Ten Student Projects for Outdoor Recreation and Conservation
By creating a regional multi-county master plan, the region can attract more grants, coordinate continuous trail designs, market as a destination for outdoor adventure, and possibly even leverage restoration credits for recreation amenities.
2. Rodman Recreation Center and NEW Gateway Bridge Underpass Park – Clayton Ford and Kristen Currington
The area surrounding the dam gets a facelift with expanded boat ramps, kayak landing, children’s playground, restaurant, and food truck court. Fishing is still hot along the loop where diverse varieties of fish are migrating upstream and downstream. Fishing downstream under the dam has diminished, but a new children’s fishing area has emerged.
3. The Kirkpatrick Outdoor Center at Buckman Lock – Christian Brewer, Juan Garcia, Anthony Paparella
The eastside of the Buckman Lock is repurposed into a state-of-the-art angler and hunter center with outfitter store, small marina, and tournament center for the St. Johns River. The westside was filled in to complete a significant link of the Florida Wildlife Corridor. It contains shallow ponds for teaching fishing and season duck hunting.
4. Expanded Shore Fishing Platforms and Infrastructure – Kristen Currington
As the reservoir transforms to a natural river, additional banks emerge like those at drawdown at Orange Creek, Kenwood, and Paynes Landing. The restored 16 miles of now reservoir riverbank provides natural areas for expanded river fishing. A new fishing platform near the breach in the dam, offers a good spot for capturing striped and largemouth bass, striped mullet, white or channel catfish, sunfish or possibly an American shad migrating up and down the river. Better road access and restroom facilities improve the fishing experience.
A forest is recreated, restoring 7500 acres of forested wetlands for hiking, hunting and primitive camping. Beginning as a marsh for waterfowl, the forest grows over time into a cypress wonderland. Birding is top visitor attraction. Black bears, Florida panther, white-tailed deer and wild turkeys are some of the species enjoying the continuous corridor.
6. Manatee and Fish Conservation and Viewing Areas – Uma Blandon, Angelina Cabrera, Kate Noel, and Xiaoyu Zheng
Twenty submerged springs appear once the river is restored and the weight of the dam waters removed. Several of the larger springs could provide warm water winter habitat for up to a 100 manatees each. With added restrooms and viewing platforms, two of these refuge areas could attract 30,000 new visitors a year. Manatee viewing in the winter and spring hopping in the summer.
7. Silver Springs: One of the State’s Largest Inland Manatee Viewing Areas – Uma Blandon, Angelina Cabrera, Kate Noel, and Xiaoyu Zheng
Breaching the Rodman/Kirkpatrick Dam would allow safe, natural passage for more manatees. With adequate protections, Silver Springs could become a center for manatee viewing, rivaling Blue Springs. Imagine underwater viewing cameras with large monitors above for everyone to view these beloved creatures at play.
Like the popular Suwanee River Wilderness Trail, the restored river opens 20 drowned springs, a continuous natural paddling trail (not blocked by the dam), more open banks for stopovers, added platform camping, more visible cypress forests, and bountiful fish and wildlife.
Unique driving tours originate from the St. Johns River Center in downtown Palatka and Silver Springs State Park focusing on significant historical, environmental, and recreational assets of the region. Themed steamboat landings provide an anchor for the popular tours.
The Deep Creek Trail Site is one of the known locations where Naturalist William Bartram’s travels touched the Ocklawaha River. Accessible by land and water, the site would feature a picnic area, boat ramp and paddle launch, fishing and camping areas.