainson’s, White-cheeked and Wood Thrush, and listen for the rattling calls of Belted Kingfisher hunting in hidden lagoons. A small bridge takes you to a boardwalk that meanders through dense mangroves. During migration, warblers found here include American Redstart, Blackburnian, Blackpoll, Prairie, and Magnolia. When the boardwalk exits the mangroves, it heads out over an open area, providing a good vantage point for spotting soaring birds like Osprey and Magnificent Frigatebirds. The boardwalk ends at a trail leading back to the parking lot and pavilion.
Accessibility: All trails are either crushed shell or synthetic boardwalk. The boardwalks through the mangroves offer some shade.
The park is open from dawn to dusk with the gates closed at dusk.
There is no admission fee.
Address: 5550 Gulf of Mexico Dr., Longboat Key, FL 34228
GPS Coordinates: 27.4147477,-82.6582146
Public restrooms, playground and picnic tables are available. The open section of boardwalk provides no shade.
Dogs on a leash are welcome.