NEW: 13,000 wild acres in Gardens to get fishing pier, trail


The new amenities, including two wildlife observation platforms, will be in the Loxahatchee Slough.

The public facilities won’t be available until 2019.

What looks like nothing more than a pull-off along the Beeline Highway is actually 13,000 acres of public land teeming with wildlife that will eventually have a fishing pier, miles of hiking trails and observation platforms.

RELATED: More hiking and biking in north county as new trail section opens soon

The amenities will be in the Loxahatchee Slough, just north of PGA Boulevard and across from the Karen T. Marcus Sandhill Crane Access Park. The slough is the largest of the county’s 30-plus natural areas.

RELATED: Pântano Trail opening attracts crowd: bikes, horses, sand hill cranes

Palm Beach Gardens still needs to sign off on the plans, and the new features won’t be ready for use until 2019, said Frank Griffiths, environmental program supervisor for the Palm Beach County Department of Environmental Resources Management.

“The thought process on this is that it’s like a destination,” Griffiths said. “There will be a lot of opportunities for people.”

The access park is more suited for hiking, biking and equestrians, while this area will be more suited for people who want to lose themselves in the woods, he said.

The largely untouched natural area will be especially appealing to fishermen, hikers and nature photographers, he said.

For serious hikers, the 63-mile Ocean to Lake Trail runs through the 12,841-acre property. The trail connects Lake Okeechobee and Hobe Sound Beach and can be hiked in segments or all at once. Hikers can also walk for miles along maintenance roads or unimproved paths through the wetlands and uplands.

For people who prefer a more leisurely walk, there will be a 0.3-mile concrete nature trail from the parking lot to a handicap-accessible wildlife observation platform, Griffiths said.

A 34-foot-tall elevated observation platform will be strategically positioned to overlook an open grassland where deer graze.

Griffiths spotted a bobcat, a tri-colored heron, four deer and seven turkeys on a tour of the site Wednesday morning. He pointed to wild hog tracks along a maintenance road and culverts where young alligators gather when the conditions are right. In the spring, when the water tables drop, wading birds feed on a smorgasbord of fish gathered in puddles, he said.

Freshwater fishermen can catch and release large-mouth bass, brim/bluegill, catfish, bowfin/mudfish and sunfish from a short fishing pier or the shoreline around a pond.

The county acquired most of the land from the MacArthur Foundation as a result of the property being a shooting range in the 1960s, and the natural area will use some of the old range’s parking. It’s also been used for tomato farming and cattle.

The county spent about $2.1 million throughout the 2000s to fill in the agricultural ditches and correct the flow of water. The move helps prevent flooding, recharge aquifers that are used to provide drinking water and push back saltwater intrusion in the Loxahatchee River. State and federal grants paid for about $1.7 million of that restoration work, Griffiths said.

It will cost about $450,000 to $500,000 to improve access and add amenities to the natural area. Grant money will pay for $200,000, and the county’s natural area fund will pay for the rest, Griffiths said.

The sale of development rights, lease revenue from farmers and an endowment support that fund.

Reader Comments ...

Next Up in Local

THINGS TO DO: Check out Lake Worth’s last bonfire of season on Friday
THINGS TO DO: Check out Lake Worth’s last bonfire of season on Friday

The sun slowly sets over Lake Worth Beach. The fire is hot and crackling. The 74-degree temperature is perfect. “I didn’t even know this was going on,” says Tannvania Stanford, 23, who just wandered onto the beach. “It’s so nice and relaxing we’ll be here for a few hours.” The place: Lake Worth Beach Bonfire...
No mercy from judge, Melgen faces about 20 years when sentenced today
No mercy from judge, Melgen faces about 20 years when sentenced today

Once viewed as merely a pawn in federal prosecutors efforts to go after U.S. Sen. Robert Menendez, Palm Beach County retinal specialist Dr. Salomon Melgen today is likely to be sent to prison for as long as two decades for bilking Medicare out of $73 million. In an eight-page order released Wednesday, U.S. District Judge Kenneth Marra rejected most...
NEW: Authorities seek possible local victims of convicted New York rapist
NEW: Authorities seek possible local victims of convicted New York rapist

Authorities are trying to determine whether a 32-year-old man recently convicted in New York of sexually assaulting two women has victims on the Treasure Coast.  Cameron McDermott of Hempstead, N.Y.,  pleaded guilty this month to charges of rape and sexual abuse. He is scheduled to be sentenced in April and faces 10 years in prison...
Douglas town hall: 'We’re not a generation to stay silent'
Douglas town hall: 'We’re not a generation to stay silent'

Nicholas Hernandez was recounting the frightening moment he heard knocking on the door of his classroom at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School on Valentine’s Day. “When we found out, this is not a drill,” Hernandez said late Wednesday night, “it’s almost like the world came crashing down and souls died in a way. It was...
Seasonal allergies could be affecting your pets
Seasonal allergies could be affecting your pets

The weather in some parts of the country is not helping people with allergies, and your pets could also be feeling the effects of the high pollen (and other allergens) count.  >> Read more trending news  Pets are often sniffling grass, other pets and the ground. They are also much closer to where the allergens can sit, so...
More Stories