State grant helps with Crooked River Preserve refurbishment project
By Elira Benavari
CLERMONT – Outdoor recreational opportunities in south Lake are about to get better thanks to a recent state grant awarded to the Lake County Water Authority to enhance Crooked River Preserve, south of Clermont.
The 63.4-acre Crooked River Preserve was purchased by the water authority in 1993 and 1994 for $1.3 million and is one of a number of properties totaling 6,600 acres of environmentally sensitive lands in Lake acquired by the agency since the late 1980s.
The state Department of Environmental Protection's Florida Recreational Trails Program granted $39,190 to make improvements at Crooked River Preserve, which is matched by water authority funds for a total project cost estimated at a little more than $78,000.
The project includes refurbishing an information kiosk, creating a native plant garden and building restroom facilities with a porch extension, a turnaround area for visitors with disabilities and about 500 feet of handicap-accessible trail to view Crooked River and get close to the canoe and kayak put-in area.
The DEP granted more than $4 million this year for 26 outdoor recreation projects in 19 counties extending from Miami-Dade to Okaloosa to renovate, develop or maintain recreational trails and trailside facilities. Water authority representatives hope to complete the project this spring.
"We were so happy and our board was amazed we received these funds because there is big competition for grant projects," said Patricia Burgos, the water authority's environmental program manager. "It is great to be able to partner and get assistance so we can utilize our funds for other projects. It was a pleasant surprise."
Crooked River is also known as the Palatlakaha River.