I found the unmarked entrance off of 52 after doubling back. It was marked only by a sign that said: “R/C Flying Field—Home of Bay City Flyers.” I pulled in and was greeted by a closed gate, luckily, there were parking spots to the left. I parked the car and got out. The air was fresh, the sun was bright, and I was excited: 16 miles of hiking trails and nearly 3,000 acres of unadorned nature awaited me. What could go wrong?
Max fell asleep in the car seat during the drive, not wanting to wake him, I surveyed the immediate area. There was an informational sign past the gate; a gap in the fence allowed hikers through. There was a map, marking the trails and whatnot. There was also a container attached to the sign holding loose brochures/maps. I grabbed one and looked at some of the facts listed on the paper.
The property was acquired in 2003 for preservation of natural systems, groundwater recharge, water quality, and for flood protection. It offers sandhill ridges, expansive marshes, dense cypress sloughs and lush pine flatwoods. Pasco County and the District envision this as part of a wildlife corridor that will eventually connect the Starkey Wilderness Preserve to the Cypress Creek Preserve “making a continuous corridor of several thousands of acres in this region.” Sounds impressive.
Max began to stir, so I set up his stroller (one of the Bay City Flyers drove by and told me I could fit a stroller down the trails, although it would be bumpy) because I knew he wouldn’t be in the mood to hike right away, and the trails I was really shooting for were a couple miles off.
We began our hike down a gravel path built for cars and trucks. We could hear the model airplanes zipping around the sky, and to me they sounded a lot like real airplanes, just smaller; which I suspect is what they really are. I found the trail head to the “hiking trail,” which was an unpaved road for vehicles that went straight out for who knew how long. It was off of this trail that the “hiking-only” trail was supposed to be connected, which was the trail I was shooting for. So, we started.
Just as promised, the trail was bumpy for a stroller. Max didn’t care for it too much. When I asked him if he wanted out of his stroller he nodded “yes.” I took him out and it was slow go. The trail was boring for hiking. Maybe if I had a mountain bike it would have been more enjoyable because I could reach further out and actually get to the “hiking-only” trails. But I knew this wasn’t going to work.
We turned around and instead went to the Model Airplane Flying Field, which is a 25 acre field open to spectators and members of the Bay City Flyers Model Airplane Club, and watched the planes.
The trip isn’t all that I hoped for. There was supposed to be 16 miles of hiking-only trails, but I didn’t see a single mile of that. I suspect that there is not much real hiking to be had there, it appeared most of the trails were multi-use, meaning vehicles drove down them. The trip wasn’t a total loss though, there were some beautiful sights as the below pictures will prove. I think that this simply isn’t the place for hikers. It’s the flyers that will relish this land.
Access and Parking: Primary Access is off SR 52 on south side of road about 3.5 miles east of US 41. Located in Central Pasco County. ADA access and facilities available.
Hours: Daily from sunrise to sunset.
Recreational Activities: Bicycling—12.5 miles of unpaved cycling trails│Equestrian—5.2 miles of designated or marked trails. Day-use reservations required│Hiking—16 miles of hiking-only trails. Several miles of multiuse wooded roads available│ Primitive Camping—campsite equipped with fire ring and picnic table. Free reservation required │ Model Airplane Flying—25-acre site open to spectators and to members of Bay City Flyers Model Airplane Club