North Florida Land Trust is working with Clay County to create a public access park at Rideout Point Preserve. The nonprofit land conservation organization recently presented the idea to the Board of County Commissioners. NFLT acquired the more than 575 acres of conservation land in January through a partnership with the St. Johns River Water Management District. It is located directly across from the Black Creek Ravines Conservation Area and protects over three miles of the Black Creek Shoreline. The projected plan is to create a park that will include a parking lot, trails, boardwalks, kayak landings, pavilions and restrooms.
“We are working closely with the County Manager and other County staff to put together a plan on how we can open up this beautiful property for passive recreation,” said Jim McCarthy, president of NFLT. “The conservation land we typically acquire is not suitable for public access, but the already existing trails on this property and the access to Black Creek make it perfect for a public park. We are still in the very early stages of this process and look forward to working with the County to create a place that all can enjoy.”
The public park project is expected to happen in phases. Phase 1 would be to create the parking lot and trails. Phase 2 would be to build the restrooms, pavilions, boardwalks and kayak landings. NFLT is likely to ask the County to assist with the infrastructure development while NFLT will provide programming including education, guided hikes and interpretative signs. The maintenance of the park is anticipated to be a shared duty between the County, NFLT and volunteer groups.
NFLT currently owns and manages Rideout Point Preserve which is divided by the First Coast Expressway. The St. Johns River Water Management District holds a conservation easement over the entire property, guaranteeing it will remain in a natural state. The property is composed of both upland and wetland areas including cypress, pine flatwoods, and mixed upland forest. It also has several spring seeps, steep bluffs and ravines that overlook Black Creek. There is currently no projected date or budget for the creation of the park.