Trash-covered land becomes Manatee nature preserve

- A nature preserve off of Palma Sola in Manatee County - once littered with trash - has new life thanks to many hours of hard work and lots of volunteers.

"This property was an unofficial dump site. We pulled out 1,700 tons of all kinds of all materials - pieces of cars, tiles, tires," said Mike Elswick, natural resources division manager for Manatee County.

Since that time, the Ungarelli preserve has been refreshed.

Dorothy Ungarelli donated the land in 2008. 

The county then started working on the persevere in 2010. Since then, volunteers and workers planted more than 20,000 native plants. Today, the park stretches about 800 feet. The county hopes to one day extend the park out to Palma Sola Bay, giving visitors a piece of nature and breathtaking views.

"Phase two of the project will involve construction of a series of boardwalks that will connect the upland fingers here, that we have here," Elswick explained.

The Ungarelli preserve has been a joint project. The county has worked with the community and the Ungarelli family to bring the piece of land back to life. With 35 acres, there is much more potential for the future. 

"It is important to give folks in the community a sense of what was here and to give our migratory birds and shore birds a place to forage which ties in over on their journey," Elswick added. "We are bringing back some of the natural plant communities that have been most heavily impacted."

The preserve, located at 4314 Palma Sola Blvd., will open Saturday at 11 a.m. The grand opening will include a ribbon cutting and entertainment. 

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