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Hammock Park is a 90-acre nature preserve and is a unique natural feature that represents one of the last examples of a coastal forest that was typical of West Central Florida prior to development. Today, the park provides environmental educational opportunities for our citizens and offers visitors a quiet respite from the surrounding urban areas.
“Those who dwell, as scientists or laymen, among the beauties and mysteries of the earth are never alone or weary of life.”
— Rachel Carson (1907-1964)
Hammock Park History
An Occasional Series About Dunedin's Hammock Park
Do you like a nice walk on a beautiful fall day? Do you like to watch the butterflies flit through the flowers? Do I have a deal for you.
By Sue Gow, Secretary, Friends of the Hammock
From left: Mrs. Clayton Register, Mrs. Donald Behm and Jerry Gow, Director of Parks & Recreation presenting a check for the first shelter, 1967.
My older son was just four years old when we moved into our first home in 1961 directly adjacent to what is now Dunedin's Hammock Park.
I was 7 months pregnant with our second son. How lucky for them to grow up in a home on the edge of the woods. Wow, as they grew older they would bolt their breakfasts to run out and wrestle with the trees. One fun thing was tree jumping. Jump out of the tree tops to land on the thick vines. So many wonderful memories.
We used to go over when the kids were little and take our peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and sit on a fallen log to eat them. For a harried mother, it was a sweet moment.
When this plush tract was offered for sale to contractors to build homes, my husband Jerry was horrified. His children's playground would disappear and their street would be full of traffic. He was not about to let that happen. He then went out and bought the biggest book I have ever seen. It contained surely all the grant money that was offered. He spent hours and weeks going through that book writing grant requests. He was determined and successful. In 1965, the Kerr tract became what was named The Hammock. Later it was discovered that this was not just any piece of property but a rare State Natural Feature to be the first recognized under a new program for preserving examples of Florida's original land forms.
Subsequently, many studies have been made of this real city treasure. A 1978 study said that it contained 85 acres, but the latest figure I saw was 108. It depends on which piece the city owned at the time, I think.
For all the effort my husband had expended and the time he had taken from his primary job as a social studies teacher at Dunedin Middle School, he was given the job of the first Supervisor of Parks and Recreation for the City.
We took advantage of that by camping in the park. Once when the Mosquitos were biting I ran home to find some spray, but the only one I could find was starch. Hey, it worked.
While he was in charge he built a bathroom, put in swings and a slide. Now many mothers would meet with us in the park to sit at the new picnic table, eat our peanut butter and jellies and watch the children play. Great way to meet your neighbors.
He also put up lights for the ball park so they could be used at night. He put a trailer there for a watchman to stay and watch for trouble. He also hired a teacher to have nature classes there. My son walked through the woods to get to class and when I picked him up, the teacher said that we had a problem. He was busy using tweezers to pull the teeth of some poor snake out of my son's hand. He had yanked the snake off, reflexively. We have many snake stories. We don't have a teacher there now. I'm very sorry about that because the loss has left a big void.
Due to the pressure of raising children, while I worked and went to school, I lost contact with the park. I do remember when my daughter asked me to give her a birthday party, I said I was too busy, but she gave herself one. Smart girl gave her party in the park.
Because my husband died young he never got to fully appreciate the contribution that he made to our community, and seemingly, no one else was aware, either.
After I retired I had a flood of good memories surrounding the park. I wanted to find out what had transpired in the intervening years. I heard about the Friends of the Hammock and joined them. We meet once a month on the second Monday at 7 pm at the Community Center. All are welcome to attend or become a member. But you don't have to be a "Friend of the Hammock" to enjoy the park. It can be accessed at the end of San Mateo Drive or Patricia or Michigan. Wear some Mosquito spray in the wet months, and be prepared for a lovely experience.
Since I joined I have learned a gazillion things that have been going on out there. Many plans and much money and time have gone into preserving the old hardwoods and trying to hold back invasives. We have volunteers who adopt a piece of the park to "care" for. If you would like to help, save your gym fees and get plenty of fresh air and exercise in a beautiful environment.
Do you have memories of Hammock Park? E-mail them to: email@example.com
Ready to Join the Friends of the Hamock?
Download membership form: click here »
Air Potato Removal at Hammock Park
Introduced to Florida in 1905 and promoted as a garden plant, the "Air Potato" has been living in Hammock Park since the 1980s. It has survived there so well, that many hardwoods and understory plants are under severe stress from this invasive vine. The plant invades, consumes and harms pinelands and biologically diverse hardwood hammocks. It vines over trees up to 60 feet high starving them from sunlight, resulting in possible death of the tree. Read more about the air potato here ».
The battle against this invasion includes the seasonal use of herbicide and constant physical removal of vines before the “potato” itself can germinate. A potato the size of a pencil eraser will propagate quickly to kill a 100 year old hardwood. The battle can be won, and has been won, in other locations through people-power and sheer determination.
Visit the Hammock Park Butterfly Garden
The newest attraction at Hammock Park is a lovely butterfly garden — an ideal spot to watch natural beauty take flight. The new garden, created for the enjoyment of the entire community, features 11 beds with 225 plants in 40 varieties.
Crushed shell pathways lead visitors through a flowering display of butterfly favorites. Tucked away on a quiet side street, local gem Hammock Park is home to more than 35 species of butterflies.
Located next to historic Andrews Memorial Chapel in Hammock Park, 1900 San Mateo Dr. in Dunedin, the garden is easily accessible from Clearwater by traveling north on Alt. 19, turning right on Mira Vista Drive, and left on San Mateo Drive.
Butterfly Garden receives multiple certificates
We have received certificates from the
See the Butterfly Garden page for more...
Join the Friends of the Hammock
We welcome new “Friends” to help us carry out our mission of protection and preservation. Established in 1994, The Friends of the Hammock, Inc. is a grassroots organization whose goal is to educate the public and aid in the preservation and protection of this unique area for all succeeding generations. You are invited to attend our meetings on the second Monday of each month at 7:00 pm at the Dunedin Nature Center, 1910 Eckert Dr., Dunedin.
You can obtain a membership form here and learn more about this stress releasing oasis among the urban sprawl of modern life here.
City of Dunedin Proclaims January "Hammock Park Month"
WHEREAS: The Hammock Park is an ancient primeval forest in the midst of urban development and has been designated by The State of Florida as its very first Natural Feature; The City Fathers in their wisdom have chosen to protect, preserve and restore the habitat of Hammock Park; The City of Dunedin Commissioners with concern for the present and foresight for the future have authorized the purchase of the Harris Tract, now known as Harris Woods to expand and enhance The Hammock Park;
THEREFORE: In recognition of the efforts of the City to promote the environmental benefits of this unique green space for the benefit of entire community and to celebrate the opening of Harris Woods; The City of Dunedin Proclaims January 2009 as Hammock Park Month.