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Birds rule at new Scherer Thaxton Preserve

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NOKOMIS -- Visitors to the grand opening of the Scherer Thaxton Preserve

Saturday probably won’t see any Florida scrub jays.

They might have to settle for a bald eagle.

The 287-acre preserve was purchased as a buffer for the endangered jays of Oscar Scherer State Park, but now the public will be welcome to spy on its ducks, ospreys and eagles.

Sarasota County employees Chris Meyers, Mike Barker and Brooke Elias lead a tour of the Scherer Thaxton Preserve, which opens Saturday. (Staff photo /Thomas Becnel)

Sarasota County employees Chris Meyers, Mike Barker and Brooke Elias lead a tour of the Scherer Thaxton Preserve, which opens Saturday. (Staff photo /Thomas Becnel)

On Wednesday afternoon, a young bald eagle perched on a power line tower near the entrance to the preserve on Honore Avenue.

“One time, I was out here and there were seven eagles on the different bars of that tower,” said Mike Barker, an environmental supervisor for Sarasota County. “It’s hard not to be in awe when you see something like that.”

The Scherer Thaxton Preserve is an urban park cornered by State Road 681 and Interstate 75. Pine flatwoods frame the view to the east, but there’s a constant hum of traffic.

mapparkVisitors to the Honore entrance will find 40 parking spaces, a four-acre lake and a loop trail dotted with park benches and picnic tables. No dogs are allowed. Guests are asked to pack out whatever trash they take in to the park.

The preserve is named for Elsa Scherer Burrows, who donated her family’s ranch to the state in 1955, and Jon Thaxton, the former Sarasota County commissioner who has studied scrub jays and championed their cause for decades.

“I appreciate it and all, don’t get me wrong,” Thaxton told Sarasota County commissioners in December. “I’m both honored and uncomfortable with the recognition."

Former Sarasota County Commissioner Jon Thaxton has had a long interest in protecting the Florida scrub jay. The new park is named after him and (Herald-Tribune archive / 2012 / Elaine Litherland)

Former Sarasota County Commissioner Jon Thaxton has had a long interest in protecting the Florida scrub jay. The new park is named after him and (Herald-Tribune archive / 2012 / Elaine Litherland)

At Saturday morning’s grand opening, local outdoor and environmental groups will include Friends of the Legacy Trail. For hikers and cyclists, Scherer Thaxton provides another link in a chain of loops and trails.

“We think it’s terrific, really well-positioned,” says Mike Gippert, president of the Friends. “There’s a bike path on Honore, so it would be a nice loop coming off the Central Sarasota Parkway. That’s what we’re looking for, more attractions that people can get to by bicycle.”

Honore Avenue, lined with new housing developments, has become a favorite with area cyclists. Local residents now walk and jog past the preserve, too.

The lake near the entrance to Scherer Thaxton is an old borrow pit from the construction of I-75 more than 30 years ago. It has become a fishing hole known for its largemouth bass. It will be open for paddling, but not swimming.

What the lake doesn’t have is a name, but that may change.

“We’re thinking about having a fun contest,” says Brooke Elias, county land protection coordinator, “for people to suggest names.”

INTERESTED? The Scherer Thaxton Preserve, 13125 Honore Ave., Nokomis, is scheduled to open at 10 a.m. Saturday, May 3. There will be speeches and nature walks.
Last modified: May 2, 2014
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