Joel Jackson’s conservation
efforts for 50 years have had a
lasting impact on the region’s
quality of life. Recently, the
Nature Center at Lettuce Lake
Conservation Park was
renamed in his honor.
By B.C. Manion
t’s fair to say that visitors to Lettuce Lake
Conservation Park, at 6920 E. Fletcher Ave.,
in Hillsborough County, enjoy myriad as-
pects of its offerings.
Some like to hike.
Others, to watch birds.
Some are there to check out the native plants
Still others find pleasure in climbing to the top
of the observation tower to gaze at the scenic
Families go there to picnic.
School children take field trips there, to learn.
Some visitors enjoy a stroll, or jog, along the
1.25-mile paved trail.
These are the kinds of things that Joel Jackson
envisioned when he sat down to design the park,
which marked its 40th year of operations in
“I had three objectives, when I designed this
park,” Jackson said, in a recent interview.
“One, was to make it an interesting and enjoy-
able place to come visit and experience nature.
“No. 2, was environmental education.
“And three, (was to preserve it) for future gen-
erations,” Jackson said.
He started planning the conservation park, in
northeast Hillsborough County, from scratch.
“There was no park here at all. It was just a
piece of land. So, I had a blank slate here, which
was very exciting to me,” Jackson said.
Jackson paid attention to every detail: How the
land would drain, where the parking should go,
the amenities that would appeal to people of dif-
ferent ages and with diverse interests.
He wanted to be sure this was a true nature
park. The paths should meander. The parking lots
should be small, situated in different spots around
Indeed, it is a nature park.
The Hillsborough River runs through it, and
more than half of its acreage lies in the natural
flood plain, which consists of a hardwood swamp
The rest of the park features hardwood ham-