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Alachua County Barr Hammock preserve hosts grand opening

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Alachua County residents can now explore a 6.5-mile loop trail on Levy Prairie. The northern part of the Barr Hammock Levy Prairie Preserve opened Feb. 2.

“The trail is especially good for mountain biking, but I’ve also seen a baby stroller roll along it,” said Busy Shires Byerly, the assistant executive director of Conservation Trust for Florida.

Barr Hammock, the southern part of the preserve, is predicted to open in 18 months.

The 5,719-acre preserve is located in south central Alachua County and is about one mile from the Alachua-Marion county line.

Alachua County purchased the Barr Hammock half of the preserve for $10 million in 2006 and the Levy Prairie half for $4 million 2009.

Funds came from the Alachua County Forever Bond, Florida Communities Trust Grant, North American Wetland Conservation Act Grant, Wild Spaces Public Places sales tax, the Southwest Florida Water Management District and a donation from the Whitehurst family.

Previously, the land was privately owned and used for cattle ranching in the ‘90s.

“The preserve is important because it creates greenways,” Byerly said.

A greenway occurs when one existing natural area is connected to another. The preserve connects the Ocala National Forrest and Paynes Prairie to the Goethe State Forrest.

At least 27 species of animals and plants protected by the state live within the preserve.

The completed preserve will include two observation platforms, a horseshoe pit, a tetherball court and educational classes to promote environmental protection.

Kristen Morrell wrote this story online.

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