TIERRA VERDE, Fla. — In southern Pinellas County near Tierra Verde, the gates of Fort De Soto Park opened back up at 7 a.m. Sunday.
Park officials closed it down ahead of the impacts of Hurricane Ian. Workers at the park said that several trails and the campground got hit the hardest by the strong winds. Those are still closed as of Sunday evening.
However, it didn't stop people from all over the Tampa Bay region from enjoying what the land has to offer. Jose Pena from Tampa said he liked to take his pet to the dog beach.
"It feels good. I mean, it feels like a normal day to me," Pena said. "I'm going about it like a regular day, but just keeping in mind we're one of the lucky ones."
Lucky is a word many passersby at the park used when describing the sunny afternoon. Michael Franzek showed up with his dog at the park. He said he feels grateful the worst of Ian's path missed his home and area of Tierra Verde.
“It Feels great and I have good friends down in Fort Myers who lost their house and they’re going through a tough time. We’re happy to be here and we dodged a bullet here in Pinellas County," Franzek said.
He also said that he knows another man down in Fort Myers whose mobile home floated away in the floods. As he soaks up the sun and counts his blessings, Franzek said he's taking the time to reflect and help others who could use it the most.
"They're just in shock. Their house is filled with water up to the top of their refrigerator and they lost everything," Franzek said. "We got to think of our friends down south. There's a lot of charities and things looking for donations and a lot of homeless people down there, so it's kind of a sad deal."
Workers at the park said they have a tentative plan to re-open the campground by Wednesday. They also said the restrooms and the pier's concession stand are closed due to a power outage and issues with the septic pumps following the storm.
One worker said the hurricane set back the construction of the pier by the dog beach by a couple of months, but crews were already six months ahead of schedule. So, they are still on the right track.