Little Orange Creek Preserve
The 1,900-acre Little Orange Creek Preserve (LOCP) is located just northeast of the City of Hawthorne. Much of LOCP is basin swamp with cypress, tupelo, and red maple trees. The uplands were historically sandhill and flatwoods, but were converted to planted pine many years ago. The varied habitats support a wonderful diversity of animals and plants. Bears have often been photographed by trail cameras, and they are known to traverse the preserve. Other predators that roam freely include bobcats, coyotes, and otters. The freshwater marshes and swamps add to important stopovers for migratory birds along the Atlantic Flyway. They also provide critical year-round habitat for many wetland-dependent plant and animal species.
Although recreational opportunities on the property are extremely limited, eventually there will be a network of trails that connect with the adjacent City of Hawthorne’s Little Orange Creek Nature Park. There also is considerable work ahead to return these lands to a more natural state. The restoration and management of LOCP will be coordinated between the various government and non-profit organizations involved. Uplands restoration will include thinning, prescribed burns, and planting.
Conservation Trust for Florida (CTF) and Alachua Conservation Trust (ACT) with help from other partners associated with the North Florida Wetlands Conservation Project (NFWCP) acquired an important 390-acre addition to the 1,900-acre complex of conservation lands known as Little Orange Creek Preserve early in 2013. CTF, ACT, the Putnam Land Conservancy (PLC), and the City of Hawthorne are members of the Little Orange Creek Partners Land Management Committee. The purchase was made possible with federal funds from the North American Wetlands Conservation Act (NAWCA), and represents another successful partnership of the NFWCP to apply this funding source in the region. To date, more than 8000-acres have been protected in the first four phases of the NFWCP, which will complement tens of thousands of acres of nearby conservation lands, including Paynes Prairie Preserve State Park (~21,000 acres), Lochloosa Wildlife Conservation Area (~28,000 acres), and others. Previous NFWCP phases include: Kanapaha Prairie Preserve, Tuscawilla Preserve, Barr Hammock Preserve, Levy Lake/Whitehurst tract, and Little Orange Creek Preserve (western part).