Levy Prairie and its amazing views being unveiled Saturday
Published: Thursday, January 31, 2013 at 5:13 p.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, January 31, 2013 at 5:13 p.m.
Four years after Alachua County acquired the Barr Hammock Levy Prairie Preserve, the expanse of land southwest of Gainesville will be open to the public Saturday at 9:30 a.m.
The parcel features 6½ miles of trails open for both hiking and biking and is located in south central Alachua County — between I-75, Wacahoota Road and U.S. 441.
Saturday’s grand opening will be marked with a ribbon-cutting by County Commissioner Mike Byerly and Ramesh Buch, Alachua County Forever program manager, at the trailhead at Southeast 11th Drive off Wacahoota Road in Micanopy.
The 5,719-acre preserve of marsh and wet prairie was acquired through the Alachua County Forever program with funding from the North American Wetlands Conservation Act, Wild Spaces Public Places sales tax, Florida Communities Trust and a donation from the Whitehurst family.
It is managed by the Alachua County Environmental Protection Department, Land Conservation Division in cooperation with the Conservation Trust for Florida.
Busy Shires Byerly, assistant executive director for the Conservation Trust for Florida, said she and her husband walked along the raised trail recently only expecting to go halfway and turn back. The view was so amazing they kept going to the end, she said.
According to Byerly, the land is hydrologically tied to Paynes Prairie, is one of the top birding areas in North Central Florida and part of a larger greenway system that connects conservation areas together throughout Florida.
“The idea is that you take existing conservation areas and you connect that with smaller areas as part of a corridor that connects the greenway,” Byerly said. David Pais, president of the Conservation Trust for Florida, said the Levy Prairie is one of the largest wetland parcels in Florida and a “crown jewel” in terms of diversity in habitat and beauty. He said that, although camping is not permitted right now, there is a possibility it will be available in the future.