RUSKIN, Fla. — As far west in Ruskin, you'll find one of the areas hidden gems.
The Cockroach Bay Nature Preserve is so pristine you'd hardly know fossils were once excavated there.
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Hillsborough County, along with state and federal partners, has been working for years to restore the ecosystem here.
It's part of the County's ELAPP program. Prior to the County purchasing Cockroach Bay in 1991, the area suffered from plant infestation and poor water quality. Something you wouldn't even notice today.
"We've preserved 64,000 or so acres throughout our county and we're stringing them together in wildlife corridors, which is a big triumph for Hillsborough County is one of the things that Hillsborough County can be very proud of. And Ruskin residents can be proud of here," explains Commissioner Mariella Smith.
Crews have been able to improve stormwater treatment, agricultural runoff and restore two shell pits.
Today, you can take a shell trail to the top of the lookout and you'll see the beauty it's become.
"So this is a wonderful legacy to future generations that Hillsborough County in our ELAPP Nature Preserve program has been able to preserve here," says Smith.
A quick look out and you'll notice Tropicana Field, the Sunshine Skyway, and Downtown Tampa.
If you're looking more for boating and kayaking, head down to the boat ramps. The views are just as gorgeous. Our crews were lucky enough to catch a dolphin not far from shore!
"That is very beneficial to everything that people come to Tampa Bay for. So Cockroach Bay is the flatland, the seagrasses that are the nursery grounds for the snook, the redfish and the mullet and everything that people fish. The blue crabs, we have a blue crab fishing industry and also the recreational fishermen and the fishing guides that make a living taking visitors and residents out into Tampa Bay fishing," explains Smith.