Lake Apopka North Shore, wildlife drive
The St. Johns River Water Management District is working diligently to protect its staff and the public by impeding the transmission of COVID-19. Following guidance from Gov. Ron DeSantis, the Florida Department of Health and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the district closed the Lake Apopka Wildlife Drive (LAWD) to motorized access on March 13, 2020, to limit the potential for large gatherings to decrease the potential spread of the virus.
The district buys land in the course of its work to protect and preserve water resources. We are pleased to offer passive recreational and educational opportunities, such as the LAWD, at our properties, but as a water resource protection agency, district staff are dedicated to this important mission and unavailable to monitor or control visitor behavior.
As the wildlife drive attracted more than 16,000 visitors in February, many of whom congregated outside of vehicles at various lookout points, you can understand our concern during this unprecedented health emergency. The potential for group congregations is increased by the closure of other regional attractions. Closing the LAWD to motorized access allows district land managers and other first responders to focus on other urgent needs, such as recent wildfires.
The district owns and manages 41 conservation properties. Most of these lands, including the Lake Apopka North Shore via the regular walking/biking trail entrances, are currently open for non-motorized vehicular recreational activities, with the expectation that users are practicing appropriate social distancing. These properties attract far fewer visitors than the LAWD and thus offer fewer opportunities for large groups to gather. All district recreational opportunities currently remain open around the Lake Apopka North Shore, except motorized access of the LAWD. The Lust Road gate is closed to public access; all other access points (trailheads at Clay Island, Green Mountain Scenic Overlook, North Shore, Magnolia Park and McDonald Canal Boat Ramp) are open to public access.
Please note several water resource projects are under way at the Lake Apopka North Shore, and those construction areas are closed to public access.
See www.sjrwmd.com/lands/recreation/list for a listing of district properties.