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An 80-acre jungle in the city
New Port Richey opens its revamped James E. Grey Preserve with picnic shelters and a boardwalk.
By JODIE TILLMAN, Times Staff Writer
Published November 25, 2007
Leon Caldwell fishes for crabs on a dock at the James E. Grey Preserve. New Port Richey's 80-acre nature park re-opened after nearly $630,000 worth of improvements, including a boardwalk, a parking lot and picnic areas.
[Mike Pease | Times]
[Mike Pease | Times]
A pleasant vista from a boardwalk.
NEW PORT RICHEY - The other day, Parks & Recreation Director Elaine Smith heard this from a first-time visitor to the city's James E. Grey Preserve: "It's like something out of a Tarzan movie."
If Tarzan had a nature preserve in the city.
The Grey preserve, an 80-acre plot of Old Florida wilderness starring the Pithlachascotee River, reopened to the public recently after getting nearly $630,000 worth of improvements. Two state grants worth $400,000 paid for most of that work.
The improvements include three picnic shelters, restrooms, a boardwalk that takes visitors to the fishing pier on the river and its first-ever parking lot. Previously, visitors had to park outside the gates and walk inside.
"This is just an absolute gem," said Smith. "Really there is nothing like this in the county."
The park is on the Great Florida Birding Trail. Canoeists and kayakers can reach the preserve by river.
The city bought the land in 1997, paying $120,000 of the $775,000 purchase price. The rest was funded through a state land acquisition program.
The site is named after New Port Richey city pioneer James E. Grey, who died in 1985. Grey was the first male child born in New Port Richey in 1915. He was a City Council member, a captain in the city's volunteer fire department and the first quarterback for Gulf High School.
The investment at the park is significant enough that the city has decided to let someone live there as a way to deter would-be vandals. This year's budget includes a $20,000 expenditure to clear a lot and provide septic and electric to the site where a mobile home could go.
Smith said that so far she has fielded inquiries from about a dozen people interested inthe job.
The master plan for the park calls for the construction of a ranger residence and an educational center, though there are no immediate plans - or money - for those facilities.
A new sign at the preserve notes the animals seen at the preserve: deer, wild boar, manatee, 140 kinds of birds. Smith said city workers told her they'd heard a coyote.
But there is one species the city does not want to see or hear.
"Don't bring your dog," said Smith.
The fear, she said, is that dogs will scare the other animals.
Besides, she said, the canine contingent will have a public place of its own starting next month when the city opens its first dog park at the Meadows Park, off nearbyCecelia Drive.