Its events have become “traditions” in Land O’ Lakes, but the Heritage Park Foundation started in 1997 with a simple— yet lofty— goal.
The original intent of the foundation was to preserve the Land O’ Lakes Community Center, founding member Tim Hayes said.
But to do that, its members had to convince county leadership that it was worth saving.
Prompted by the then-recent construction of the Land O’ Lakes Recreation Complex on Collier Parkway, foundation members— a group of community leaders and Central Pasco Chamber of Commerce board members— began meeting to discuss ways to preserve Land O’ Lakes’ original activity hub, according to a foundation brochure.
After doing some research, the group found that much of the land occupied by the Land O’ Lakes Community Center was being leased from the Pasco County School Board, Hayes said.
That portion of the property—which had been intended as the site of Land O’ Lakes High School— included many of the center’s amenities, including the baseball/softball field, soccer fields and a concession stand, according to the foundation’s brochure.
The group feared that it might someday be used to build a school or sold for another purpose, Hayes said.
During the next few years, the foundation focused its efforts on convincing the county to purchase the property from the school board.
In 2001, that goal was realized when the property was sold by the Pasco County School Board to the Pasco County Board of County Commissioners, who pledged to maintain the community center.
“The property is a hub for the community,” Hayes said. “It’s a vital community resource. If we lost it, we would never get it back.”
School board chairwoman Joanne Hurley was among the original Heritage Park Foundation members. She and other members felt the community center’s location and storied history as a gathering place for the community made it worth fighting for.
The community center and surrounding property have deep roots and we want to hold on to that, Hurley said.
Hurley wanted to make sure that the center remained a place where community members could get together for organized events as well as impromptu gatherings, she said.
"That's just a valuable little spot and in the community and I want to make sure that it's preserved," Hurley said.
A decade later, the Heritage Park Foundation now focuses on hosting events and fundraisers to maximize the community center’s use and facilitate continuous improvements to the park.
“Our ultimate goal is to build the stage and historic walkway,” foundation president Sandy Graves said.
The outdoor stage will allow local schools and other groups to perform on the green, Graves said. A proposed historical walkway around the park will provide information on the history of Central Pasco.
Rene Van Hout joined the foundation four years ago after meeting Graves at the first Traditions on the Green event, she said.
“I immediately fell in love with the idea of having free events like concerts in the park, puppet shows, egg hunts, car shows, pancakes with Santa, crafts, and the Saturday Market,” Van Hout said.
The events, which began as a way for the foundation to get its name out to the community, have become community traditions, Graves said.
The events also allow the foundation to raise funds for park improvements, and the more support from the community, the better, Graves said.
“We need businesses and volunteers to partner with us,” Graves said.
Fundraising events such as are part of the foundation’s “ongoing efforts to continue fundraising to add amenities that will enhance our community center,” Hayes said.
The Heritage Park Foundation's Al and Ida Silver Memorial Car Show will be held from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 14 at the Land O' Lakes Community Center, 5401 Land O Lakes Blvd.
In addition to the cars on display, the event will feature a DJ playing music from the 50s, 60s and 70s as well as vendors, food and door prizes.