The Coast is clear here

Published on: June 24, 2010



While swimming on some Florida coasts may be off limits, park rangers say there’s nothing out of the ordinary going on at the swimming area at E.G. Simmons Park.
Penny Fletcher photos


RUSKIN- While some areas of Florida’s coasts are off limits to swimmers and fishermen, Tampa Bay at E.G. Simmons Park is clean and clear.

Park Manager Paul Caldorni says nearly every day is the same there since


All 52 of the recreation center’s children fished for several hours before having a picnic lunch.

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 Evans Park that visited June 23, “Are getting fishing lessons in the morning, having a picnic lunch, and then swimming in the afternoon.”

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


Marvin Bell, assistant principal at Armwood High School, says he works with Hillsborough County’s Parks, Recreation & Conservation Department every summer as a second job because he likes interacting with children of all ages. He is shown with Kareem Delgado and the first catch of the day.


Armwood High School’s Vice Principal Marvin Bell showed several how to remove the fish from the hook. He says he works with the Parks, Recreation & Conservation Department’s children’s’ programs every summer because he likes working with kids of all ages. Other counselors from Evans Park who helped out at the event were Jeff Miller, Renee Graham and Jacob Pettet.

While Graham and Miller are full time employees, Pettet just takes the job in the summer. A recent East Bay High School graduate, he said he is headed for Warner University in Lake Wales in the fall to study sports management and teaching.

“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 B


Jacob Ciders (foreground) says he loves the feel of sand and water.


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 Simmons Park were also on duty as the children charged into the water.

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 Hillsborough County’s parks s


Penny Fletcher photos
Park Ranger Ken Sweeney untangles lines, baits hooks, and tells the children what kinds of fish they can expect to catch in this area of the park.

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.   


Recent East Bay High School graduate Jacob Pettet baits hooks for some of the 52 children from Evans Park in Seffner who spent June 23 at Simmons Park on a field trip. Pettet plans to study both sports management and teaching at Warner University in Lake Wales using the baseball scholarship he earned last year. Pettet took the summer job at the recreation center because he says he loves working with kids.

“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, 15502 Morris Bridge Road, Thonotosassa, FL., 33592. People can just pick up the applications at their local park and then mail them in with check or money orders.

They can also be obtained by calling the regional administration office at (813) 987-6240.



Above, staff from the ‘Parks & Rec’ find some solace in the shade of an outbuilding at Simmons Park.