Back to Nature (Published on TBNWeekly.com - April 19, 2006)
Spring fever? Take two weeks and stay at home
 
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Photo by Karen Mitchell Tremmel
An American alligator sunbathes at the Hillsborough River State Park.
The Florida State Parks’ motto this year is, “Why don’t you spring into a Florida State Park this year to satisfy your ‘spring fever?’”

Pinellas County School’s summer break is May 18 and Hillsborough schools break on May 25. Gas prices near $3 a gallon in Pinellas and Hillsborough counties. Major airlines face bankruptcy as airfares climb.

Need a break? Spring fever? Look no further than your own backyard. Pinellas and Hillsborough offer some of the best recreational areas in the U.S.A. We have award-winning beaches just a short drive away, gulf waters, lake waters, rivers, rapids, bayous, nature trails, lakes, the longest paved bike trail, a walk on a suspended bridge in the tree top canopy, the best sunsets, museums and much more.

From the moment you enter a Florida State Park, you literally leave the stresses of our modern society behind. The Florida State Park System includes world class beaches, underwater parks, recreational areas, rivers, crystal clear cool springs, trails, museums, forts, visitor centers and interpretive centers that will help you understand and appreciate both natural and man-made environments.

For the second time in five years, Florida State Parks was recognized with the National Gold Medal Award for excellence in recreation management from the National Recreation and Park Association. This award is especially significant because it marks the first time a state park system received the recognition “twice.”

Take two weeks and stay at home. Check out a few of our local hotspots.

Hillsborough River State Park – One of the most excellent parks in the entire state is right out our very own back door and kid friendly. I believe this park is one of Florida’s best kept secrets.

The Hillsborough River State Park is one of Florida’s original state parks. Built in 1936 by the Civilian Conservation Corporation, Hillsborough River State Park is steeped in history and natural beauty including Fort Foster, the only standing replica of a Second Seminole War Fort in the United States. Hillsborough River State Park offers 111 large, private, treed campsites. RV and tent camping is available with electricity on most campsites. Each site is equipped with water, a fire ring and picnic table. The campground offers a dump station for your convenience since sewer hookups are not available on each campsite at this time. Pets are welcome with restrictions.

There is an amazing, enormous man-made swimming area with a capacity for 216 swimmers within the park. Visitors have four magnificent trails from which to choose and 7.3 total miles to hike, including a suspension bridge. Biking is available on the Wetlands Restoration Trail exclusively. A trail map is available at the ranger’s station. Park visitors can canoe, kayak and fish in the Hillsborough River for bass, bream and catfish. A Florida freshwater fishing license is required for all anglers.

Our personal experience at this park was exceptional. The “Lights and Sound-Out” policy was strictly enforced. We didn’t hear a sound after 10 p.m. Dog leash policy was also well enforced. Campers were very polite in keeping pets restrained without disturbance. The bathrooms were clean, well lit and amply supplied. There were washing machines at each station and rows of sinks for washing dishes. There are gorgeous picnic areas, pavilions, a café and gift shop, canoe rentals, launches and good fishing holes. Staff were courteous and helpful.

We give Hillsborough River State Park a big thumbs up! The address is 15402 U.S. 301 North Thonotosassa, FL 33592. Call (813) 987-6771.

Withlacoochee State Trail offers 46 miles of paved trail, the longest existing paved rail-trail in Florida. It is at 315 North Apopka Ave., Inverness, FL 34450-4201. Call (352) 726-2251.

Caladesi Island awarded as the fourth best natural beach in the nation. It is at #1 Causeway Blvd. Dunedin, FL 34698. Call 469-5918; fax 298-2320.

Fort DeSoto County Park’s North Beach is the No. 1 beach this year. It is at 3500 Pinellas Bayway S., Tierra Verde, FL 33715. Call the park office at 582-2267 or the campground office at 582-2267.

More information on Florida state parks can be found at www.floridastateparks.org. The Pinellas County Parks Web site is www.pinellascounty.org. The Hillsborough County Parks Web site is www.hillsboroughcounty.org/parks.

Karen can be reached at MyMuddyPawsStudio@gmail.com.

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