Payne Park

Are you, like me, leery of braving Bayfront Park and the Ringling Causeway on your morning constitutionals these days? Since the coronavirus quarantine, they’ve become superhighways for walkers, joggers and bicyclists, and I’m looking for a little more social distance.

If a family walk is on your agenda for Mother’s Day, we suggest you take Mom somewhere quieter and easy to access, with plenty of room to roam: the city of Sarasota’s Payne Park.

Payne Park is located south of Ringling Boulevard and east of Washington Boulevard on a 39-acre parcel that used to be home to Sarasota’s first spring training baseball park. (I have happy memories of watching the White Sox play there with my grandfather back in the ‘70s.) It’s a hidden gem, which is another way of saying why don’t more people use it?

Now, besides a half-mile walking track lined with “Shady Lady” black olive trees that have filled in beautifully and provide lots of relief from the sun, Payne Park hosts a skate park, a colorful circus themed playground and a tennis complex. Those amenities are temporarily closed, but the city commission voted Monday night to open the tennis courts next week. For the athletic mom, there’s even a nifty disc golf course.

If you have a good imagination, Payne Park rimmed in the distance by architectural gems like the historic county courthouse and the modern police headquarters, can be--kinda, sorta--considered Sarasota’s Central Park.  

It's a bit of fresh air perfect for celebrating Mom.

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