Dozens turn out for grand opening of Silver Springs Forest Conservation Area

PALATKA, Fla., May 27, 2016 — Hikers, bicyclists and horseback riders by the dozen joined the St. Johns River Water Management District today for their first look at the Silver Springs Forest Conservation Area in Marion County during a ribbon-cutting ceremony and official opening of the property.

“In a state with more than 20 million residents and more than 100 million visitors each year, it is important to provide opportunities for public recreation in a way that is compatible with water resource and springs protection,” St. Johns River Water Management District Executive Director Dr. Ann Shortelle told a crowd of nearly100 people. “I applaud our partners, the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), The Conservation Trust for Florida and the U.S. Forest Service’s Forest Legacy Program, for being part of this wonderful project t olink thousands of acres of public lands, offer greater recreational opportunities and protect Silver Springs and the Silver River. I’m very excited to officially open this outstanding property to the public and for you to see it and experience it for yourself.”

“DEP is committed to working with our partners at the water management districts and stakeholder groups like The Conservation Trust for Florida to protect and restore springs for our future generations,” said DEP Secretary Jon Steverson. “Thanks to the continued support of Governor Scott and the Florida Legislature, we will be able to continue to invest in beneficial projects — like this acquisition — for many years to come.”

“By conserving these forest lands, we are providing a long-term solution to help restore and protect the valuable natural resources of the Silver Springs area,”said Jim Karels, Florida State Forester.

“Since 1990, the Forest Legacy Program has prevented the loss of more than 2.5 million acres of private forest lands for future generations of Americans,” said U.S.Forest Service Chief Tom Tidwell. “In an era of continued sprawl, this program protects land and keeps working forests working.”

“The protection of this forest is one of the greatest conservation success stories in Florida’s history,” said Susan Carr, executive director of The Conservation Trust for Florida. “It is the result of creative collaboration between public and private sectors that offers tremendous benefits for Floridians and wildlife.”

The Silver Springs Forest Conservation Area offers nearly 12.5 additional miles of blazed trails to its visitors. The property offers three trailheads — two smaller trailheads for hikers and bicyclists, and a third trailhead predominantly for equestrian use.

The equestrian trailhead is located on County Road 35 near the Indian Lake State Forest equestrian parking area. The proximity of the two equestrian trailheads allows overflow parking and the potential to connect the two trail systems for additional and longer trail opportunities.

For information about the property, visit the district’s website at

The district is offering free, broadcast-quality video for use by the media to support this release. You will find 120 seconds of video at