Over the past several months, the City of Zephyrhills has pondered ways to spruce up the Hercules Park property at the corner of County Road 54 and Gall Boulevard, next to Zephyrhills High and Woodland Elementary schools.
Following meetings with consulting firm Kimley-Horn, public works, and the parks and recreation advisory board, city officials may have an answer for the languished 12-acre site — a BMX (bicycle motocross) track where mountain bike enthusiasts traverse winding trails and thrilling jumps, in a safe and comfortable setting.
Zephyrhills Community Redevelopment Agency Director Gail Hamilton detailed how the BMX track idea came to be formed, during a January CRA Board of Commissioners meeting.
“We asked Kimley-Horn to look at the park and try to figure out what we can do with it to give the kids something to do and give the public something to do. There’s nothing on the north end of town as far as a park goes, and I heard very loud and clear from some of the CRA members in this year’s budget they wanted to see something at Hercules.
“If you are walking through those pine trees and those oak trees (at the park), it’s beautiful, and you don’t want to cut those trees down, so, as we were walking around the consultant said, ‘What about a BMX bike track around here? Kids would love it. It’s wooded, and we could do jumps and all kinds of stuff…’”
Hamilton proceeded to unveil a conceptual sketch plan — showing a circuitous riding trail spanning roughly 5.29 acres of the park property, albeit with many details still to be hashed out.
Height levels on jumps and bumps haven’t yet been determined, though the track is expected to have variations for beginner, intermediate and advanced bikers.
Surface material hasn’t been decided, either, though one possibility is a dirt track with wooden features for jumps and stunts. Hamilton described the course overall as “something kids could be excited about and not hurt themselves on.”
Also proposed is a paved pathway encircling the BMX course for parents, walkers and runners to use for general exercise purposes.
Hamilton told the board the BMX track concept received strong support from the city’s parks and recreation advisory board: “They were pretty pumped about it and excited about it.”
Remaining Hercules Park property upgrades would take on a mostly passive vibe, with a nearly 1-acre open playfield, 1.42-acre playground and picnic/shelter area, and a soft walking trail surrounding an existing retention pond and lighted fountain spray.
The open playfield — to be situated at the former Hercules Aquatic Center— would offer a grassy space for throwing footballs, frisbees and so on. “Kids can just run and play; they don’t have to be contained,” Hamilton noted.
The playground, meanwhile could include some nature-based equipment beyond conventional slides and swings — think rock climbs, tunnels, rope play structures and more.
No established budget has yet been put forth for the entire Hercules Park renovation, nor is there a timeline for construction; the city also plans to seek public-private partnerships to get a project in motion. “Right now, we’re at a 30,000-foot view on this,” Hamilton said, signaling preliminary plans.
Following Hamilton’s presentation, the CRA Board expressed enthusiasm with the overall park concept, while putting forth some input of their own.
At least one sticking point may be ensuring various segments of the park have ample lighting, particularly for evening hour use. Said board member Ken Burgess: “I think we need to look and make sure there’s some well-lit areas, especially in the wintertime when it gets darker early; we want to make sure it’s pretty well-lit there.”
In addition to its proximity to local schools, Hercules Park borders a Wawa gas station and Culver’s fast food restaurant, which could prompt those patrons to also drop by the park to have a relaxing meal.
The park also is accessible to surrounding neighborhood developments through Henry Drive.
Should the concept follow through, it would create an amenity otherwise not readily available to the East Pasco community. (Local BMX enthusiasts have previously tried accessing the Zephyrhills Skatepark at Krusen Field for those purposes.)
The closest public BMX pump tracks in the surrounding Tampa Bay area include Tampa BMX in Lutz and Oldsmar BMX.
There were preliminary discussions last fall on a nonprofit group bringing a BMX track and bike park to a 23-acre tract situated off the intersection of State Road 54 and Gunn Highway, in the Odessa/Trinity area in Pasco County. Under that proposal, about 3 acres would be used for a BMX dirt race course made of various jumps and rollers.
Published March 10, 2021