City and environmental leaders held a ceremony in Northeast Jacksonville to announce the opening of the newly branded 7 Creeks Recreation Area.
The 5,600 acre tract of land will connect seven different parks together: Betz-Tiger Point Preserve, Bogey Creek Preserve, Cedar Point Preserve, Cedar Point, Jim Wingate Preserve, Pescatello Island and Pumpkin Hill Creek Preserve State Park.
The opening also provides people visiting the area with some new sections of preserved land to enjoy, including land that begins to connect to waterways.
“This provides a tourist opportunity,” said Daryl Joseph, the city’s director of Parks, Recreation and Community Services. “It becomes a destination as it relates to individuals that want to come for various recreational opportunities.”
Chris Hughes from the Timucuan Ecological and Historic Preserve said one of the biggest moves in
completing the interconnectivity of the parks was building a 245-foot bridge between the Cedar Point Preserve and the rest of the city, which is useful for hikers and bikers.
“We want to put this place on the map for the people that live in Jacksonville,” Hughes said. “Especially in this day and age where people need to get out and get some fresh air and just get their mind off of things.”
The area also received upgrades to make signage easier to read.
“It truly is emotional,” said North Florida Land Trust President Jim McCarthy. “I mean, it's so much of what we need in Jacksonville.”
The North Florida Land Trust was part of the reason for 7 Creeks’ recent expansion, as an unnamed donor gave $100,000 to the trust so it could expand the Bogey Creek Preserve by 12 acres. It will officially be acquired in January.
McCarthy believes the interconnectivity of the parks will become an economic driver in the area.
“One of the other things that marsh grasses do is they provide fisheries. So that's where fish hatch, that's where they grow, and they become bigger. So it also, in the long run, helps our fishing industry,” McCarthy said.
McCarthy said conserving a larger portion of land will create jobs, and be a place to look at what Florida was like centuries ago.
“This is what Florida looked like, go back a couple hundred years or maybe 1000 years, maybe 2000 years,” McCarthy said. “This is Florida. This is what it looked like.”
The 7 Creeks Recreation Area now has its own section on Visit Jacksonville’s website where residents and visitors can find more information about each of the individual parks.
Sky Lebron can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, 904-358-6319 or on Twitter at @SkylerLebron.