By PENNY FLETCHER
RUSKIN- While some areas of
Park Manager Paul Caldorni says nearly every day is the same there since
school let out: families and groups of children from recreation centers and parks programs on field trips come ready to enjoy the outdoors.
“Kids from the rec centers aren’t just allowed to run loose, we have supervised programs for them that we’ve worked out with recreation center staff,” Caldorni said.
“This group, for instance,” he said, pointing at the 52 students from Seffner’s
Some had never fished before, while others put bait on their hooks like old hands.
“Keep those hooks down!” and “Watch out for the lines!” were constant reminders to the children packed together just west of the boat ramp area.
Park Ranger Ken Sweeney and Jacob Pettet of the recreation center staff explained how to put the hooks and bait on the lines and how to cast. It took some time but all the children seemed interested enough to wait their turn.
“I caught the first fish,” said Kareem Delgado. “It’s a tro
While Graham and Miller are full time employees, Pettet just takes the job in the summer. A recent
“This is great experience for me,” he said while baiting hooks for the crowd. Pettet explained that he is attending on a baseball scholarship and wants to combine his love of the game with his love of teaching young children.
“That’s what makes this the perfect summer job for him,” said
After a picnic lunch on tables under the trees at the east end of the park, the children ran down to the swimming area.
Besides rec staff and park rangers, three lifeguards from
Fortunately, the roped-off swimming area at the park gradually gets deeper, instead of just dropping off like some areas of the Bay, which makes it easier to keep children within safe areas.
The park has stayed busy all year, with little or no change since fees were enacted Nov. 1.
John Brill, spokesman for all
aid the $2 fee per carload ( for up to eight people) is still a bargain.
“It was either start charging fees or close the park ansd the residents all knew it,” he said of the once-free facilities.
For families that use the parks often, there is an annual family pass for $100 (also good for up to eight people) for any one year from the date the pass is purchased; not the rest of the fiscal year.
“If they by the pass on June 25, it’s good until the next June 25,” Brill said. “And those with an annual pass can change parks, even in one day.”
So if they get to one park and decide to go to another, either because of the crowds or for whatever reason, they can do so without extra payment.
Annual park passes for individuals are available for $50 a year and boat ramp annual passes for $100 which are good at any ramp, he explained.
Some of the boat ramps have an honor system, where the cost is $5 to launch for those without the annual pass.
“It works out pretty well,” Brill said. “We don’t have enough people to staff the ramps all the time but most people are pretty honest. And when we drive through, we look at the vehicles and if someone seems to be abusing the privilege, we take down the license plate number and take it from there.”
That hasn’t happened nearly as often as people would expect, he said.
Applications for passes are available at any county park but cannot be purchased anywhere but the Hillsborough County Regional Parks Administration Office,
They can also be obtained by calling the regional administration office at (813) 987-6240.