Monday, June 18, 2018
Opinion

Ruth: New Tampa Nature Park a playground for critters

At first blush this certainly seemed like a wonderful thing.

There was Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn formally dedicating the city's newest recreational outlet, the New Tampa Nature Park.

This was just peachy. The 122-acre park is free and there's a zip line gizmo to add to all the excitement. And then City Council member Lisa Montelione had to go and spoil everything by piping up.

Gushing over how the new park was the greatest thing since Dick Greco discovered Grecian Formula, Montelione said the New Tampa Nature Park was so happy-happy-joy-joy the place made her feel as if she actually was, ". . . in the woods."

This realization may have overtaken the council member because, well, she actually was in the woods, which is sorta what constitutes a nature park in the first place.

But Montelione was only just getting started. What really fired up the council member was the riveting sight of coming upon some feral hogs during a recent weekend stroll through the park. Well, we obviously have to take pleasure in our thrills where we find them.

Clearly the council member and I have vastly different notions over what constitutes a good time.

After all, feral hogs are not exactly known for their sense of humor. They are not particularly cute and cuddly. They don't fetch. They don't do much of anything except snort and amble around with a chip on their shoulder.

And in the tony New Tampa subdivisions they are not a welcomed sight, given their reputations for chewing up expensive landscaping. But at least Lisa Montelione was enthralled to see the critters.

By all means, please, go to the New Tampa Nature Park. Revel in all the shrubbery and stuff. Have a nice time. Have a zip line or two.

The park originated as the dream of the late developer Ken Good, who believed nature is a nice thing. And it is.

But the problem, for me at least, is that park is also populated (in addition to those feral hogs with issues) with alligators, bobcats, foxes and perhaps the odd Florida Panther. And you have to believe there are sure to be some snakes hanging around. They're like that, you know. It's a nature thing.

As Harrison Ford's Indiana Jones once so properly said: "Snakes. I hate snakes." I do, too. I'm probably in the minority on this, but really now, nature is highly overrated.

Call me a party-pooper, but there is no reason I can think of to want to hike around a nature park where there are other species also in residence who would like to eat me. And then there are the snakes.

Isn't this the reason why God created cities, so that people wouldn't have to fear being consumed by a feral hog?

It's not as if I don't like to hang around nature from time to time. I play golf (badly), which requires associating with trees and the like. And, of course, there are ducks and other various fowl populating the course. It's all very Mark Trail-esque — with a cocktail lounge after the 18th hole. And I don't need a shotgun to ward off bobcats in a bad mood.

Okay, I'll plead a bit guilty to perhaps over-reacting. Maybe the New Tampa Nature Park is a thing of wonderment for the whole family. Maybe.

It's simply that I'm the poster child for Murphy's Law. I can't help but think I might well become the first visitor taking in the park to be mugged by a heron.

Nature is like that, you know. It's a jungle out there.

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