North Florida Land Trust (NFLT), the Florida Trail Association and the U.S. Forest Service will host a ribbon-cutting ceremony for a new 2-mile segment of the Florida National Scenic Trail that runs through NFLT’s Smith Lake Preserve in Clay County. The ceremony will be held on Friday, Dec. 1 at 2 p.m. followed by a guided hike along the new trail. Guests are asked to arrive at the NFLT Stewardship Facility at 5525 Christian Camp Rd. in Keystone Heights at 1 p.m. and will be shuttled to the site of the ribbon cutting. Space is limited and guests must RSVP to bit.ly/SmithLakeRSVP.
The new trail will be part of the 1,500-mile Florida National Scenic Trail, which is celebrating its 40th anniversary. The new portion of the trail will eliminate the need for hikers to walk on the road in this location. This regional highlight of the Florida Trail will be open to the public on Saturday, Dec. 2. There will not be a trailhead at this location. Hikers will need to park further down the trail at Goldhead Branch State Park.
“The Florida Trail Association greatly appreciates our partnership with the North Florida Land Trust,” said Royce Gibson, executive director of the Florida Trail Association. “Their dedication to conserving the Smith Lake Preserve is instrumental to our mission to close the gaps along the Florida National Scenic Trail. Our partnership with NFLT and other land managers across the state ensures that future generations will be able to enjoy the natural beauty of our treasured trail.”
NFLT acquired the 463-acre Smith Lake Preserve in 2019. The nonprofit land conservation organization has been working to restore the natural areas and habitats which consist of significant areas of long-leaf pine sandhills, flatwoods and scrub habitats. These habitats are critical for many wildlife species including the Gopher tortoise, wild turkey, southern fox squirrel and Eastern indigo snake. Smith Lake Preserve is located within the Ocala to Osceola (O2O) Wildlife Corridor, a 1.6 million-acre network of public and private lands that connect the Ocala and Osceola National Forests, a critical link within the Florida Wildlife Corridor.
About North Florida Land Trust
North Florida Land Trust is a not-for-profit organization dedicated to preserving and enhancing the quality of life by protecting North Florida’s irreplaceable natural environment. Founded in 1999, NFLT has preserved tens of thousands of acres of land through the donation or purchase of land as well as conservation easements. NFLT is funded largely by private and corporate contributions and works closely with willing landowners and public agencies at all levels of government, not-for-profit partners, and foundations.
About the Florida Trail Association
The Florida Trail Association develops, maintains, protects and promotes the Florida National Scenic Trail, better known simply as the Florida Trail. With the Forest Service as our primary partner and administrator, we provide opportunities for the public to hike, engage in outdoor recreation, participate in environmental education and contribute to meaningful volunteer work.