Alachua Conservation Trust (ACT) will open a new section of the 1,067-acre Santa Fe River Preserve to the public on Friday.
A small ceremony begins at 10 a.m. at the Santa Fe Preserve South (along NW 254th Avenue) to celebrate the opening.
Santa Fe River South will be open from sunrise to sunset following the opening celebration. A small parking area near the entrance gate will lead visitors to the trail system. Santa Fe River Preserve is a multi-year conservation project that began in 2011.
In 2017, The Santa Fe River South portion was acquired with state funding from the Florida Communities Trust program that leveraged funding from previous acquisitions.
The new preserve protects wildlife habitat, floodplains, and banks of the upper Santa Fe River near Worthington Springs. It includes high bluffs along the river and a tangle of floodplain forest where the New River converges with the Santa Fe River.
The mix of flora throughout the preserve supports a diversity of wildlife, including bears near the river corridor and rare and endangered mussels along the river bottom.
“We are excited to welcome the public to this new part of Santa Fe River Preserve,” said ACT executive director Tom Kay in a press release. “Thanks to funding support from the Florida Communities Trust, as well as the Cofrin Family, Felburn Foundation, and hundreds of individual donors, ACT was able to protect this land and make it available for passive public recreation along the Santa Fe River.”
With the opening on Friday, ACT will add two miles of hiking trails following the riverbanks. New benches and picnic areas will allow visitors to rest and enjoy the preserve.
ACT is partnering with REI Co-op and the Florida Paddling Trails Association to install kayak take-out points at Santa Fe River Preserve and Santa Fe River Preserve South soon.
To learn more about ACT and the Santa Fe River Preserve, email info@AlachuaConservationTrust.org or call 352-373-1078.