A new 3.5-mile section of the Florida National Scenic Trail opened on Jan. 25 in the Lake Lizzie Conservation Area.
Osceola County, the Florida Trail Association and the United States Department of Agriculture Forest Service, partnered on the project in the 1,076-acre conservation area in East Osceola County.
“This section of the Florida Trail provides the perfect opportunity to be surrounded by the natural beauty of Central Florida,” said Commissioner Fred Hawkins, Jr., whose district includes the property the county purchased for the trail about 20 years ago. “I’d like to thank our partners for opening up this section of the Florida Trail. Not only will this new trail section give residents, visitors and outdoor enthusiasts a passport to such a diverse and healthy landscape, by preserving these lands for recreation, we’re helping to protect endangered and native Florida species.”
In addition to a formal ribbon-cutting ceremony, visitors were invited to participate in a guided four-mile hike along the entirety of the Florida Trail in Lake Lizzie, including the blue blazed spur to an overlook of the lake, as well as a shorter, 1.5-mile Marsh Loop route.
Visitors to Lake Lizzie Conservation Area can experience multiple habitats, including sand pine scrub, oak hammock, pine flatwoods, cypress swamp and freshwater marsh. The diversity of habitats in the new trail section increases the potential that many protected species indigenous to the region will be drawn to the area.
The new trail segment adds to the existing seven miles of hiking and equestrian trails on the property, and will help to close the “Central Florida Gap.” The Florida Trail is a 1,400-mile-long system that runs from the Everglades to the Panhandle and is a congressionally designated National Scenic Trail.
The Forest Service is the administrator of the Florida Trail, charged with planning routes, overseeing development and establishing partnerships to complete the trail.
The entrance to the southern end of the trail is located at 6495 Old Melbourne Highway, St. Cloud.