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Celebrating Florida Forever : 10 Parks

published on: November 23, 2022

Gilchrist Blue Springs State Park

Gilchrist is Florida’s newest State Park– #175! It was acquired with Florida Forever Funds in 2017. The park contains a collection of natural springs, including a large second-magnitude one that pumps out 44 million gallons per day directly into the Santa Fe River.

Public ownership helps to ensure continued water flow, which improves overall water quality and creates healthy habitats for wildlife. Best of all, this park can be accessed for paddling, snorkeling, swimming, hiking, and other recreational activities.

Fish Island

When developers sought to build on one of the last remaining natural lands on the banks of the Matanzas River, communities in St. Augustine fought back. Florida Forever provided the perfect solution.

This 57-acre property was purchased for $6.5 million in 2019 and can now be accessed and enjoyed by the public seven days a week. Incredible things happen when we fully fund Florida Forever!

Timberlane Ravine Park

The land for Timberlane Ravine Park was acquired in 2001 using funds from the City of Tallahassee along with the Florida Communities Trust (FCT), a grant-matching program funded through Florida Forever. Its 2.1-mile loop trail is currently enjoyed by many Tallahassee residents.

Clam Bayou Nature Park

Clam Bayou is an ecologically significant estuary restored to treat runoff from a highly urbanized watershed. The project has improved water purification, provided storm surge protection, and increased habitat for wildlife to breed and grow.

A small 10-acre area, now known as Clam Bayou Nature Park, offers visitors a glimpse into this massive restoration project. Now people can now walk the trails, visit the overlooks, and even access the water via a kayak launch.

Halpatioke Otter Creek

It’s the largest park in Martin County and a perfect example of how federal, state, and local partners can work together to provide tangible results to communities. The multi-use park is equipped with sports fields and picnic pavilions. The adjacent wilderness trail located along the western portion of the St. Lucie River was acquired with the help of Florida Forever.

There’s a key economic benefit to this program: once the land is acquired, the maintenance cost falls on local partners– placing no additional burden on state land management funds.

Juno Dunes

This massive 569-acre park sits nestled between the Atlantic Ocean and the Intracoastal waterway. Natural areas like this are now extremely rare as the cost of coastal real estate in South Florida soars. Thankfully, Juno Dunes Oceanfront Preserve was acquired and protected using Florida Forever funds.

Sunset Point Park

Local parks are critical to physical, social, and environmental health. Sunset Point in Tamarac might be small, but its close proximity to where people live makes it invaluable for the communities that visit it.

Split Oak Forest

Split Oak Forest was protected through Florida Forever (specifically the Florida Communities Trust) to help mitigate the impacts of future development in Central Florida. The area is critical to wildlife and beloved by local communities.

All this makes the FCT Board’s recent April 2022 decision to allow toll road construction through Split Oak all the more devastating. Toll roads not only fuel FUTURE developments but building one in a designated conservation area sets a dangerous precedent for future land protections; it signals that the word “perpetuity” doesn’t always mean forever.

Hypoluxo Scrub

Acquired in 2005, this 97-acre public park sits within an otherwise highly developed area. This unique scrub habitat is home to exciting species like the Halloween Pennant dragonfly, Florida scrub lizard, and gopher tortoise. Best of all, its various trails and proximity to people make it an optimal place to hike and enjoy nature.

Vista View Park

Vista View Park served as a landfill for almost 25 years. Today, thanks to Florida Forever, it’s a 272-acre recreational resource valued by both residents and visitors. Hike to the top of the 65-foot mound to enjoy a cool breeze and one of the best views in Broward County!

We need YOUR help showcasing the next round of parks!

Florida Communities Trust (FCT)

This program provides matching grants to cities and counties, as well as non-profit land trusts, to preserve land for parks and open spaces. State funds help these municipalities to purchase the land, and the local partners assume long-term maintenance and management. Parks located within cities and towns provide accessible ways for people to interact with nature daily. The FCT used to receive steady funding but received none during the 2021 and 2022 Florida Legislative Sessions.

Florida Forever ARC Priority List

The Acquisition and Restoration Council (ARC) evaluates, selects, and ranks projects each year, compiling a list of around 250 priority projects for state acquisition. Ecological value is determined using a science-based approach based on criteria such as connectivity with nearby conservation areas, water recharge, historical and cultural resources, and mitigation of climate change impacts. This extensive research ensures that the best projects are ultimately purchased by the State of Florida.

Rural and Family Lands Protection Program

This program preserves agricultural landscapes strictly through conservation easements, which use public-private partnerships to conserve land and water. Landowners are paid a portion of the land value and, in exchange, forgo future development rights. They continue to own and manage the land, reducing management costs to the state. Agricultural landscapes like cattle ranches and timber plantations provide habitat and often link travel corridors for highly mobile species like the Florida panther and the Florida black bear.

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