Sarasota County’s Natural Areas Story Map Brings Nature to You

A blue and gray colored, crow-like bird stands on the ground.
An endangered Florida scrub-jay inquisitively eyes its surroundings. Less than 50 scrub-jays remain in Sarasota County (Conservation Foundation). Photo credit: Katherine Clements.

Living on the Suncoast offers us a wide variety of opportunities to play outdoors and enjoy the true natural beauty of Florida’s unique ecosystems and habitats. From world class beaches to beautiful natural area preserves that host fascinating threatened and endangered species such as the Florida scrub-jay and the gopher tortoise; Sarasota County is full of gems.  

Protecting critical habitat

Speaking of gems, the county’s Environmentally Sensitive Lands Protection Program (ESLPP) has protected over 40,000 acres of strategically located land in the area. These lands play a critical role in protecting water quality and preserving some of the only remaining habitat for certain native species, like the endangered Florida scrub-jay mentioned above. And, that’s not all- whether you love native plants, viewing wildlife, or simply taking a peaceful stroll through pristine natural areas- this program has made miles of natural trails available to our community. Read on to learn how you can get to know and appreciate these beautiful places.A screenshot of the Sarasota County Natural Areas Story Map web application homepage.

A virtual guide… at home or on the go

Wondering where to get started enjoying these natural area preserves? Well, with Sarasota County’s new Natural Areas Story Map, you can explore five beautiful natural area preserves from your computer or smart phone. By using this virtual experience, nature becomes more accessible. You can visit natural areas from the comfort of your home or take your mobile device on the trail to help you navigate and learn about the plants, animals, and habitats that surround you. It’s like having an experienced tour guide right by your side!

For those who want more, the virtual experience features a bonus content section, where you can find animal and plant species lists, maps, family-friendly opportunities, and more. The Natural Areas Story Map includes virtual experiences for five different parks, preserves, and natural areas, with more on the way! Explore and learn about birding hotspots like Celery Fields Regional Stormwater Facility, or enjoy and discover all that real Florida has to offer by checking out the virtual experiences for preserves like Old Miakka Preserve and South Venice Lemon Bay Preserve.

Sarasota County’s Natural Areas Story Map is made possible through a collaboration between UF/IFAS Extension Sarasota County, Sarasota County Parks, Recreation, and Natural Resources, and Sarasota County Enterprise GIS. With this resource, we hope to meet our community’s needs for accessible and educational opportunities to engage with the natural world.

Try out this exciting new tool here!

Learn more and explore

Find your adventure in a Sarasota County park, preserve, or trail here.

Want to learn more about the wildlife that can be found in Sarasota County? Visit UF/IFAS Extension Sarasota County’s wildlife webpage for a collection of free, full-length webinars and additional resources to learn about some of Florida’s unique and fascinating bird, mammal, and reptile species.

A photo of a woman outside on the trail using her phone to learn about a plantA photo of a screen with an aerial view map with a trail outlined in red, and a photo of a gopher tortoise with information on the right side.A photo of a woman holding a smart phone, with the screen showing the natural areas story map.


Zahir Ringgold Cordes, Environmental Education and Outreach Program Assistant for UF/IFAS Extension Sarasota County's Ecology and Natural Resources Program
Posted: December 14, 2023

Category: Conservation, Forests, Natural Resources, Recreation, UF/IFAS Extension, Wildlife, Work & Life
Tags: Accessibility, Environment, Hike, Naturalareasstorymap, Nature, Outside, Pgm_EcoNR, Story Map, Storymap, Virtualexperience, Wildlife

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