Friday, April 29, 2011

Conner & Cypress Creek

This may be old news to some, but I was very excited to discover something new to me on the J. B. Starkey Wilderness Park page of the SWFWMD website.  At the bottom of the page, I found a link to Conner Preserve.  I try to stay up to date with local parks, so I was intrigued by a name completely unknown to me.  I clicked on the link:

"Acquired in 2003 for preservation of natural systems, groundwater recharge, water quality and flood protection, the preserve offers a stunning landscape of steep sandhill ridges, expansive marshes, dense cypress sloughs and lush pine flatwoods. The preserve is a vital part of a wildlife habitat corridor envisioned by Pasco County and the District that will eventually connect the Starkey Wilderness Preserve to the Cypress Creek Preserve, making a continuous corridor of several thousands of acres in this region."

How amazing it this?!  Not one, but two parks will be joined to the wonderful Starkey preserve lands in central Pasco County. 

"The [Conner] preserve was a private ranch used for agricultural purposes. Prior to the acquisition, about 43 percent of the natural uplands were converted to pasture and pine plantation. Parts of the preserve are undergoing extensive restoration efforts to reverse the previous alterations. Because of these restoration activities, several areas of the preserve are only accessible on foot." (News Release)

"Cypress Creek is a tributary of the Hillsborough River. Within the property, the creek threads its way through an expanse of cypress and hardwood forests. Slash pine, longleaf pine and palmetto grow on the higher “ridges,” which are collectively known as Florida flatwoods." (Cypress Creek Preserve)

Photo from SWFWMD Conner Preserve web page

Here is what I gathered concerning recreational uses from the website:

Conner Preserve: 2980 acres
      12 mi. unpaved bike trails
      5.2 mi. horse trails
      16 mi. hiking only trails

Cypress Creek Preserve: 7400 acres
     12 mi. horse trails
      5 mi. paved and unpaved biking trails
      Several miles of paved roads for hiking (pump station roads, wooded)

I think that it is interesting to learn about the land and how it is restored and conserved.  It allows me to appreciate the experience of running in these locations that much more.  This is a bit dated, but I still find the Conner Preserve Restoration Plan interesting.

I wish that I had discovered this news earlier because I will have to wait until after summer semester to visit these parks.  I guess that gives me more time to learn about the project.  I can't wait to get back to this part of the state and explore new trails!

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