Benderson Park getting more than 300 new trees to complement approximately 100 planted in 2020

County again helps with the initiative

The primary entrance to Benderson Park is on North Cattlemen Road, near University Parkway. The path that circles the lake originally had little shade. File photo

“More trees, more shade, and a better landscape for the future” are in store for Sarasota County’s Nathan Benderson Park, the Suncoast Aquatic Nature Center Associates (SANCA) announced this week.

“More than 300 new trees are being planted along a mile-long stretch between North Cattlemen Road and the park’s Cooper Creek Lake,” a news release says. Both the road and the water body are parallel to Interstate 75’s western edge, between the University Parkway and Fruitville Road exits, the release notes. The planting began Monday, Aug. 30.

“Research in mid-2020 by the nonprofit operator of the park showed many visitors wanted more shade,” the release explains, referring to SANCA.

The 325 new trees join another 100 trees planted in 2020, the release points out. “Sarasota County Government and other partners funded both the 2020 trees and the new trees, their irrigation and planting,” the release notes.

Commissioner Alan Maio led the county’s part of that response. He came up with the idea in October 2019, after listening to SANCA board members’ discussions about the need for more shade. Maio had begun attending those sessions as the County Commission’s representative on an informal basis. Later, after the Office of the County Attorney won state officials’ agreement that the commission formally could have a member on the SANCA board, Maio’s colleagues named him to the post. (The focus of the state Ethics Commission concern was the funding agreement the county has with SANCA, which manages the park and events held there.)

This is a gumbo limbo tree. Photo by Yinan Chen via Wikimedia Commons

Among the new Florida-friendly trees are Florida flame red maples, gumbo limbos, Southern red cedars, wax myrtles, slash pines, cathedral live oaks, cabbage palmettos, pond and bald cypresses, and winged elms, the news release points out. “They will join the 2020 plantings of Florida flame red maples, Southern magnolias, slash pines, cathedral live oaks and cabbage palmettos.”

In the release, SANCA Chief Operating Officer Stephen V. Rodriguez thanked Sarasota County, Cherrylake Nursery, TLC Landscaping and the park’s partners “for their support in bringing more shade to the park.”

Rodriguez added in the release, “This is an investment in the park that will live on,” he said, “and we look forward to seeing future generations of residents and visitors enjoying the beauty, shelter and natural habitat these trees will provide.”

Benderson Park has become known internationally as the top rowing venue in the United States. In 2017, it hosted the World Rowing Championships. Yet, it also is one of the county’s most popular parks for the public, county Commissioner Christian Ziegler has pointed out.

The trees, when mature, may reach heights ranging from 120 feet for the cathedral live oaks to 50 feet for the slash pines, the release notes. Most of the species will reach the 30- or 40-foot mark, the release adds. “The planting will also develop into a sound barrier for the park from Interstate 75,” the release says.