RIVERVIEW — Tucked in beside bustling suburbs and hidden behind cattle ranches and citrus groves, thousands of acres of preserved lands, paid for by Hillsborough County taxpayers, are filled with wildflowers swaying in the breeze, bobcats cutting trails through the grasses and marsh hawks hunting dinner from their piney perches.
Photographers from throughout the county competed this year for a spot in the county’s 2014 Jan K. Platt Environmental Lands Acquisition and Protection Program calendar, now available free at the regional libraries.
They captured bits and pieces of the scenic vistas and less-traveled trails through pine flatwoods and pitcher-plant bogs. They shot ducks in flight and pelicans in ponds, all located on property bought and preserved through the county program.
Three photographers - George Veazey, Beth Smedley and William Carlisle - filled the calendar with orchids, hawks and landscapes, while numerous other photographers are featured at the beginning of the calendar.
This is the third year the program has solicited photographs for a calendar as a way to showcase the many acres of land the county is preserving and restoring.
“This year, it went absolutely fantastically,” said Ross Dickerson, general manager for ELAPP. “The quality of the pictures was 10 times better than last year.”
A few preserves are featured this year for the first time, including Brooker Creek Preserve near the headwaters to Brooker Creek. Among other environmental attractions, the preserve is home to a pitcher plant bog and various types of wild orchids.
There are 61 sites bought through the program in Hillsborough County, and almost every one has public access, mostly in the form of passive recreation like hiking and picnicking.
George Veazey is becoming an old hand at this. He had numerous photos in last year’s calendar and will again in 2014.
He took the opportunity to shoot a Cooper’s hawk at the Balm Scrub Preserve when a rescue group he works with, Save All Birds, released the bird, which had been injured when it became entangled in a baseball field net in Clair Mel weeks earlier.
Veazey also shot photos of a white pelican launching into flight in Cockroach Bay, and a fiddler crab racing across the sand at Apollo Beach.
“The only challenge is the patience and the time it takes to do what I do,” Veazey said. “I have a passion for what I do.’’
Dickerson said the county printed up 10,000 calendars. As happened last year, he expects every one to be scooped up within a month.