By Karen McBride
Published in LOLANews
As you drive along the busy street known as Dale Mabry, you may be unaware of the hidden oasis, named Lake Park. The 589 acre park has a lot to offer including 5 lakes, an equestrian area, BMX bicycle track and a two mile hiking trail.
Whether you are looking for a fun way to tire out your children at the playground, or want a relaxing day reading a good book under a shady tree, Lake Park is for you. Fishing is permitted from the shore, and only electric powered boats are permitted in the lakes. If you are lucky enough to catch a fish, a volunteer catch and release program for bass is encouraged and there is a limit of two catfish per day.
The park hosts many events throughout the year, including the Native American Festival, annual art show, and Tampa BMX Raceway races. During the winter months, the park is open from 8 am to 6 pm. In the spring, summer and fall from 8 am to 7 pm.
Another park in Lutz, is perfect for the dog lover. Be sure to visit Carolyn Meeker Dog Park, 122 1st Ave. SW, Lutz, FL 33548. Located near Johns 4 Meat (aka John’s Butcher Shop) and the Lutz Library, the park has 5 acres with a 6 foot chain link fence. The area is split into two separate access areas for small and large dogs. In addition, there are water fountains for people and dogs, park benches, dog washes, a hitching post, and doggie mitt receptacles.
Further east is one of the parks I visited when I first moved to Florida. Lettuce Lake Park opened a few years earlier, in 1982, and over the years has added amenities, such as picnic areas, playgrounds, and fitness course. The 3500 foot boardwalk meanders along the Hillsborough River to an observation tower for a birds eye view of the beautiful surrounding nature. A canoe and kayak launch has added another option for the nature observer. The 240 acre park is located at 6920 E Fletcher, Tampa.
Traveling north on 301, you will find Hillsborough River State Park. It is one of the oldest parks in Florida. It opened in 1938 at 15402 US 301 N in Thonotosassa. With over 7 miles of nature trails, it is a hiker’s paradise. Bicyclists can ride the 1.6 miles Wetlands Restoration Nature Trail as well as the 2.2 mile loop around the campgrounds. If you don’t own a bike, you can rent one for $10 per hour. Surreys (for two or more people) can be rented for $20 per hour.
Camping, swimming in the pool, enjoying the picnic areas, fishing, canoeing and kayaking are just some of the things to do at the park. Rangers can take you on a tour of Historic Fort Foster on Saturdays at 2 pm or Sundays at 11 am. The cost for the tour is $2. Fort Foster is a reconstructed fort from the Second Seminole War. Artifacts found at the fort site are on display along with maps showing both sides of the conflict between Seminole Indians and US Forces.
Fort Foster Rendezvous will be held Thursday, February 9 through Sunday, February 12. Historical reenactments featuring military and Seminole Indians will be held on Saturday and Sunday after 1 pm. Settlers and tradesmen will be dressed in historical clothing to make you feel as if you traveled back in time. Craft demonstrations and a variety of food will be available. Thursday and Fridays will be school days (but the public is invited as well). The cost is $2 per student and teachers and chaperones are free.