MAITLAND, Fla., Feb. 4, 2016 -- Needed improvement projects are coming to one of the district's most visited properties, which means visitors are encouraged to explore other public lands until the work is complete. The wildlife drive within the St. Johns River Water Management District's Emeralda Marsh Conservation Area in Lake County will remain closed throughout the 2016 season.
"We understand the closure may be inconvenient, but the finished product will be worth the wait," said the district's Chief of Land Resources Bureau Steve Miller. "This project will increase fish habitat and create new fishing opportunities for future visitors to the property."
The closure of the 4.2-mile self-guided wildlife drive and surrounding area is due to projects geared at restoring the natural connection to Lake Griffin, improving the wildlife drive and constructing a pad for a new and larger public boat ramp. The closure is necessary for public safety as the district prepares to restore the connection between Lake Griffin and the area west of Emeralda Island Road known as Area Three.
Work at Emeralda Marsh will occur in two phases. In the first phase, the district will remove internal levees and construct vehicle pullovers for the new wildlife drive that will be east of the existing drive. Relocating the wildlife drive is necessary because much of the levee on which the existing drive is located will become flooded once water levels equalize with the lake. The second phase of the project will remove portions of the outside levee and construct the boat ramp.
During the course of the project, alternative recreational opportunities remain available at the nearby Lake Apopka North Shore restoration area and wildlife drive. The Lake Apopka Wildlife Drive is a one-way, 11-mile drive that traverses a network of wetlands, levees and canals, providing a variety of wildlife viewing opportunities. The Apopka Wildlife Drive is open Fridays, Saturdays, Sundays and federal holidays between sunrise and sunset.
The wildlife drive and surrounding area is expected to reopen in 2017.