Land Added to State Parks Protects Habitat, Water
Great news - state parks are growing! Governor Ron DeSantis and the Florida Cabinet recently approved several park land acquisitions as part of the Department of Environmental Protection’s Florida Forever land conservation program.
Silver Springs State Park in Marion County
The massive main spring at Silver Springs is surrounded by serene gardens and historic structures. Glass-bottom boats depart at the main spring for tours of the Silver River, which eventually merges with the Ocklawaha River.
Until recently, there was a gap in the Silver River’s protection. A 9.9-acre privately owned parcel meant the river was potentially vulnerable to development, including over 1,000 feet of the southern shoreline. With the addition of this parcel, the entire 5-mile run of the Silver River is now protected by Silver Springs State Park.
Public ownership will help the Florida Park Service continue to protect the water quality of the river, expand recreation opportunities and improve habitat for native birds, mammals and reptiles.
Topsail Hill Preserve State Park in Walton County
Topsail Hill is named for its dunes, which rise like ships’ sails over soft sand beaches along the Gulf of Mexico. Behind the beaches are sensitive habitats such as old-growth pine forests, sandy scrub land, dunes and wetlands.
The new acquisition secures the last remaining inholding, or privately owned land, within the park and transfers it to public ownership. The 4.5-acre parcel is critical to ensuring wildlife habitat protection in one of the last remaining expanses of scrubby flatwoods in the area. The land supports several rare and imperiled species, including Gulf Coast lupine, which flowers in brilliant purple in the spring, as well as gopher tortoise and the Gulf Coast solitary bee.
A more contiguous park boundary also will help preserve the park’s wilderness in an area that has seen rapid development in the past decade. The parcel also contains multiple potential archaeological sites.
Dade Battlefield Historic State Park in Sumter County
Dade Battlefield is popular for its history and its landscape of old oaks and pine flatwoods. Picnics, hiking and wildlife photography are popular recreational activities at the park.
The new acquisition significantly expands the boundaries of the 80-acre park, encompassing several additional ponds. The addition will enable Florida Park Service biologists to restore the land to its natural ecology and expand protected habitat for the Sherman’s fox squirrel, swallow-tailed kite and gopher tortoise.