By Tamas Mondovics

Brandon’s Paul Sanders Park, home to one of Hillsborough County’s most heavily used playgrounds, reopened the first week of April, following a two-month renovation and expansion project.

Named after long time Brandon resident Paul Sanders, in 1991 the park is known by many as “The Tree Park” thanks to its mature oak trees that provide shade by means of a natural canopy.

The news of its closing in early February to upgrade and expand the park located at 602 W. Bloomingdale Ave. was bittersweet for its regular guests, who, while agreeing with the much-needed facelift, had to exercise some patience during the duration of the project.

It was no surprise to see a large crowd on opening day welcoming the finished product that includes a brand new playground along with additional play structures.

“I love this park,” said Riverview residents Carolyn Napier, who has brought her son and daughter ages five and six to opening day.

The playground features traditional swings and slides along with next-generation playground equipment that encourages children of all abilities to climb, run, and play.

To charm the children and those young at heart, the new equipment includes a Tyrannosaurus Rex that appears to be arising from the earth.

Additional playground pieces are also designed to help children on the autism spectrum who become overstimulated.

While the crowd of children lined up to give the new playground pieces a fair try, there was no shortage of many who still just wanted to climb the trees.

As part of the renovation, $315,000 was covered by the County Parks and Recreation department’s budget for Capital Improvement Projects.

Workers also renovated the restrooms and shelters, repaved the parking lot, added sidewalks, and created an additional entrance to improve traffic flow.

The facelift is filling up the park daily as it attracts many new families.

Napier said she hopes that the park will be a little less crowed after the newness wears down but added, “We have been coming to the this park for the past four years and I am definitely planning on coming back more often, as long as it’s not too crowded.” The park is now open daily from sunrise to sunset.

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