An eco-tourism destination in Osceola County that abruptly shut down last fall is celebrating its grand re-opening today.
Forever Florida – known for its zip lines, horseback riding and more than 4,700 acres of natural land east of St. Cloud – is kicking off its re-opening with promotions and giveaways.
The event aims to bring interest and traffic back to the park, which suddenly closed in September following vague postings on social media.
In October, the attraction made a post on its Facebook page noting a temporary closure due to “circumstances beyond our control.”
The announcement made locals and fans of the more than 20-year-old destination worried about Forever Florida’s future – and made guests with pre-paid packages antsy about refunds.
General Manager Dale Vigor said the closure was due to ownership changes.
Forever Florida is owned by William and Margaret Broussard, as part of the Allen Broussard non-for-profit scientific corporation. Other parts of Forever Florida, including its concessions, are managed by a private company, Vigor said.
The park’s sudden closure was due to management negotiations falling through on the for-profit side, the general manager said in October.
All of Forever Florida’s employees were laid off in the wake of the temporary closure.
The eco-attraction underwent a limited re-opening of its zip lines and some adventure pack activities beginning Oct. 12, with a skeleton crew in place and a promise of a grand re-opening in 2019.
A handful of staff kept operations going in the fall and winter. More employees were hired and underwent training in the spring in preparation for this weekend, which will see the re-opening of its restaurant - Charolais Café - gift shop, additional tours and a new climbing wall.
Vigor said the eco-attraction plans to stress the importance of land conservation and strengthen the non-profit arm of Forever Florida moving forward.
“The tourism side isn’t what will get us through. Our focus is really on educating the public on the importance of the environment,” Vigor said.
Forever Florida opened over 20 years ago, and boasted the first outdoor ziplines in the state, according to Vigor. With more attractions in Central Florida than ever before, marketing the peaceful nature reserve as a tourism destination can be a challenge, Vigor said.
But preserving the plentiful land is an important mission to the general manager who noted that future development is slated for the rural area near the community of Holopaw and Kenansville surrounding Forever Florida in the next decade.
“We like to call this the Central Park of Central Florida,” Vigor noted. “We want to keep it in tact so people don’t forget how beautiful this area really is.”
Some of the grand re-opening festivities taking place this Saturday include:
• $5 pony rides.
• $5 trail buggy tours.
• $5 climbing wall.
• A free water slide.
• $20 raffle tickets for a chance to win a week of Base Camp at Camp Illahaw, horseback camping adventure package or an extreme overnight adventure package.
• Free kids’ games and activities, including face painting.
• Free hot dog picnic.