Magnolia Park showed off its future on Wednesday, and the future looks bright. Commissioner Bryan Nelson and Orange County presented the conceptual eco-tourism plans for the park.
The primary purpose of the community meeting was to review the improvements proposed to elevate Magnolia Park from a quiet rural county park to Apopka's Eco-Tourism gateway.
As previously reported in The Apopka Voice, Orange County plans to spend more than $4 Million to build a new Eco-Center building, expand parking to allow for tour buses, build another covered pavilion, build new docks, piers and a new boat ramp.
After a brief introduction from Orange County District 2 County Commissioner Bryan Nelson and short walking tour of the proposed improvements questions were asked and concerns were voiced.
The concerns were mostly about the activities that might take place at Magnolia Park; airboats, seaplanes, water quality and traffic.
Many of the participants had noticed the conceptual plan contained two proposed airboat slips and one proposed seaplane slips. These became the one of the first concerns raised. Most of the attendees were opposed to encouraging airboats and seaplanes on Lake Apopka. An informal straw pole was taken. A show of hands indicated near-unanimous opposition to airboats and seaplanes.
Matt Suedmeyer, Manager of Orange County Parks and Recreation, explained that the County could not prevent airboats from being launched from the Magnolia Park boat ramp. He explained that the ramp was built using boat registration fees therefore all owners of registered boats, including airboats, had a right to use the ramp.
Nelson commented that the proposed docks would be multi-purpose and would be used for fishing and to accommodate boats during bass-fishing tournaments.
Those opposed to airboats also expressed their opposition to commercial airboat operations being based at Magnolia Park.
Nelson explained that it would be some time before the County began considering contracts with any concessionaires.
The consensus of those opposed to airboats was that pontoon boat tours would be more compatible with the ecology of Lake Apopka.
The concern over water quality focused on the problem of boats with propellers stiring up the muck in the lake and degrading water quality.
Nelson conceded that this was a possibility.
The idea of drawing more people from out of Apopka to the area was a concern for several residents of nearby neighborhoods.
The North Shore of Lake Apopka is already getting national attention. The Lake Apopka Wildlife Trail, the Lake Apopka Loop Trail and Magnolia Park are all ranked in the Top 10 Things to Do in Apopka by TripAdvisor. And the Audobon Society lists the Lake Apopka Wildlife Festival & Birdapalooza in its 2016 Top 5 Winter Birding Festivals.
After the meeting Nelson told The Apopka Voice that once an engineering firm is chosen, studies are done and a detailed design is ready another community meeting would be held. "The next meeting will probably take place in 8 or 9 months," said Nelson. "We want the entire process to be open and transparent."
For those not familiar with the activities that currently take place along the North Shore of Lake Apopka check out this video that was posted on the City Of Apopka's Facebook Page. Some of the shots are from the Wekiva Springs area, but most of the video features Lake Apopka.