In 1996, Joe Limpert and his wife, Mary, came down from St. Louis to buy a sailboat and cruise around for a couple of years. They rented a condo where they stayed in the summer. Too hot, too many hurricanes in the summer. The rest of the year, they sailed. • They went to the Dry Tortugas. • They went to the Bahamas. • And, they went coastal cruising up and down the gulf shore looking for a place on dry land to call home.
They really liked the area between Fort Myers and Tampa, Limpert said.
And after seeing all their options, they settled on Bradenton, specifically their home in Braden River Lakes, the tree-lined community just west of I-75 with winding roads and mature oak trees — and water everywhere.
"We found the best values here," Limpert said.
It was the most cost-effective and the place they thought they could enjoy the highest standard of living.
They also liked and looked around Punta Gorda, but thought Bradenton had more to offer.
"We are within 5 miles of everything we need," he said.
One of those necessities was to be close to the gulf because after they sold their sailboat, they had a fishing boat for fun and they needed water access, he said. They no longer have the boat but they still enjoy a view of water, a small lake located behind their house.
Braden River Lakes is located on the Braden River. The waterfront homes have quick access to the gulf. For everyone else, a public ramp and two marinas are close by.
It's also a great place for watching wildlife along the river, in the nearby estuary and in the 12 lakes and ponds scattered around the neighborhood.
The community of about 500 homes, located south of State Road 64, has a riverfront park, tennis and volleyball courts, a playground and community pool.
It's a quiet community whose residents seem to love living there.
On a recent warm afternoon, the streets were buzzing with people. Some walked dogs, some jogged, a mom tagged behind her child in a little motorized car.
There were people tending their lawns and people in the crystal-clear and sparkling community pool.
Home prices are relatively low, with most homes over $200,000 located on the river.
Limpert said they didn't raise their kids here but are having a great time with the grandchildren.
"There are lots of roads and streets. They like to go bike-riding," he said, on the winding streets lined with live oaks that have had many years to mature since the community was built in 1989.
And, if there's nothing to do in the immediate neighborhood and he doesn't want to go to nearby Sarasota or Tampa, there is still one great amenity right around the corner: the Pittsburgh Pirates spring training camp.
"You can go over and watch them practice," Limpert said. "It's about 3 miles away."
Patti Ewald can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.