ALACHUA COUNTY, FL - The Alachua County Environmental Protection Department (EPD) invites the public to celebrate World Wetlands Day on Tuesday, February 2, 2016, and encourages residents to get involved in water resource issues facing our community.
“Wetlands have been dubbed ‘nature’s kidneys’ because of the important work they do in cleaning up our waters,” states Alachua County EPD Director Chris Bird. “In Alachua County, the quality of the water that flows from our faucets is directly related to the quality of the water in our springs, rivers, and wetland ecosystems. It is important to recognize this link and protect these valuable resources.”
Wetlands provide many environmental, social, and economic benefits, including: flood water storage, pollution control, drinking water recharge, fish and wildlife habitat, recreation, and tourism. They also create a sense of place. Some experts believe the name “Alachua” comes from a Native American term for “jug” and refers to a large chasm (Alachua Sink) in Paynes Prairie. Alachua County contains at least 26 lakes totaling over 46,429 acres, and has around 100 square miles of wetlands, about 10% of the County’s land area. Through a combination of land acquisition of sensitive habitats and strong wetland protection regulations, wetland impacts in unincorporated Alachua County have been largely avoided. Wetlands are considered a conservation resource and are protected along with a 50 to 150 foot natural upland buffer.
Facts about wetlands:
- One acre of wetlands can store 1 to 1.5 million gallons of water.
- 43% of federally listed species rely on wetlands for their survival
- 45% of wetlands in Florida have been destroyed
- One acre of undeveloped land in Alachua County recharges the drinking water aquifer with an average of 163,000 gallons of rainfall each year.
One way to gain an appreciation for these conservation resources is to get outdoors and visit one of the many preserves in Alachua County that protect wetland habitat. Two in particular will demonstrate the beauty and importance of protecting wetlands. The 6.5-mile Barr Hammock Loop Trail circles a restored marsh. Walking the entire loop takes 3.5 to 4 hours at a leisurely pace. A leisurely bike ride takes about 2 hours. Under wet conditions the trail surface can be muddy and uneven.
Learn more about Barr Hammock Loop Trail.
At Phifer Flatwoods Preserve, the 0.5-mile Overlook Trail starts at the main trail head on the Gainesville-Hawthorne Rail Trail, located about 0.5-mile west of the parking area on CR 325, south of SR 20. The Trail loops through pine flatwoods and hardwood hammock with an elevated overlook in a magnificent cypress swamp. The trail contains muddy patches during the rainy season.
Learn more about the Phifer Flatwoods Preserve.
Learn more about World Wetlands Day.
For more information about wetlands protection in Alachua County, visit the Alachua County EPD website or contact Chris Bird at 352-264-6800.