- October 31, 2018
WEST ORANGE — As a result of the Lake Apopka Ecotourism Coalition meeting Aug. 3 and the Friends of Lake Apopka board meeting Aug. 6, these entities have brainstormed numerous ideas for ecotourism around the vicinity of Lake Apopka.
“We have begun the task of developing a plan that will eventually lead to interesting ecotourism projects for the Lake Apopka Basin,” FOLA President Jim Thomas said. “We have completed a first-round list of possible projects, which we will start working with now. We have done the list, separating projects on the north shore marshes from the rest of the basin, and listed existing projects separate from proposed projects.”
Synergy with municipalities around the lake — including Oakland, Ocoee and Winter Garden — and the attractions those areas already provide is part of the FOLA plan. These would also work in tandem with existing nature-focused assets, such as Oakland Nature Preserve and the annual Birdapalooza. FOLA lists Wildlife Drive among projects near completion on the north shore of Lake Apopka, as well.
Thomas and other FOLA officials also attended a full day of ecological presentations at a water summit Monday, Aug. 10, at the University of Florida Mid-Florida Research and Education Center in Apopka. Thomas said the first half of the day focused on water quality and quantity, and the second half was about ecotourism. Topics included regulatory perspectives on water, new technology and research, technology water savings, new municipal water technologies, birding, fishing, trails, hiking, biking and the north shore and Lake Apopka.
At 9 a.m. Tuesday, Aug. 11, the governing board of the St. Johns River Water Management District met in Orlando City Hall, where FOLA members hoped that board would support the development of ecotourism projects, some on district lands, Thomas said.
Also, a bus tour of the north shore of Lake Apopka is scheduled for Sept. 17 to better understand the layout, Thomas said. For more information, visit fola.org.
FOLA has discussed many projects as possibilities and is in the prioritization process, Thomas said.
“Some have a higher priority,” he said. “There are some controversial ones, primarily airboat rides. Most of us don’t want airboat rides, bunt some of us do. Acquisition of Hull Island is something we feel is a high priority.”
Here is the list of projects FOLA is considering:
• Connect West Orange Trail to Magnolia Park
• Connect the Lake Apopka Loop Trail to the West Orange Trail on the west end and complete the loop
• Re-establish fisheries
• Schedule birding tours
• Tours and classes on the history of Lake Apopka and surrounding towns
• Eco-boat, airboat, seaplane, hiking and kayaking tours
• New boat ramp on the west end of the lake
• Restore natural vegetation on and near marshes
• Plant native trees and shrubs on upland parcels
• Control invasive plant species
• Rehabilitation center for native animals
• Camping area
• Habitat for non-migrating birds
• Application for National Wildlife Refuge
• Eco-friendly hotels and restaurants
• Archeological tours around the lake
• Acquire Hull Island
• Protect and interpret Crown Point ecology
• Develop marketing plans for ecotourism
• Signage plan
Contact Zak Kerr at [email protected].