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Eagle Lake Park: A Splendor of Wildlife

Largo's 160-acre park bustles with the sounds of spring.

Eagle Lake Park sparkles in a thousand different shades of green.

When I was a child my grandmother used to love to visit a donkey that resided in the property that's now the park. I heard stories about it, but I never saw the donkey. It’s one of my fondest memories of the park and it keeps me coming back.

Eagle Lake Park is bordered by Keene Road and Lake Avenue with its north edge running alongside Belleair Road.

Local legend says that the Taylor family owned the citrus groves and kept a sparse collection of farm life on it, but as the property owner aged the family sold off all of the animals.

When the owner died, the family had two choices: sell the magnificent, verdant, watery piece of land to developers or sell it to the county. In the midst of one of Florida’s greatest real estate fevers, the Taylors sold the land to the county. Pinellas County opened the park in 2010.

As I walk through the park’s trails I am amazed at the abundance of citrus trees. Even though I've walked through it at least once a week for almost 30 years, I never noticed the citrus groves until today. The county made the decision to keep the trees to maintain the citrus groves’ motif.

Today the groves grow wild, holding their ground against canker, time and developers.

I bypass the dog park and head for a lake that glistens with sun’s rays. It’s covered in part by tiny verdigris specks – duckweed. The tiny plant shrouds parts of the lake so thick that a pack of fluffy ducklings appear to walk on water. The lake is like a dot of blue and gold, ringed by malachite.

As I walk through the park I feel as though I’m entering a lush emerald forest. I wander through unintended pathways under trees, emerging occasionally to find a paved path or walkway that leads me to another area of the park. A red-winged blackbird pauses on a post just long enough for me to get a picture of it. I’m so in tune with the park’s wildlife, I crouch down in the pickerel weed to see what the park looks like from a duck’s perspective. I find myself snapping pictures in every corner. All I see are countless shades of green.

Covering about 160 acres, this park has a nice collection of birds that seem fully aware that Florida’s spring has, indeed, sprung. I hear “kyhup, khyup, hup-hup-hup” in the reedy lake. Twining its way around the white vellum water lilies, a gallinule swims in a zig-zag, picking at food in the water. Paddling tiny feet behind her, a study randomness, are several smaller, fluffier bits of bird— baby gallinules— are out for a swim with their mom. Like me they are just out for an afternoon stretch.

My grandmother told us with great sadness when the Taylor family sent the donkey away. I don’t know if it was the Taylor family or the county, but I know she missed seeing the donkey on her nightly strolls.

Pinellas County bought the land in two parcels and turned it into a park. By the time the park opened in 2010, the real estate fever broke. Today the land gives shelter to birds and other wildlife and offers respite to people seeking solace. Had the family sold to a developer, Eagle Lake Park could be a massive housing development or just an abandoned piece of old Florida.

I crouch down to take a photo of the gallinule family as they paddle around the small pond, bumping into lily pads and each other as they test their swimming skills. The mother, wary at my presence, “kyups” at them and keeps a nervous eye on me.

After spending an afternoon in one of Largo’s most impressive parks, I know the Taylor family chose wisely.

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