A recent prescribed burn near the Lake Apopka Wildlife Drive entrance helped prep the site of a new birding park on the Lake Apopka North Shore.

A partnership between the St. Johns River Water Management District, city of Apopka and Orange Audubon Society is bringing a new community birding park to the Lake Apopka North Shore. A recent 68-acre prescribed burn on the property was an important step to prepare the area for the park that is envisioned as a premier birding destination complementing the district’s popular Lake Apopka Wildlife Drive, adjacent to the site.

“We are excited about the great partnerships and collaboration that help to protect Florida’s natural systems,” said St. Johns River Water Management District Executive Director Dr. Ann Shortelle. “This is a great example of how we can all do more for Florida’s natural resources when we work together — truly a win for us all, especially area residents.”

“Apopka looks forward to establishing a world-class birding destination on the shores of Lake Apopka, and the controlled burn is the first step in making this happen,” said City of Apopka Mayor Bryan Nelson.

“The prescribed burn was a great contribution by the district to the future of this birding park,” said Deborah Green, Orange Audubon Society president. “We understand that there was significant district expense, with several staff from three areas of the district, a contractor, three fire engines, a bulldozer with plow, a water tender, and other equipment. Orange Audubon will do our best to keep the park on track for habitat restoration that will facilitate birding and be most suitable as an entryway to the Lake Apopka Wildlife Drive. While helping people from all over who enjoy the Wildlife Drive, this will be a special showcase park for the city of Apopka.”

In November 2017, the district’s governing board declared the parcel as surplus and transferred ownership to the city of Apopka, which plans to use the area in conjunction with Orange Audubon. After the property transfer, district staff worked with the city, Orange Audubon and a local Boy Scouts of America program to help prep the site prior to the prescribed burn.

Prescribed fire is the use of carefully planned fire purposefully set under stringent conditions to manage the fire’s effects. Its benefits include restoring and maintaining natural communities, reducing chances of destructive wildfires, perpetuating fire-adapted plants and animals, cycling nutrients, controlling tree diseases and opening scenic vistas. Prescribed fires help prevent wildfires by burning off fuels that naturally build up over time, while also helping to control the growth of woody shrubs.

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