The great outdoors just got greater in Lakewood Ranch with the addition of three new parks and 25 miles of trails.
Lakewood Ranch knows how to rise and shine. From morning joggers to devoted dog walkers to stroller-pushing-moms-of-small-children, it seems we all wake with the birds. And just like birds, we feel at home in the trees.
Lakewood Ranch was designed to be the opposite of a concrete jungle, which is why the community has set aside swaths of green space for animals and humans alike to enjoy.
We love our outdoor spaces as much as we do our indoor spaces, evident by the more than 10,000 acres of parks, preserves and lakes in the community. And this year we’re hitting the nature-lover’s jackpot: three new parks accessible by a 25-mile trail system connecting all our neighborhoods.
“There’s no need to get in your car,” says Monaca Onstad, Lakewood Ranch’s director of community relations. “The parks are designed for easy access. You can walk over with your child in a stroller or Rollerblade from your house.”
Bob Gardner Park
2710 White Eagle Blvd.
Bob Gardner Park opened April 21, coinciding with the celebration of Earth Day weekend. The 40-acre escape off White Eagle Boulevard borders the gated Arbor Grande enclave and was built with the town’s sportiest residents in mind. Its design includes an all-purpose sports field, a nine-hole disc golf course and a two-directional gravity zip rail, in addition to a playground. In true Lakewood Ranch fashion, the park offers amenities for four-legged visitors as well. One of Gardner’s three dog parks has a shallow swimming area where pups can cool off on steamy days. “We’re organizing a full range of events, from fun runs to weekend yoga,” Onstad says. “Having more designated space for community activities will help bring everyone together.”
5725 White Eagle Blvd.
The largest of Lakewood Ranch’s new park network is Patton Park, an 88.6-acre oasis further south on White Eagle Boulevard, across the street from Our Lady of the Angels Catholic Church. Open since May 3, its marquee feature is its access to water. The grounds (and boardwalks) wrap around four lakes. Kayakers and canoers can drop in from a designated launch point at Kent Lake, a scenic reservoir that occupies much of the park’s acreage. With its undeveloped panoramic vista and nautical backdrop, Patton is the perfect place for events large and small. Earlier this month the park hosted its first Theatre in the Field performance — “Huck Finn,” presented by The Players Centre for Performing Arts.
Roger Hill Park
From Patton, you can walk along White Eagle Boulevard to Roger Hill Park, just south of Malachite Drive. The path winds through a tunnel, giving pedestrians a safe route across White Eagle. Although still in the design phase, Onstad says Roger Hill will be more of a “passive” park, a good place for cyclists and runners to catch their breath.
Slated to open in the fall, some residents raised concerns regarding Roger Hill’s proximity to Central Park. The gated community, which sits in the heart of Lakewood Ranch, has its own playground and splash pad designated for Central Park residents and their guests. Although Roger Hill will be open to the public, anyone wishing to use Central Park’s facilities will still need to get clearance from a resident before entering the neighborhood.
News of a major trail and park expansion was a big deal on the Ranch. Although parkland has always been a priority, this project is special for the trail connectivity it provides in the community. Locals have been eager to break in the amenities since officials announced the project more than a year ago. Central Park resident Sonya Menard is thrilled to see the area link its nature trails.
“An active outdoor life is important to my family,” Menard says. “We spend a lot of time kayaking and just walking outside, so we’re really excited to have an interconnected park system practically in our backyard.”
Carefully planned development means preserving the area’s natural beauty while accommodating growth. This includes giving new life to plants and equipment that may have been displaced in the development process.
“Something we try to do here is recycle and repurpose,” Onstad says. “The Gardner [Park] team saved a lot of greenery. When we pull shrubs from another site, we have a place to replant and care for them until we’re ready to bring them over. We save park structures in the same way by taking a pavilion before it’s torn down.”