Look at the eyes of the children swinging in the new playground at Sapphire Shores Park and you'll see joy.
Turn around and see what the kids are witnessing and it's a picturesque scene of nature, overlooking a Sarasota Bay basin with pelicans diving, fish jumping and paddleboarders cruising by.
It's exactly what the neighbors of Indian Beach/Sapphire Shores imagined when they sought to install the neighborhood's first-ever playground. The community celebrated the completion Friday afternoon.
"The swings, slide and picnic table are positioned to so you can see the basin," said Vald Svekis, president of the Indian Beach-Sapphire Shores Neighborhood Association. And the wildlife, too, whether it's a pod of dolphins, manatees or even a bald eagle roaming the sea wall.
For the last 15 years, neighbors said how the spot at Sun Circle and Acacia Drive would be perfect for a pocket park with a single swingset, a picnic table and a slide, Svekis said.
"We have 1,200 homes in Indian Beach and we never had a playground," Svekis said.
The community pitched in the last couple years and 20 families contributed $2,500 to help fund the playground, Svekis said. Additional funds came from a park grant through Sarasota County and another grant, the Neighborhood Partnership Grant administered by the city's Neighborhood Services.
Neighbors helped study and selected the shrubs to go into the park and a natural canopy of trees provide shading.
"For years and years, my kids and I would ride on our bicycles to this spot," Vice Mayor Willie Charles Shaw said. And this is where his kids would first discover dolphins, he added.
Mayor Suzanne Atwell said the playground is "tasteful, minamalist" and adds class to the diverse neighborhood.
Now that the neighbors have their playground, they're ready to explore funding to install a kayak launch nearby at the basin for fisherman, Svekis said.