District, partners celebrate enhancement, improved amenities at Emeralda Marsh

District Executive Director Dr. Ann Shortelle speaks at this morning’s celebration at Emeralda Marsh Conservation Area. Governing Board member Chuck Drake, left, also spoke.

District Executive Director Dr. Ann Shortelle speaks at this morning’s celebration at Emeralda Marsh Conservation Area. Governing Board member Chuck Drake, left, also spoke.

PALATKA Fla., Feb. 23, 2018 — The reconnection of Lake Griffin to Emeralda Marsh Conservation Area in Lake County was a cause for celebration today for the St. Johns River Water Management District and its partners, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) and Lake County.

“There are so many aspects of this restoration project to celebrate today with our partners and the public,” said St. Johns River Water Management District Executive Director Dr. Ann Shortelle. “Now that the work is done, the popular seasonal wildlife drive has been improved and is ready for exploration. And thanks to Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission funding and partnership, we were able to restore the long-lost connections between Lake Griffin and this amazing marsh system.”

“Reconnecting the historic marshes allows for filtered water from the marsh to once again enter Lake Griffin and benefits the many species that live in and around the lake,” said Tom Champeau, FWC’s director of the Division of Freshwater Fisheries Management. “The opened marsh area also provides a great opportunity for the public to explore new areas for wildlife viewing, boating and fishing. FWC is excited to continue our partnership with the SJRWMD on the continued management of Lake Griffin and the historic marsh areas.”

The district and FWC jointly funded the restoration/enhancement project, which includes an improved and reconfigured seasonal wildlife drive, restoring the natural flow between Lake Griffin and Area 3 of Emeralda Marsh and improved recreational amenities that include a primitive boat launch. Work also included removing most of the remaining agricultural infrastructure and water telemetry equipment, breaching old farm roads and levees and conducting vegetation management and plantings. These actions along with many others to improve the lake’s water quality and habitat support a healthier lake and floodplain and all the associated recreational activities.

The work at Emeralda Marsh represents a strategic approach to the rejuvenation of the surrounding natural systems and water resources. All of the work is part of the district’s land management plan, which outlines long-term restoration and recreation activities for the property.