MIDDLEBURG – Clay County can look forward to a new public access park in the future. North Florida Land Trust is working in conjunction with the County to create this new park at Rideout Point Preserve.
The North Florida Land Trust is a not-for-profit organization based in Jacksonville, with a mission to “preserve the natural resources, historic places and working lands (farms and ranches) of Northeast Florida.
“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, said.
The park will be located at the intersection of the First Coast Expressway and Black Creek. It will cover 578 acres of ground and will have green on either side of the FCE.
The COVID-19 pandemic has heightened the importance of this new park.
“I think one of the things that’s become obvious to us in the last couple of months has been the need for people to get outdoors,” said McCarthy. “the need for people to get away. The need for people to get exercise. There’s a lot to be said; there’s more and more research that indicates for mental health research, people need green.”
This park would provide that necessary green. This park would also offer something else that is unusual in this area of Florida, a roughly 35-foot bluff. There are many opportunities for things to do, such as birdwatching, nature walks, hikes, and possibly a kayak launch for those wishing to undertake watersports.
The NFLT and the county haven’t yet come up with a viable timeline for the project but they hope to be completed or near completion within a year.
Like most large-scale operations, this one is expected to take place in phases. The first phase should pave a parking lot and create trails on which people can hike and walk. The second phase would be to build the kayak launch, pavilions, boardwalks, and restrooms.
The North Florida Land Trust will also work to provide interactive signs, guided hikes, and education.
“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.”
“For those who grew up here, they’ll probably get to see the part of Florida that they probably remember from their childhood and that they want their children and grandchildren to see,” McCarthy said.