Lettuce Lake Park in northern Hillsborough County is reaching out to nature lovers with weekend programs intended to grow interest in the environment, the park, and Florida's outdoors.
From aquatic plants to constellations, the park's hour-long sessions on Saturdays and Sundays provide revelations about common things. There is a $2 park entry fee, and each get-together costs $5 for adults and children. Adults accompanying children are admitted free.
Lettuce Lake is the most popular of Hillsborough County's 10 regional parks. It has 240 acres of swampland, hardwood hammocks, and pine flatwoods. Features include a Visitors Center, hiking trail, canoe rentals, playground, picnic shelters, boat ramp, boardwalk, and other amenities. The park is on the north side of Fletcher Avenue, between the University of South Florida and Interstate 75.
Future programs have titles such as: Survival Tips and Skills; Chocolate or Vanilla - One is Grown in Florida; Monarch Butterflies - What You Can Do to Help; and Making Indian Music-Makers and Counting Decibels!
The goal of each session is to educate families in fun and practical ways. Many of the gatherings include hands-on activities, such as roasting acorns to brew coffee, or making individual "planetariums" to take home and explore the night sky.
The park offers guided hikes beginning at 10 a.m. on Saturdays. Through March, the treks count toward the Hiking Spree, a program that encourages residents and visitors to experience Hillsborough County's extensive and diverse parks and trails. People who hike on at least seven of the 19 designated trails - plus one walk of the hikers' choosing - between Nov. 1, 2016, and March 31, 2017, will receive a free medallion or Access Hiker patch.