photographed by Jason Stephens
Fall, when the temperatures become milder and the humidity starts to lessen, is the perfect time to get out and enjoy our natural resources. Luckily, you can do so right here within the Lakeland city limits. Situated between US 98, Bartow Road, and Lakeland Highlands Road lays Holloway Park, a beautiful and lush wilderness laced with miles of cross-county running trails, hiking trails, valleys and ridges, and wetlands.
Longtime Lakelanders Mary Ann and Ed Holloway have owned the land for over 40 years; prior to 1950 it was used to mine for phosphate. The Holloways had a vision to preserve the lands for the generations to come and decided to form the Holloway Park Foundation.
Development of the park started back in 2010, and today it encompasses more than 250 acres. The rugged face of this land is a product of the phosphate mining which created many valleys, ridges, and wetlands. Fortunately, nature has a way of healing itself, and the result is a unique landscape that you certainly won’t soon forget.
A wide variety of seeds that were left behind grew into trees, shrubs, and plants, bringing the land back to a more natural state. However, some invasive species of trees, shrubs, and plants grew in along with the natives. So, in an effort to ensure that these ecosystems thrive for years to come, conservation projects are being implemented to restore native vegetation, provide nesting areas, and improve shoreline conditions around the wetlands for wading bird species. The end goal is to improve the biodiversity of the preserve and provide a sanctuary for the wildlife that call Holloway Park home.
Holloway Park was opened with two main uses in mind: to accommodate cross-country trail races, and for nature enthusiasts to have a place to come experience Florida’s unique natural resources.
With its elevation changes and the natural canopy of trees that conceal the trails, this park provides cross-country runners with unique opportunities that aren’t easy to come by in Florida. Within the cross-country trail system are four trails: a 3km, 5km, 8km, and 10km. All trails have a 300-foot-wide starting line that continues slightly uphill for 1,700 feet until you reach the 15-foot-wide mowed trails that wind throughout the park. Pair that with the five-acre Tent City for vendors to set up on and the ability to accommodate 1,200-1,500 vehicles, and you have the ideal place to host a large race. And, if you have a friend or family member that you want to cheer on, you can do so from the elevated, shaded view of Spectator Ridge.
Interested in running a race? Check the website for event listings: hollowaypark.org/calendar. Not looking to get competitive? Come enjoy an early morning or evening run on any of the trails. These are perfect times to possibly catch a glimpse of some of the wildlife that call Holloway Park home.
With its elevation changes and the natural canopy of trees that conceal the trails, this park provides cross-country runners with
unique opportunities that aren’t easy to come by in Florida.
Not a runner? No worries; the park also offers several nature trails in various lengths. These trails offer great opportunities for hiking, bird watching, and photographing wildlife. Holloway Park is a natural safe haven for a wide variety of ducks, wading birds, land birds, insects, and butterflies as well as nesting grounds for a pair of bald eagles. Coyotes, bobcats, and otters live here and are more likely to be seen in the early morning or late evening hours. And no trip would be complete without visiting Lake Ann in hopes of catching a glimpse of the resident alligator.
Despite its convenient location, this beautiful plot of land is largely unknown by Lakelanders. The main entrance is located at 2402 Holloway Park Drive. Once inside the gate, you’ll find a grass parking area with ample amounts of shade trees and parking spaces. Close by is Lake Ann where you can take a walk along the shoreline, or sit on a bench and watch as the day ends in a blaze of color. For those looking for a nice setting to share a meal or snack outdoors, the park has a couple picnic tables that are less than 100 yards from the parking area as well as a few along the hiking trails.
The park is free to the public but is also set up as a 501(C)3 Corporation, so income and donations to this corporation are tax-exempt. All income to the Corporation, regardless of the source (donations and/or event income), goes directly for operation expenses or capital improvements to the park. All officers and directors of the Corporation serve voluntarily and without pay. Want to get involved? There are several ways to do so which can be found at hollowaypark.org/volunteerinfo.
Address: 2402 Holloway Park Drive, Lakeland, FL 33812
March – October, 7:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m., Tuesday – Sunday
November – February, 7:00 a.m. – 7:00 p.m. Tuesday – Sunday
The park closes periodically due to inclement weather, so check the Facebook page,
or call before you go if it has rained recently.