With its 245 acres of pine flatwoods, sandy scrub, hammock, marsh and swamp, 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.
Located in 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.
From our VINTAGE ST. PETE series: The story of Boyd Hill Nature Preserve.
“It’s a nature preserve in the middle of a built out city,” City Leisure Services Administrator Mike Jefferis said in conversation with Deputy Mayor Kanika Tomalin on her Just Getting Started podcast in June. “It’s unbelievable when you think about it.
“One of my favorite locations in the preserve is standing on the island and just overlooking the lake, the preserve, nature – and then you see the backdrop of the city.”
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.
It’s all about educating new generations.
“We know that if we don’t educate and foster future advocates of natural lands, then we’re not going to have anything into the future,” Jefferis said on Just Getting Started.
“In the past, we’ve only allowed groups to camp on Boyd Hill. So this will be the first time in history that we are going to allow a single mom to take her son or daughter camping, or a grandma, or a single dad … we’re just so excited about making that a reality.”
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.”