Pine and Dandy: Public takes look at Pine Meadows Conservation Area

Kayaking, hiking, canoeing, and fishing, oh my! Those are some of the activities that visitors to the 770-acre Pine Meadows Conservation Area can enjoy.

A ribbon-cutting ceremony was held May 18 to introduce locals to the beautiful property, which is located at 2280 Pine Meadows Golf Course Road in Eustis.

“This property is a golden nugget in Lake County,” says Shannon Wright, northeast regional director of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. “We have a great crowd today, and I expect to see more and more people out here. I’d also like to thank all those who invested their time, money, and vision into making this project a reality.”

The property, formerly a muck farm, was purchased by the St. Johns River Water Management District in 2014 to reduce the amount of phosphorus entering nearby lakes. The county acquired the site in 2014 and invested $650,000 developing the land for recreational opportunities. Along with the St. Johns District, Florida Fish & Wildlife Commission contributed Funds toward removing and replace water-control structures, enhancing fish and wildlife habitats, and creating new recreational opportunities.

“This is part of Lake County’s focus on protecting our unique character and quality of life,” District 4 County Commissioner Leslie Campione told the crowd of curious onlookers. “This is the second-largest public land that Lake County owns. The potential here is limitless.”

Pine Meadows Conservation Area features six miles of hiking trails, including a dog-friendly loop trail, that meander through habitats such as wetlands, pine flat woods, and open water. The site is also home to 120 bird species and is expected to be a popular destination for birding enthusiasts. Amenities include picnic tables, a canoe and kayak launch, a gravel boat ramp, and restrooms.

“The property here is absolutely beautiful, and people are going to get lots of use out of it,” says District 2 County Commissioner Sean Parks. “This is real Florida, real close. That’s what Lake County is all about.”

Pine Meadows Conservation Area is centrally located between Trout Lake Nature Center and Lake May Reserve. County leaders envision building a trail system that would link all three properties.

That’s music to the ears of Jeff Hall, who lives in a nearby subdivision in Umatilla called Three Lakes. He will use the trails to walk his Australian shepherd, Bailey.

“This is such a scenic property, and to have it within walking distance from my home is a big bonus,” Jeff says.

Pine Meadows consists of open water, wetlands, wet meadow, and a small upland Pine Flatwoods. Habitat restoration continues to improve the wetlands, uplands, and meadows to increase the biodiversity of fish, birds, and other animals.

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