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Pier, launch among park improvements

Fishing enthusiasts will no longer be forced to sit on the bank at Freedom Lake Park and make long casts to reach the depths where the finned creatures hang out.

Now they'll be able to get much closer thanks to a new dock the city finished installing last week.

That's not the only innovation at the park at 9990 46th St. N.

Boating enthusiasts - at least those who sail radio-operated toy boats - also have a new launch area.

Pinellas Park's total cost for the project: $37,000. That's $26,000 for the fishing pier, $9,000 for the launch and $2,000 for the sidewalks to the pier and launch. The sidewalks were done in-house.

"Residents have been asking for the pier and the new boat launch for a long time," said Joel Garren, the city's parks and recreation director.

Fishing is a popular daily activity at the 33-acre park. The Kiwanis Club of Pinellas Park and the Florida Game and Fresh Water Fish Commission host an annual Fishing Derby for children that attracts more than 1,000 kids each year. The derby is a finale to Fishing Week.

Freedom Lake is one of six ponds in the southern region of the state's urban fishing program, so the well-being of the pond and the fish are monitored regularly. Once a year, the lake is stocked with channel catfish.

Catfish are not the only finned denizens in Freedom Lake. Other fish found there include brown bullheads, blue tilapia, blue gill, shellcrackers or gars, and large-mouth bass.

Boaters also use the park regularly, especially on weekends. Until the 200-square-foot launch was completed, boaters had to step onto a concrete block to get their sailboats into the water, so the construction was a matter of safety as well as convenience.

The launch can also double as an additional fishing pier when boaters are not using it, Garren said.

Crowds pack Freedom Lake Park most weekends, making it one of the city's most popular parks. Aside from fishing and radio-controlled boating, the park has a fenced paw park, a fitness trail, playground equipment and picnic pavilions.

For the patriotic, it's also the site of an Air Force F-16 fighter jet and war memorials honoring Korean War veterans and veterans of all branches of the military.

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