Not Your Typical Park Experience

By Giggle Magazine

32-acre, Family-Friendly Depot Park Opening in Gainesville this Summer!


Photos courtesy of Ben Tobias and City of Gainesville

Alachua County parents, brace yourselves for an onslaught of carpool requests and beautiful bluebird days outdoors. In just a few months, toddlers and teenagers alike will be begging you to take them to Downtown Gainesville’s “Central Park.”

Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, Depot Park is anchored by a restored, 1860s-era train station that served as Gainesville’s main railroad hub for 60 years. This rustic, railroad theme informs the aesthetic of the whole park — from a towering, weathered steel gateway feature to a football field-sized Adventure Play Area built around a custom splash pad.

The $5.9 million park includes: a water’s edge promenade designed to host food truck rallies and festivals; picnic pavilions perfect for birthday parties and barbecue cookouts; and winding trails ideal for birdwatchers and nature lovers.

The Adventure Play Area at Depot Park isn’t a “15-minutes-and-the-kids-are-bored-now” playground, either. With a North Florida springs-inspired splash pad — complete with water soakers, ground jets, and waterfalls — many of the play elements draw from Gainesville’s rich ecology and history.

Kids can scale a brick smokestack and dangle from utility-inspired climbers that pay tribute to Gainesville’s industrial Power District. A series of domes hints at the traditional dwellings of the area’s Native American Timucuan tribe. Carvings of raccoons, butterflies, mice and other critters are hidden within the oak tree climber for children to discover.

Other interactive play features include: a wheelchair-accessible choo-choo train replica; an oak tree climber; a sandpit with hidden fossils; an abandoned stormwater pipe; a rolling hill; dueling slides; and more than a dozen swings.

The playground area is safely fenced in to keep children from wandering too far away, so parents can find a comfortable bench and just relax. Clean restrooms are in close proximity to the play area. A parking lot will be built on the east side of the park and more parking spots are available on Southeast 4th Street and along South Main Street.

The Cade Museum for Creativity and Invention (which celebrates the invention of Gatorade and entrepreneurship) is on-track to construct a world-class facility on the west side of Depot Park by 2017. Soon, children will be able to exercise their creativity in the labs at the Cade Museum and then play at Depot Park.


Depot Park marries environmental sustainability with economic development. It has taken more than two decades of partnerships and planning to convert the land from an industrial brownfield site into a flourishing, urban park. The park wraps around a large stormwater pond that collects runoff from Gainesville’s urban core and cleanses it before it flows into Sweetwater Branch Creek and Paynes Prairie. The southern half of Depot Park is a brilliant integration of manmade and natural wetlands. The historic Depot Train Station was restored using certified U.S. Green Building Council Gold LEED standards. Prominent features include original old growth heart pine, energy-efficient lighting and interactive rain barrels that capture rainwater from the roof’s copper gutters.

Depot Park is also designed to make it easy for visitors to arrive using eco-friendly modes of transportation, like public transit, walking and bicycling. It’s conveniently located across the street from the Rosa Parks Downtown RTS Station, which receives buses bringing passengers from 19 different bus routes around the city. The popular Gainesville-Hawthorne rail trail feeds cyclists directly into the southern edge of the park. The newly redeveloped Depot Avenue features wide sidewalks, beautiful palm trees and bright lighting, making a nice jog from P.K. Yonge to Depot Park a fun exercise route.

Want to learn more about Depot Park’s highly anticipated summer 2016 grand opening? We can’t wait to unveil this landmark destination! Please follow the Gainesville CRA on social media under #DepotPark2016 #GCRA or visit our website at

Email Depot Park CRA project manager Cindi Harvey at for more information.