Tucked away off Morris Bridge Rd. a little south of Cross Creek Blvd., Branchton Park is a quiet, underpopulated spot in New Tampa that few local residents have ever visited.
However, those who do know about it will probably agree — it is a park with limited amenities that is showing its age and is in desperate need of a facelift.
And now, Hillsborough County has plans to do just that. Branchton Park as you know it will cease to exist, and will be “relocated” immediately south of its current location at 15701 Morris Bridge Rd.
The new Branchton Park will be more modern, with a lot more amenities, and will serve a lot more people’s needs, at a cost of around $5.5 million.
District 2 Hillsborough County Commissioner Ken Hagan said he secured the funding for the improvements in previous county budgets.
The park currently has a small shelter and playground, a basketball court in need of a refresh and parking for a few cars.
It also has a paved trail and plenty of open space, but no bathrooms (other than Porta Potties) or water fountains. Once the new park is completed, the site of the current park will be home to future development, which could include a restaurant, sports bar or even new homes, Hagan says, adding that he can envision something like The Village at Hunter’s Lake development on Bruce B. Downs Blvd.
The nearly 500 responses to a county survey about what to make the new park look like were exactly what you would expect. Residents would like to see a dog park, a covered pavilion and play area, pickleball and tennis courts, roller hockey, more basketball courts, soccer fields and cricket pitches, a disc golf course, a splash pad, a skate park, walking and running trails, bathrooms, an amphitheater and more activities for the area’s senior population.
Or, in other words, everything.
Many of the resident requests are included in the plans, according to the county’s website.
The project will be funded in phases and, in the first phase, there will be additional parking, walking trails, dog parks, restrooms, shelters and multipurpose courts, though the county notes that likely means four pickleball courts and two basketball courts, which also can be used for volleyball, according to the conceptual site plan.
The separate dog parks for small and large dogs will include shelters, benches, dog agility equipment and water and even wash stations.
Subsequent phases will include other things on the resident wish list, like a more robust playground and a splash pad. There is a possibility, according to the survey, that the splash pad could make its way into Phase 1.
Hagan says count on it.
“There will be a splash pad, I can promise you,” Hagan says. “And it will be in Phase 1. I’m not going to let that (not) happen.”
Final decisions on what may be added in subsequent phases will be made after Phase 1 has been completed.
According to the conceptual site plan, the new park also will include a park office, concessions, event pavilion, open area and 70 parking spaces. There also are plans further down the road for a public-private partnership (PPP) on a zip line or “challenge” course for the park.
Hagan says he may also push for a Hillsborough Sheriff’s substation in the Branchton area as well.
In 2017, the county acquired four parcels of land totaling 10 acres just south of the current Branchton Park. The newly acquired land will be home to the new park.
Hagan hopes to get the process moving in the next few months, with the start of construction sometime in early 2022.
“I’m pretty excited about it,” Hagan says. “I think this is a great opportunity to build a really nice community asset.”