New hiking trail will link FishHawk Ranch to Lithia Springs Park

The Lithia Springs Park to FishHawk Ranch route should open this year.
Published May 17 2012

LITHIA — Who says wildlife corridors are only for the animals?

Work has begun on a 5-mile trail that will take hikers from a Hillsborough County-owned preserve near FishHawk Ranch north to Lithia Springs Park.

Trailheads, including parking areas and picnic pavilions, have been built at each end of the planned route, one at Boyette and Balm-Boyette roads and the other just inside the entrance to Lithia Springs Park.

A nature trail is expected to be cleared by the end of the year, said Ross Dickerson, who oversees preservation lands for Hillsborough's Parks, Recreation and Conservation Department. The Boyette trailhead will also offer a basketball court and fitness course, he said.

The new trail was good news to Damarcus Lowe of Cocoa Beach, who was visiting Lithia Springs Park last week with friends from the Tampa Bay area.

"It's not a flat area, so a trail like that would be more exercise," Lowe said, referring to the rolling terrain stretching south from Lithia Springs.

The trail will thread through a 3,500-acre collection of pine flatwoods and grassy pastures dubbed the Fish Hawk Creek/Alafia River Corridor Preserve, set aside through the county's Environmental Lands Acquisition and Protection program to provide wildlife with a variety of habitats in which to roam.

A short distance from the Lithia Springs trailhead, towering oaks, palms and pines create a haven for birds. Last week, flashes of scarlet broke the green panorama as cardinals darted through the brush and a woodpecker hammered its way to a meal high up in the tree branches. The hoot of an owl punctuated a chorus of bird trills and chirps.

The $650,000 trail project, funded through a grant from the Florida Communities Trust, will include a foot bridge over Little Fishhawk Creek just southwest of the Lithia Springs trailhead. The trail will be wide enough for park maintenance vehicles, but the public will not be allowed to drive motorized vehicles there, Dickerson said.

A smaller path will shoot off the main trail to take anglers to the Alafia River near Lithia Springs.

Dickerson said the new trail will add to about 70 miles of foot paths through county-owned wilderness areas south of State Road 60.

Susan Marschalk Green can be reached at [email protected]