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Wolf Branch Creek Preserve

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General Description Size:
Wolf Branch Preserve= 1,127 acres,
EG Simmons Park= 458 acres,
Bahia Beach Restoration=149 acres.

 

This three site complex is treated as one due to the ecological continuity of habitat and because all three are owned and managed by Hillsborough County. Simmons Park was created in the 1960ís by dredging and filling an area of 258 acres of mangrove swamp along the southeast shoreline of Tampa Bay. Another 200 acres of intact wetlands was donated to the County as a wildlife sanctuary. The Wolf Branch Preserve, bordering Simmons Park on the east, was purchased by the Hillsborough County ELAP Program in 1993, and the ELAP Program also acquired the Bahia Beach Restoration site, south of the park, in 2001.

Location and Access
E. G. Simmons Park is located between Ruskin and Apollo Beach, on Tampa Bay. Turn west from US 41 onto 19th Avenue NW, and turn right at the stop sign to reach the park entrance. Wolf Branch Preserve is located along the north side of 19th Avenue NW, between Villemarie Road and Simmons Park. There are three access points to the preserve for foot traffic during daylight hours. One gate is located on 19th Avenue, 3/4 of a mile west of Villemarie Road, and two gates are located on Villemarie Road, one on the west side before the bridge over Wolf Branch Creek, and the other on the north side, just after the 90 degree turn at Wolf Branch Creek. The Bahia Beach Restoration Site is not currently open to the public due to scheduled restoration activity.

Environmental Significance
Wolf Branch Preserve and E. G. Simmons Park encompass a three mile stretch of the shoreline of Tampa Bay, including mangrove islands, mangrove swamp shoreline, the mouth of Wolf Branch Creek, and extensive seagrass beds. The preserve also includes intact coastal wetlands behind the mangrove shoreline consisting of salt barrens, high marsh and coastal hammock. The higher upland area of Wolf Branch Preserve was cleared many decades ago and used first for tomato farming, and later for cattle grazing and shell mining. The old pastures and shell pits have recently undergone restoration by the Southwest Florida Water Management District SWIM Department, and now consist of interconnected tidal wetlands and newly planted upland areas that will eventually become pine flatwoods and coastal hammock. The Bahia Beach Restoration site contains some areas of natural coastal hammock but the majority of the site consisted of citrus groves. The Districtís SWIM Department plans to create a system of man-made wetlands and uplands to collect and treat stormwater runoff from adjacent areas to improve the water quality and provide additional tidal wetlands habitat for the Tampa Bay estuary.

Recreational Opportunities
Simmons Park provides a swimming beach, picnic shelters, restrooms, a boat launch, fishing platforms and overnight camping. This is one of the most popular parks in Hillsborough County, especially during the winter for campers and during the summer for beachgoers. Fishing is excellent in and around the park, and a special permit is available for after hours access for fishermen. Wolf Branch Preserve is open to foot traffic during daylight hours, but no marked trail system is currently available. A trail system is under development through a partnership with the developer of MiraBay, a new residential community located just east of the preserve. Once completed, the trail will feature a parking area, shell pathway and interpretive displays.

Volunteer Opportunities
EG Simmons Park offers ranger assistant positions for volunteers to help with all routine management activities. Wolf Branch Preserve needs documentation of wildlife utilization in the restoration area, as well as assistance with exotic control and site security.

Contact Information
Hillsborough County Parks, Recreation and Conservation Department, 1101 E. Rivercove Drive, Tampa, FL 33604, (813) 975-2160.
E. G. Simmons County Park, 2401 19th Avenue NW, Ruskin FL 33570. (813) 671-7655.
Conservation Services Office, 10940 McMullen Road, Riverview, FL 33569. (813) 672-7876.  

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More about this booklet
Index to the sites
Site Locator Map & Resource Table
Acknowledgements

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