Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Sinkhole worries keep popular Lake Park closed

Geologists will study the sinkhole at Lake Park to determine its depth and width as well as sinkhole risks elsewhere in the park. The park was closed Dec. 2 after the sinkhole opened.

Photo by Joshua McMorrow-Hernandez

Geologists will study the sinkhole at Lake Park to determine its depth and width as well as sinkhole risks elsewhere in the park. The park was closed Dec. 2 after the sinkhole opened.

LUTZ — A friendly park ranger and the sound of songbirds usually welcome Lake Park patrons at the front gate, but lately, only a white barricade that says "Park Closed" sits at the entrance.

The county shuttered Lake Park on Dec. 2, concerned about a sinkhole that opened up in the middle of the park's southern access road. Park staff first reported the sinkhole on Oct. 31.

"At that time, we hired geotechnical firm Ardaman & Associates to test the site," says Forest Turbiville, Director of Conservation & Environmental Lands Management with Hillsborough County. "We blocked off access to the road, but the park was still open."

Concerns about the safety of parkgoers grew when officials learned the depth of the sinkhole, 100 feet. That's when officials made the tough decision to shut the park down until further geologic assessments could be made on the sinkhole. The Hillsborough County Park Department manages Lake Park as a joint venture with the City of St. Petersburg, which owns the property.

"St. Petersburg has been very good and gave us permission to conduct studies," Turbiville remarks. "They've been very supportive and we hope to get some resolution soon."

While the sinkhole was initially thought to measure 6 feet wide, Turbiville says it is possibly wider under the surface. Ardaman & Associates is about to begin an in-depth investigation on the sinkhole to determine its exact depth and width as well as sinkhole risks elsewhere in the park.

"The study we're conducting will take six weeks to complete," Turbiville said. "During that time, we'll still have the park closed to ensure public safety."

While temporarily closing the park might be the safe choice, it has disappointed some longtime park patrons. It's a popular spot with amenities that include a BMX bicycle course, equestrian center, archery range, playground, fishing areas, and picnic space.

"We really miss going to the park," says Jessica Kingsborough, mother of two daughters ages 6 and 8. Still, the Carrollwood Realtor understands why one of her family's favorite stomping grounds remains barricaded. "I'm a little concerned about the safety of the park in the long run."

Safety remains the "number-one priority" for the county, but determining the risk of sinkhole activity at the park can prove challenging according to Robert Brinkmann, professor of geology, environment, and sustainability at Hofstra University.

Brinkmann, the author of Florida Sinkholes, Science and Policy says the Sunshine State's volatile karst topography and complex network of underground caverns can lead to voids that create "catastrophic sinkholes," such as the sinkhole that opened under 37-year-old Jeffrey Bush's bedroom in his Seffner home in 2013, killing him.

While it's inconclusive as to what caused the sinkhole in Lake Park, Brinkmann says changes in groundwater condition can lead to sinkhole activity, and the park endured a record rainfall last summer.

"Rainfall is an important factor," he says. "Heavy rainfall puts a lot of weight on the surface and leads to a lot of water draining into the aquifer."

Deciding how to resolve Lake Park's current sinkhole situation and, ultimately, what the park's fate will be comes down to the research team's findings. Turbeville said Tampa Bay Water prefers filling the sinkhole with grout but officials don't know if the access road on which the sinkhole formed should ever be reopened, and what impact that may have on the park's functionality.

Turbiville said the road sits between two lakes, so rerouting the path might be difficult.

As for a timeline on when Lake Park might reopen? "We're going to wait until we get the results," Turbiville says.

"I'm hoping we'll get it open in the next couple months."

Sinkhole worries keep popular Lake Park closed 02/04/16 [Last modified: Thursday, February 4, 2016 12:27pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Tampa Bay Super Bowls: A brief history and some predictions for 2021


    At last, Tampa will host a Super Bowl again. It used to be that the Cigar City would host one a decade, but by the time February 2021 rolls around, it will have been 12 years since the epic showdown between the Steelers and Cardinals. Because it has been awhile, let's revisit those past Super Bowls while also peering …

    New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady, left, holds the AFC Championship trophy? as he celebrates with head coach Bill Belichick after the AFC championship NFL football game, Sunday, Jan. 22, 2017, in Foxborough, Mass. The Patriots defeated the the Pittsburgh Steelers 36-17 to advance to the Super Bowl.? (AP Photo/Matt Slocum) FBO247
  2. Sputtering Rays keep falling one run short

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — Even going into play against the Angels on Tuesday just a game under .500 at 23-24, the Rays have some issues they have to resolve.

    Rays starter Alex Cobb waits for Mike Trout to finish his trot after homering to give the Angels a 2-0 lead.
  3. Analysis: Manchester attack was exactly what many had long feared


    LONDON — For Britain's security agencies, London always seemed like the likely target. For years, the capital of 8 million with hundreds of thousands of weekly tourists and dozens of transit hubs had prepared for and feared a major terror attack.

  4. Dade City man dies after crashing into county bus, troopers say

    Public Safety

    ZEPHYRHILLS — A 38-year-old man died Tuesday after colliding into the rear of a county bus on U.S. 301, the Florida Highway Patrol said.

  5. Suspicious device at Pinellas Park home was a spent artillery round, police say

    Public Safety

    PINELLAS PARK — Bomb squad investigators determined that a "suspicious device" found at a Pinellas Park home Tuesday afternoon was a spent artillery round, police said.