With its 245 acres of pine flatwoods, sandy scrub, hammock, marsh and swamp, Florida’s Boyd Hill Nature Preserve ticks nearly all the boxes on the big list of natural Florida habitat. The fact that Boyd Hill lies, in its entirety, within city limits makes it the one and only candidate for the unofficial subtitle “St. Pete’s Central Park.” The park rangers like to call it that, according to stpetecatalyst.com.
Located in Lakewood Estates, in old southeast St. Pete, Boyd Hill is adjacent to Lake Maggiore, 380 acres of brackish (a mixture of fresh and salt) water.
“It’s a nature preserve in the middle of a built-out city,” City Leisure Services Administrator Mike Jefferis said in a conversation with Deputy Mayor Kanika Tomalin on her Just Getting Started podcast. “It’s unbelievable when you think about it.
Coming in October: The north entrance, off 31st Street South, is being expanded to include Hammock Hall, a new educational building and welcome center (with large meeting rooms), and – for the first time – a public campground.
“We’re doing the campground in phases,” said Taylor Graham, preserve supervisor. “We’re starting out with 12 primitive campsites, and then we will have group sites, where large groups can camp, and six cabins for family camping.”
The campground will be named for Dr. Tomalin’s late husband late Terry, a journalist, outdoorsman and Boy Scout leader who often brought his troop to Boyd Hill for projects and programs.
The new north-end amenities will join the Pioneer Settlement, which features cracker Florida buildings and re-enactments of pioneer life. The existing nature center and south entrance, at 1101 Country Club Way (off MLK South), will remain. Boyd Hill trails are being extended to connect the two entrances.
Graham echoed that sentiment. “We have a lot of new programs we’re working on,” she said. “For Phase Two, we’ll be adding more primitive campsites, probably another 12 or so, and in the future, we may look to add cabins as well.”