CLEARWATER, Fla. (FOX 13) - For locals, Moccasin Lake Nature Park is a hidden gem right in the center of Clearwater. It has been welcoming guests since as early as the 1970s, but now it has a new look.
"So many people drive by Moccasin Lake Nature Park on US 19 and don't realize it's here. Now, because of all the improvements we've made, we're going to make sure that people in Clearwater, Pinellas County, the Tampa Bay Area know what a gem we have here," said Clearwater Mayor George Cretekos.
Thanks to a $1 million renovation budget, the past year has been spent completely transforming the historic park into a destination for visitors of all ages to enjoy.
"It's very exciting with all the different activities and just the community interest in this treasured jewel we have," said Kevin Dunbar, the director of Parks and Recreation for the City of Clearwater.
From new landscape to new additions, the park is now home to redesigned animal encounter exhibits, winding foot trails and a playground for even the youngest of nature enthusiasts.
"I'm most excited about all the young people that are here that are really being able to identify with the wildlife that's here, getting back to nature, the trails," said Dunbar.
Nine-year-old Joseph Reiter, who was visiting the park with his family, agreed that the wildlife around the park was a sight to be seen.
When asked about his favorite part about the new park, Joseph exclaimed, "Looking at all the owls, there's so many!"
With a butterfly garden, a turtle pond and a completely redone interpretive center, the park's endless array of nature experiences earned two thumbs up from some of the park's smallest visitors.
"I think it looks better than before," said Savannah Beasley, a 6-year-old visitor.
Charles Howard, another young guest, lives by the park and frequented it before the renovation. He agreed that the changes has brought the park to a whole new level.
"It was a great experience to come see the difference in the park," Charles said. "They spread around the trails a lot, and there's way more animals to see."
The park has now become a place for the whole community to come and reconnect with nature.
"It's been a gem, and we've just finished polishing it up and making it shine, just like the City of Clearwater," said Mayor Cretekos.
The park is free to the public. It's open Sunday to Wednesday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.