One of the great things about living in Florida is the abundance of state parks and beach parks we have at our disposal. However, many times we don’t look into county-run parks in our region. Recently my family and I spent a Saturday morning exploring a park that I hadn’t even heard of before, Edward Medard Park. I actually stumbled upon the park last year on my way to a horse farm in Plant City and I was so shocked at how massive the lake, which is the cornerstone of the park, appeared when we drove by. I made a mental note that this was definitely worth checking out and we finally made plans to explore it this summer.
The park is located in Plant City just off of Highway 60 at the very outskirts of Hillsborough County. It’s not really on your way anywhere in particular so it’s not surprising that many long-time residents of Tampa have never even heard of this park. It really is a jewel just waiting to be discovered. The area was mined for phosphate in the 1960’s and it was donated back to the district. It’s currently managed by the Southwest Florida Water Management District and Hillsborough County.
The lake is the centerpiece of the park and there’s a long boardwalk that allows you to safely crossover the lake to the observation tower. The lake is teeming with fish and birds and of course alligators…alot of alligators. The kids had a great time looking down at the majestic animals cruising along. It’s a great photo-op and a prime spot for setting up fishing poles.
There’s a boat ramp, nature trails, and a bicycle trail that winds through the beautiful grounds. There’s even a frisbee golf course. There are picnic tables and large open expanses of green grass to toss the football or have a cart-wheel contests. (yes, we had a cart-wheel race) There’s even a playground with a mini rock climbing wall that our 5-year-old loved! You can also rent a regular campsite or a primitive campsite for extended overnight fun.
However the family’s absolutely favorite part of the day was the time spent on nature’s jungle gym. The old phosphate mining history of the park has created tall mounds of earth and over time the tree roots grew and sprouted across the mounds to form an exposed root system. The tree roots are huge and very strong. So strong in fact that you can climb on them, under them, through them, and swing from them just like a jungle gym! We spent so much time running up and down the hills and climbing over the various formations in the earth. This is a great shaded area that’s just as fun for us big kids as it is for the little ones.
I’ve decided when it’s time to take family photos this will probably be the park we use. It’s a treasure and it’s nice to see that the district and the county have put money into making this a really enjoyable place for everyone. Next time you’re looking for a place to take the kids for day of sunshine and fun take a drive east of Brandon and find Ed Medard park. This is one place the kids are sure to ask to return.
Tips for an amazing outdoorsy day:
- $2 entrance fee per car
- Pack a picnic lunch and make use of the grills in the park
- Great paved trails for biking and skating
- Don’t forget the fishing poles
- Climb to the very top of the observation tower for some pretty spectacular views
Lauren G.- Outdoorsy Diva
All pictures and accounts are the sole property of Lauren Gay unless otherwise indicated. Copyright 2014