Oscar Scherer State Park is a 1,381 acre park on the coast of southwest Florida. It is located in Osprey, Florida which is between Venice and Sarasota.
It is a national gold medal winner for excellence from the National Parks and Recreation Service and is America’s first two time winner. This award is given for a demonstrated excellence in long-range planning, resource management and agency recognition in meeting the needs of the community.
Oscar Scherer is the first park we have visited that advertised not just ADA camping sites but ADA activities. The Lester Finley Barrier Free Nature Trail, located in South Creek Picnic Area, is accessible to those with sight, hearing or mobility impairments. It has a wheelchair accessible fishing dock, butterfly observation area and drinking fountain.
The park is committed to protecting nature. Oscar Scherer is perhaps best known as a place to see the protected Florida scrub-jay, a fearless little bird often seen on park trails, or even in the parking lot and are abundant throughout the park. Florida’s massive urban development has so reduced this bird’s habitat that Oscar Scherer now has the only protected populations in southwest Florida with a long-term chance of survival. Florida Park Service biologists conduct a monthly census of the population, and the park staff manages the scrubby flatwoods which are their natural habitat.
The campground has 98 camping sites with power, water, a picnic table, a clothesline, and a fire pit/grill. The sites are fairly private with thick scrub brush between sites. To get to the camping area you must go over a bridge which I found to be fairly narrow but big RVs crossed it daily.
The Nature Center
The park had a nature center which had exhibits and videos about the park’s plants and wildlife. It was also the center hub of activity as the park had multiple activities scheduled throughout the day for campers. There was everything from bird watching walks with an Audubon Society person, to live music in the park, to after dark canoe trips, and more.
Bike Riding on the Legacy Trail
The Legacy Trail is a rails-to-trail bike (or walking) trail that goes through Oscar Scherer State Park. The trail is only about 10.7 miles in length, making for a nice 21.4 mile round trip ride.
This my favorite kind of bike riding because the trail is straight-as-an-arrow, smooth, paved and only has a few well-marked street crossings on low-volume roads. We rode from the park to the Train Station Trailhead in Venice. It was an easy ride going there because we had a tailwind but had to buck a strong head wind coming back. The only really steep spot came when we crossed over US 41 on a pedestrian overpass.
A funny story about the trail … Don and I were coming down the overpass quickly and Don pulled off to get a picture of the crossing. Anyway, I didn’t see him pull off and he didn’t see me fly by so he went up and down the bridge looking for me three times. I think I was more tired from my one climb than he was with his three.
We are trying to walk at least 6 miles a day and this park offered many great trails. You can walk all-or-part of the Legacy Trail or any of the 15 miles of trails within the park. Most park trails are through scrubby flat woods which are the natural habitat for a diverse animal population. The best times to see animals was early in the morning and late in the afternoon. (We heard one person saw a bobcat on the trail early one morning.)
Bird watching is very popular at Oscar Scherer. Eagles nest here in the winter and all year long you can see the protected Florida scrub-jay which are abundant throughout the park.
Canoeing on the South Creek Stream
Running throughout the park is a tidal black water stream called South Creek which runs to a nearby bay. This stream offers great lazy canoeing and kayaking. (You can rent them in the park.) It also provides both fresh and salt water fishing.
The Fall of the Drones
We noticed this sign in the park – looks like Florida state parks have outlawed flying drones.
Shopping at the Farmer’s Markets / Craft Market
Yes, we went to two during our stay. Saturday we went back to the Sarasota Market we talked about during our last posting and on Sunday we went to one in Siesta Key.
The Siesta Key Market turned out to be the Siesta Key Farmer’s Market and 22nd Annual Craft Festival. The location was perfect because it was near the beach so you could take in the sand and the sea as you looked at the work of more than 100 crafters showcasing and selling their work. There was photography, paintings, sculpture, jewelry and more. Don even got a tie-dyed, bamboo fiber t-shirt, now we are officially retired.