Moccasin Lake Nature Park is an unexpected oasis in the midst of Clearwater's densely packed urban landscape.
But, since its opening in 1982, the 51-acre park has been an often overlooked "hidden gem" in need of funds and a little polishing. It is located at 2750 Park Trail Lane, just east U.S. 19 and north of Drew Street.
The park is currently in the midst of a $700,000 renovation, which is part of a 10-year master plan. And for the first time in many years the park now has extended Sunday hours from noon to 4 p.m. through December. Regular hours for the nature preserve are 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Saturday. Admission is free.
"It has not had any improvements since its inception," says Anna Gurney, spokeswoman for Clearwater's Neighborhood Liaison office.
To date about $100,000 has been spent on a new pier as well as improvements to nature trails, a meadow and boardwalks. In 2015 the remaining $600,000 will pay for an updated interpretive center, new restrooms, renovated picnic facilities, and parking and landscaping improvements.
"The park is a work-in-progress," Gurney says. "We're going to see a lot of changes there. Next year will be a big year for us."
The nature trails, boardwalks and camps are nestled among six eco-systems inhabited by Mother Nature's flora and fauna. Its most recent tenants are Wish and Penelope, two injured bald eagles whose care is supervised by state and local wildlife organizations including the Clearwater Audubon Society
Moccasin Lake Nature Park
also is home to reptiles, insects, amphibians, and Elvis, the oldest living vulture on exhibit. Visitors can rent meeting and classroom space, stop by an interpretive center or sit in on educational programs.
Moccasin Lake previously was managed by the City of Clearwater's recreation department but Gurney says a parks' manager is now in charge. Two city employees work on-site during operating hours. "Right now we are actively trying to get more volunteers so that the park can be open more often," she says.
To volunteer at the park, contact Krystie Epperson at (727) 793-2976.
Writer: Kathy Steele
Source: Anna Gurney, City of Clearwater