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Lake Maggiore a not-so-hidden gem

By Sandra J. Gadsden, Senior Web Editor
Published: October 4, 2013 Updated: October 4, 2013 at 08:42 PM
The Warriors On Water (1) tries to edge out the JAX Fire Dragons Chix with Stix (2) for the women’s championship final of the dragon boat races at Paddles Up St. Pete Festival at Lake Maggiore Sept. 28.

Thousands drive past its shores each day, in a hurry to get to anywhere but there.

The 380-acre lake at 3801 Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. St. S is the largest in the Sunshine City — and one of the most beautiful. Yet these days, few residents take advantage of its peaceful setting.

The city has 2,400 acres of parkland and more than 150 parks. But Lake Maggiore Park is unique, from its amenities to its potential.

Lake Maggiore, which sits just off of one of the city's busiest thoroughfares, is one of the city's greatest gems, yet it hosts few visitors.

The lake is known more for its big alligators than its potential for hosting major events.

Last weekend, those who attended or competed in the Paddles Up St. Pete Festival's dragon boat races were able to experience the beauty of the picturesque lake. Some 33 teams competed and the one question that echoed throughout the day was why more city-sponsored events weren't held there.

For years the park was home to the annual Circus McGurkis event, but that festival moved further south to Lake Vista Park at 1401 62nd Ave. S.

Some locals will tell you they waterskied on the lake years ago.

Perusing the archives, I was able to find a host of events that drew thousands along the lake's shores years ago. From the St. Petersburg Times on Feb. 2, 1953:

"If 10,00 came out to see last year's Southland Regatta, 20,000 should be on the shores of Lake Maggiore Saturday and Sunday."

It seems a huge turnout was expected at the hydroplane speedboat race because band leader and champion racer Guy Lombardo was to compete in the event with the "biggest boat ever to be entered in the regatta."

The Southland Regatta was held at Lake Maggiore for 50 years; the last was 1988.

Lake Maggiore Park isn't the only recreation facility there. The park is adjacent to the popular Boyd Hill Nature Preserve south of the lake on Country Club Way. Dell Holmes Park is along the lake's northwestern edge.

The lake offers year-round fishing and its park features a wilderness area, playground, picnic shelters, boat ramp and four lighted football/soccer fields, according to the city's website.

More than three years ago the city and the Southwest Florida Water Management District completed a 20-year restoration effort to clean up the lake.

Here's hoping the city has more events there.

Sandra J. Gadsden can be reached at [email protected] or (727) 893-8874. Follow @StPeteSandi on Twitter.