In our summer 2019 grant cycle, we funded Alachua Conservation Trust’s (ACT) Rise Up for the Santa Fe River Campaign to protect 818 acres of land and three freshwater springs along 1.6 miles of Florida’s Santa Fe River, and increase public access to outdoor recreation in the Santa Fe watershed. Recently, ACT completed the first phase of this project, the acquisition of 254-acres, 1.3 river miles, and two freshwater springs. A second acquisition of 163 acres, including river frontage and an additional spring is planned for Fall of 2021.
Florida freshwater springs are a unique aspect of the state and serve a critical purpose ecologically and recreationally. North Central Florida’s Santa Fe River and its freshwater springs and rivers were the sacred home of Native Americans and the home sites of pioneers. They are paddling wonderlands; an entrypoint to the Floridan Aquifer; and home to manatees, limpkins, word storks, river otters, and hundreds of other species of fish, turtles, snakes, birds, and mammals.
ACT has worked to ensure that hikers, bikers, birders, and families can enjoy this unique landscape. By October 2020, Phase I will begin construction for a network of trails and a canoe/kayak launch. Phase II will see construction for trails and people-powered boat access by 2021, and a loop trail designed for hikers, bikers, and birders will open in 2022.
The protection of this landscape is a great success for all species that rely on this watershed. This acquisition guarantees recreational access and healthy water for generations to come.