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View of Wortham Park across lake on Rhodine Road

County Polishing Rural Riverview Gem

Stephen J. Wortham Park to be inviting refuge for booming area

Stephen J. Wortham Park has been around for decades, but few people outside the immediate area know it exists. That will change, with thousands of new homes coming to rural southeast Riverview, and plans to upgrade the heavily wooded tract.

In the last seven years, 5,000 homes have arisen within 3 miles of the park at 12108 Rhodine Road. More are planned.

Hillsborough County is clearing brush that blocks views of the main recreation area, and cutting back vegetation on 5 miles of hiking trails through the 107-acre park and the adjoining 500-acre Rhodine Scrub Nature Preserve. There are plans to spruce up the park's entrance on Rhodine Road, and install landscaping in highly-used areas.

Strawberries
A shallow creek winds through part of Stephen J. Wortham Park.

There already are plenty of amenities: a picnic shelter, playground, basketball court, restrooms, and paved and unpaved trails. The 5.7-acre lake is filled with bass, catfish, and bream, and a shallow creek meanders through the tract. Picnicking, hiking, and fishing are popular activities.

Much of the park's undeveloped terrain is typical of Florida's hardwood hammocks. There are sand, slash, and longleaf pines; live, water, and scrub oaks; lots of saw palmetto and other understory plants; and animals such as gopher tortoises, box turtles, and foxes.

The improvements are intended to ensure Wortham Park is a fun, safe retreat for residents of the adjacent Tropical Acres neighborhood and nearby communities such as Panther Trace, Colonial Hills, Ballentrae Forest, and Shadow Run.

Hillsborough County Parks & Recreation, Conservation & Environmental Lands Management, and Rapid Response are collaborating on the upgrades, and a 5-kilometer trail run is planned to help raise money for the undertaking.

Future programs at Wortham Park could include guided hikes, youth nature tutorials, and kayaking lessons.

County officials hope area residents will be enthused about the improvements and help keep their refurbished park in good condition. The goal is for people to know Wortham Park exists, to use it frequently, and to lovingly take care of it.

Top photo: Hillsborough County is clearing brush along Rhodine Road to reveal lakeside views of Stephen J. Wortham Park.

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