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Hillsborough County Votes To Follow State Plan, Parks And Preserves Will Reopen Soon

Upper Tampa Bay Park, and other parks and nature preserves across Hillsborough County, will soon reopen.
The Florida Channel
Leon County Judge John Cooper on June 30, 2022, in a screen grab from The Florida Channel.

Members of the Hillsborough Emergency Policy Group voted Thursday to rescind its stay-at-home order, beginning at midnight Monday. But it won't mean the end of social distancing - the governor's revised policy takes effect then.

In addition, some Hillsborough County parks, preserves and trails will be reopening within the next week.

Portions of the parks will remain closed – including playgrounds, picnic areas, and kayak/canoe facilities. Nature preserves will open on Saturday, along with the E.G. Simmons Conservation Park.

Several conservation parks, and walking trails in six neighborhood parks, will reopen on Monday. The Apollo Beach Nature Preserve will remain closed until further notice, officials said.

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In falling in line with "phase 1" of the reopening plan announced by Gov. Ron DeSantis Wednesday, Hillsborough County will allow some restaurants, retail stores and museums to open at one-quarter of their capacity. But it still bans crowds of more than 10 people.

School Board chair Melissa Snively said this would avoid confusion as to which order the public should follow.

"If we don't rescind the order, then we are certainly operating in a much stricter environment than the governor is allowing," she told members of the group. "And I've heard from my constituents day after day, in emails and phone calls, is they want us to loosen up. And they want us to reopen."

Plant City Mayor Rick Lott agreed with Snively.

"If we leave the order in place, that means we're still sitting here, possibly wanting to put our order in competition with his order," he said. "But right now, I say let's clear the road, let's clear the path, and he laid out a very good plan yesterday that we're all so far saying we're behind it, so I don't know why we'd have something that would be run in competition with him."

Only Tampa Mayor Jane Castor voted no. She said she "sees no purpose in it," when restrictions might have to be put back again if coronavirus numbers spike once again.

Conservation parks reopening Monday:

  • Flatwoods Conservation Park
  • Morris Bridge Off-Road Biking Area
  • Alderman's Ford Conservation Park (hiking and biking only)
  • Upper Tampa Bay Trail and all parking areas

Opening Monday (walking trails only):

  • Jackson Springs Community Center
  • Northdale Community Center
  • Carrollwood Village Community Park
  • Ruskin Community Center
  • Apollo Beach Community Center
  • All People's Life Center

For a complete list, visit the county’s parks and recreation website.

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Carl Lisciandrello is digital news editor of WUSF Public Media.
Carl Lisciandrello
Carl Lisciandrello is digital news editor of WUSF Public Media.
Steve Newborn is WUSF's assistant news director as well as a reporter and producer at WUSF covering environmental issues and politics in the Tampa Bay area.