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Fred H Howard Park at Tarpon Springs
Tarpon Springs is affectionately known as the sponge capital of the world. It is here that many years ago Greek immigrants risked their lives diving for sponges. Today the Greek influence remains with several restaurants, lively bars, shops, museums and an aquarium. Harvesting the sponges is no longer as dangerous and visitors can enjoy a boat trip into the Gulf of Mexico to watch the intrepid fishermen recover sponges from the seabed.
Tarpon Springs is located on the Gulf coast about twenty miles north of the popular tourist destinations of Clearwater and St Petersburg, and after enjoying a very pleasant day amongst its Greek inhabitants, our next aim was to find a good spot to watch the sun go down. We were unfamiliar with the surrounding area so had to rely on our trusty map which showed a minor road snaking westward to a small promontory just south of Tarpon Springs. Here we unearthed a gem of place…. Fred H Howard Park.
At the entrance to the park is a bronze plaque at the base of the flagpole, where we learnt that Fred H Howard was a successful real estate businessman and former mayor of Tarpon Springs who worked unstintingly to provide a recreational facility for the enjoyment of local residents.
Today the park offers an array of walking trails amongst the pine flat-woods and mangrove swamps where the visitor may come across endangered species such as gopher tortoises and fox squirrels, as well as many varieties of butterflies and birds. It also provides nine beautifully maintained wooden shelters with picnic tables and barbeque grills, which can be reserved in advance. Within the same confines there are playgrounds, a softball pitch, a craft launching facility for kayaks, as well as ample restroom facilities.
From the main picnic area the park provides access to the Gulf of Mexico via a mile long causeway, which can either be walked or driven across. Here there is a wonderful white sandy beach fringed with palm trees. The calm warm waters provide for safe swimming and snorkeling, and if you are lucky there is always the chance of spotting a dolphin or, more occasionally, a manatee. Herons and ospreys are in abundance as they vie with local anglers for fish.
At the time of our visit there were only a few people around which gave an atmosphere of quiet serenity and the most perfect location to enjoy what we had primarily come for, a spectacular and idyllic sunset over the Gulf of Mexico.
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