Largo Nature Preserve – not just for birds | Largo
LARGO – Shutters and waterfowl mingle in the 31-acre Largo Central Park nature reserve.
Every day, professional and amateur photographers take photos of the lake’s wildlife, such as a large alligator relaxing among aquatic plants under a boardwalk.
They also focus on limpkins, great blue heron, and other birds that can be seen on a railing and in the marshes surrounding a small lake in the reserve.
Over 130 species of birds, reptiles and other animals feed or live in the park, such as otters, red foxes, wild turkeys, swamp rabbits, bats and ospreys.
Caleb and Dianne Kurtz from Clearwater come to the park at 150 Highland Ave. For years.
“Almost every week,” Caleb said.
Caleb enjoys taking wildlife photos and also visits other parks in the area.
Patty Menz, a nature photographer, moved to the Clearwater area two years ago and often tries to visit different parks.
“It’s beautiful here. I love the bridge that surrounds it,” she said. “And there are all kinds of things to see.”
That day, she and her friends had their eyes set on the turtles and waterfowl in the water below the bridge.
“It’s a very popular location for photographers,” said Joan Byrne, director of recreation, parks and the arts at Largo. “Almost every time I go out, someone is there with a camera and taking pictures of the birds. It is certainly very popular with bird watchers.”
At one point, a representative from the Audubon Society categorized all of the different species of birds on the reserve, she said.
When asked what she thought was special about the park, Byrne noted that despite being in Florida’s most densely populated county, the reserve is removed from the hustle and bustle of the city.
“In fact, you can just go commune with nature. It’s calm. I have staff members who will go there to eat their lunch,” she said.
The park, reflecting a national trend, has seen its use increase during the pandemic.
“The use of the nature reserve has really exploded,” said Byrne.
It is difficult to determine the attendance of the reserve as there is no gate where the admission fee is collected.
City officials have made estimates using car counters, but they don’t know how many people are in the cars and how many people are entering the park.
Based on best estimates from municipal authorities in 2020, attendance at the reserve was around 8,000-10,000 people per month.
“In August, we were up to 24,000 people a month,” Byrne said.
Lush vegetation thrives in a deciduous swamp accessible to visitors. Facilities include boardwalks, observation tower, 3/4 mile asphalt boardwalk, bike and skating path, interpretive signs and a YMC butterfly garden.
A 5 mile kayak / canoe route begins at the park and ends at Park Boulevard.
Fishing is not allowed in the park and neither are dogs.
When it comes to otter watching, Lady Luck apparently has her say.
Byrne said she saw otters a long time ago and visitors have reported seeing them. Quite a spectacle.
“I remember the first time I saw them (otters) there was a bunch of them,” Byrne said. “They are fun. They were like little children frolicking in the water.”
The nature reserve, which opened in 2003, is one of 180 acres the city owns in the region, including Largo Central Park, Byrne said. The city has applied for a number of grants to help fund the equipment.
There are no plans to make any improvements to active recreation in the park. Needs assessments of city officials have indicated that people cherish green spaces.
“Right now people need it. It’s good for their mental health,” Byrne said. “It’s a great place to relax and clear your head. I think that’s its greatest value.”