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Posted July 11, 2017 | 8:26 AM

Your Guide to the Great Outdoors

Conservation Park, Neighborhood Park, or Preserve: Do You Know the Difference?

Do you have your heart set on a day of kayaking? Or maybe you want to take the kids to a playground to work off some pent up energy while you shoot hoops. Or maybe you want to unplug completely and be one with nature. Do you know where to find the outdoor experience you're looking for? Here's a simple guide to help.

Conservation Parks

Hillsborough County provides incredible outdoor experiences to residents and visitors alike through a system of regional parks. Conservation parks may have a nature center, restrooms, playgrounds, and other amenities while offering activities ranging from hiking, paddling, and bird watching to camping, fishing, and boating.

The purpose of these parks stretches far beyond outdoor recreation to include environmental conservation and protection of wilderness areas. This helps ensure that the natural resources that make your favorite outdoor adventures possible will endure for generations to come.

Preserves

So what makes a park different from a preserve when both feature natural attractions? It depends on why the site was established. While parks are designed for people to use, the primary beneficiary of a nature preserve is, well, nature. Preserves do as their name says: preserve and protect endangered, environmentally-sensitive, and significant lands.

While preserves are accessible for recreational activities, they usually include more nature-based activities such as hiking, horseback riding, wildlife viewing, and others that focus on nature and don't require constructing facilities or significantly altering the land. A few preserves do offer playgrounds, mountain biking, BMX, and a radio control field, but most do not. In general, preserves are left more in their natural state.

Neighborhood Parks

The focus of neighborhood parks is providing safe and family-friendly spaces in the community. The parks are convenient locations for residents to enjoy recreational opportunities. They are designed with pathways and fields that help to facilitate activities. Many are equipped with playground equipment, basketball and tennis courts, picnic tables, and shelters. The parks can be smaller and tucked in neighborhoods, though some are larger and co-located with community centers. The staffed community centers have indoor facilities such as gyms, weight rooms, restrooms, and small activity spaces. Typically, community centers have programming that includes activities for all ages. These centers are also the site for the county's After School and Summer Camp programs.

Whatever your recreational pursuit, Hillsborough County offers something for everyone. Visit HCFLGov.net/Parks for more information on conservation parks, nature preserves and neighborhood parks.