When Al Donn moved to the Hunter’s Green subdivision, there weren’t any home improvement stores. No Muvico theater and no restaurants. Just a gas station on Dona Michelle Drive, really.
Donn, president of the Heather Downs Neighborhood Association in Hunter’s Green, said he didn’t mind it that way because he moved to New Tampa partially for the nature.
So Monday’s grand opening of New Tampa Nature Park, a 122-acre expanse of greenery, was easily welcomed.
“Things have grown dramatically here,” Donn said of New Tampa. “It’s really great the City of Tampa, the residents, had the forethought to protect natural areas like this ... for our future residents.”
Just east of Interstate 75 and south of Bruce B. Downs Boulevard, New Tampa Nature Park connects to Hillsborough County’s Flatwoods Park trail system. It includes an elevated boardwalk "nature walk," a shorter elevated "marsh walk," a rock and rope playground climber, and a zip line play element. There are also picnic areas.
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The seeds for the city-run New Tampa Nature Park were planted in the 1980s.
“Ken Good, the man behind the creation of Tampa Palms, first conceived of a nature park for the citizens on this very site,” said Bill Edwards, president of the Tampa Palms Owners Association. “He created a foundation in 1986 for this purpose but they were denied funding to bring it to fruition.”
Edwards said the property languished for years until through the foresight of residents and the City of Tampa, it eventually became something for citizens to enjoy. Land for the project was acquired through assistance with the Florida Communities Trust Preservation 2000 program and the Hillsborough County Environmental Lands Acquisition and Protection Program.
The park connects residents with miles of existing trails where they can walk, hike and bike. Folks can expect to see — if observant and quiet — lots of wildlife including deer, wild hogs, alligators, osprey and wild turkey.
“People need to understand we are a diverse community, that our natural environment is diverse,” Mayor Bob Buckhorn said.
What do you think about the new park? Share your impressions in the comments section.