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Decades in the making, New Tampa Nature Park finally opens

Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn tries out a new rope swing at New Tampa Nature Park on Monday after a ribbon-cutting ceremony opening the facility. One of the park’s signature features will be the abundant wildlife inhabiting the area.

EDMUND D. FOUNTAIN | Times

Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn tries out a new rope swing at New Tampa Nature Park on Monday after a ribbon-cutting ceremony opening the facility. One of the park’s signature features will be the abundant wildlife inhabiting the area.

TAMPA — The zip line is a first for a Tampa city park, but the enduring appeal of the New Tampa Nature Park is probably to be found at ground level.

"You really feel like you're in the woods," said City Council member Lisa Montelione, who encountered a half-dozen feral hogs during a Thanksgiving Day hike in the park.

It's that wildlife — deer, turkey, alligators, bobcats, foxes and even, years ago, a Florida panther photographed in the area — that the new park is meant to make available to city residents.

Along with its own trails and boardwalks, the new park includes a connection to a trail at Hillsborough County's Flatwoods Wilderness Regional Park.

Tampa officials cut the ribbon on the park's first phase Monday, but its history goes back to the late Ken Good, who developed nearby Tampa Palms.

Good, who died last year, envisioned a nature park on the site and created a foundation in 1986, but funding for the project fell through, said Bill Edwards, president of the Tampa Palms Owners Association.

The property languished for years, and the public acquired it with help from the Florida Communities Trust Preservation 2000 program and the county's Environmental Lands Acquisition and Protection Program.

"This area is so rapidly growing, it's nice to preserve a little piece of it so we can enjoy the deer, the osprey, the wild turkey," said Al Donn, president of the Heather Downs neighborhood association in Hunter's Green.

The zip line is about 100 feet long and keeps the rider within 4 feet of the ground, low enough for Martha Shaffer of Tampa to give it a try with her 2-year-old son, Lukas.

"For me to get on that with him, it's a good sign," she said.

.Fast facts

New Tampa Nature Park

Where: 17001 Dona Michelle Drive, east of Interstate 75 and south of Bruce B. Downs Boulevard.

Hours: Open dawn to dusk, seven days a week; free admission.

Size: 122 acres.

Amenities: Paved multipurpose trail, hiking trails, boardwalk over wetlands, picnic areas, rock and rope playground climbers for kids, zip line, and parking for 22 cars and two buses.

Cost for first phase: $927,469

Decades in the making, New Tampa Nature Park finally opens 11/26/12 [Last modified: Monday, November 26, 2012 11:23pm]

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