Orange County adding ecotourism center to Magnolia Park

The park on the east side of Lake Apopka is getting $4.1 million in upgrades that also include a boat dock and fishing pier.

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Magnolia Park is getting a much-needed facelift that will bring it up to par with other Orange County parks and improve the park that connects to the trail loop leading around a portion of the 30,800-acre Lake Apopka.

The county also is building an ecotourism center at the lakefront park just north of Ocoee.

“It has a lot of potential, and it’s going to give the Orange County residents a chance to enjoy Lake Apopka and to learn the history of Lake Apopka,” Matt Suedmeyer, the county’s parks and recreation division manager, said about the project.

The ecotourism center will provide insight into the lake’s history, its current status and its future.

“The small building will house a vending company that will have bike rentals and maybe boat rentals,” Suedmeyer said. “It will be an area for concessionaire and small interpretive area inside the building that will show the history of Lake Apopka.”

In addition to the eco center, amenities to be built are a new restroom building, new picnic pavilion, and a boardwalk that leads to a fishing pier and future boat dock and mooring area.

An inclusive playground is planned with equipment for children ages 5 through 12 and a separate tot lot for ages 3 through 5. The county is adding 92 parking spaces, as well as a redesigned park entrance and new vehicular roundabout near the eco center.

Currently, the park only has a restroom that is more than 30 years old, one pavilion and an old boat ramp and pier.

The entire project cost is $4.1 million, paid with Orange County investment funds through an initiative launched by former Orange County Mayor Teresa Jacobs.

Construction is taking place now at the Magnolia Park’s Eco-tourism Center, and the park will be closed until about August. The Lake Apopka Loop Trailhead at the park is closed as well.

Residents using the Lake Apopka Loop Trail can park at a designated space temporarily set up by the St. Johns River Water Management District. It is located at 2850 Lust Road and will close once the main trailhead opens in the fall.

SJRWMD asks drivers, cyclists and pedestrians to use caution since they will be sharing the road at the entrance to the Lake Apopka Wildlife Drive. St. Johns has added a small gate for access to the loop trail.



Amy Quesinberry

Community Editor Amy Quesinberry was born at the old West Orange Memorial Hospital and raised in Winter Garden. Aside from earning her journalism degree from the University of Georgia, she hasn’t strayed too far from her hometown and her three-mile bubble. She grew up reading The Winter Garden Times and knew in the eighth grade she wanted to write for her community newspaper. She has been part of the writing and editing team since 1990.