Parks are developed for many purposes, ranging from entirely human recreation to nature preservation with considerable variation between these two extremes. Sometimes the preservation of green space can have significant benefits both for the human need for communing with nature and the need for wildlife to have suitable habitats — even in the middle of a city.
Arlington Park is in such a downtown location in Sarasota, and it has an interesting mixture of good and bad examples of what happens to natural ecology in such a city park.
The park has many trees and a picturesque pond constructed in a pre-existing wetland habitat. There is an aerator in the pond to maintain sufficient dissolved oxygen for aquatic organisms to survive. This is likely necessary due to poor water quality of runoff from the surrounding city and the unnaturally deep water in the pond, which causes stagnation and hypoxia (low oxygen levels).
On a recent two-hour visit, I observed two butterflies: A white peacock (larvae feed on bacopa and verbenas) and a tropical checkered skipper (caterpillars feed on mallows). I also saw several damselflies that were likely Rambur’s forktails and a large dragonfly, possibly a regal darner. There was a flock of white ibis foraging around the pond and perched on a dead tree. These are all native species that are bioindicators of good habitat quality of the park.
On the other hand, I observed three species that are bioindicators of poor habitat quality. There was a strange duck that appears to be a hybrid of a mallard duck (which does not breed here naturally) and a mottled duck (the native breeding species). There were numerous muscovy ducks. Muscovies are a domestic bird derived from a Mexican species, and are now established as a feral population. There was also a number of non-native red-eared slider turtles, most likely former pets released by their owners.
So the bottom line is that Arlington Park could be considered to be a “50:50” habitat that is a visually attractive place for people to enjoy nature in a city setting, but it is degraded to a considerable extent. Even so, I still find it inspiring that so much real nature can exist in an urban location.