For immediate release - September 1, 2005
TAVARES — The Lake County Board of County Commissioners closed Wednesday on the 192-acre Ferndale Preserve, marking a significant land acquisition that will preserve a picturesque vista from the western shore of Lake Apopka.
A grant secured last year from the Florida Communities Trust funded 75 percent of the acquisition. A partnership between the Lake County Board of County Commissioners and Lake County Water Authority funded the other 25 percent of the land purchase on County Road 455, a state designated scenic highway.
"This is an important acquisition for the County because it was the last developable piece of land on Lake County's side of Lake Apopka," said Commissioner Debbie Stivender. "In order to preserve that area, next to what the St. Johns [River Water Management District] has already preserved, it was a major initiative."
Lake County purchased the scenic corridor for $4.025 million. The County will manage the property as plans for the preserve include restoration work in both upland and wetland areas and development of public passive recreation opportunities. Preliminary passive recreation plans for the first County access point to Lake Apopka include a fishing pier, observation tower and picnic facilities. The land acquisition project will provide the County a location to construct a passive park with nature trails. Plans for the preserve are to have bicycle and pedestrian trails that will connect to the proposed Lake Apopka Loop Trail and Greenway.
Once a citrus grove, the site is perched about 165-feet above sea level and gives a breathtaking view of the entire lake. Numerous species of wildlife can be seen at the site, including bald eagles and gopher tortoises. The Lake Apopka land is within the Green Mountain Scenic Byway - one of the most heavily used cycling routes in Florida. Proposed Lake Apopka trails will link to the Byway, which is used each year for internationally recognized triathlons and is an international destination of touring and competitive cyclists.
Lake County officials, however, were not the first to recognize the overall beauty of the Lake Apopka land. Native Americans once inhabited the shores and artifacts, such as arrowheads and potsherds, have been unearthed around the lake.
A specific management plan for the property specifies objectives for the site to include:
Protection of existing site resources;
Restoration of disturbed upland and wetland areas;
Development and operation of outdoor recreational opportunities;
Provision of environmental programs; and
Recognition and education of the historic, archaeological and cultural aspects of the Lake Apopka Basin.
Office: (352) 343-9609; Cell: (352) 455-0445