By Lita Hart
October is State Forest Awareness Month. 2016 marks 80 Years of Florida State Forests.
Sprawling Natural Area
The Withlacoochee State Forest (WSF) comprises 164,073.18 acres extending across 45 linear miles of west central Florida and across five counties (Citrus, Hernando, Lake, Pasco and Sumter). The forest is made up of seven major tracts of land or management units: Richloam; Citrus; Croom; Jumper Creek; Homosassa; Two Mile Prairie; and Headquarters.
Endless Outdoor Recreation Opportunities
Recreational opportunities abound in our forest. You can seasonally hunt in designated Wildlife Management Areas; boat, fish, jet ski, or canoe/kayak on Silver Lake or the Withlacoochee River; go birding, observe butterfly populations or numerous other wildlife; hike, bike (off road or on two paved trails that run through the forest) or go horseback riding on designated trails and participate in the state-wide Trailwalker and Trailtrotter Programs and/or become a Friend of the Florida State Forests.
You can also participate in locally sponsored running and orienteering events; search for Geocaches; primitive camp in designated areas along trails or along the river; camp in one of nine improved campgrounds; ride trails of 2,600 acres on ATV or Dirt Bikes at the Croom Motorcycle Area; or simply drive through the forest on named or numbered open roads and observe and enjoy the peace and solitude it provides.
Our Volunteer Program is a vital part of the Withlacoochee State Forest. We have over 100 active individuals and groups. Volunteer opportunities include providing assistance with phones and public contact at the Withlacoochee Visitor Center (WVC) and Silver Lake Gate House; trash pickup; trail maintenance; seasonal and year-round campground and day use area hosts and so much more. Call the WVC today and speak to Recreation/Volunteer Coordinator Mark Lewis to see how you can make a difference in our forest!!
Three Major Projects
We are excited to share three major projects taking place this year.
- Addition of a Technical Riding Area at the Croom Motorcycle Area (CMA), a new gatehouse at CMA and the move to on-line camping reservations. The new Technical Riding Area at CMA will include a Motocross Riding Area, a Trials Riding Area and a Kids Motocross Riding Area. Construction is underway and the area will hopefully be open for riding by July 2017.
- Along with the I-75 widening project and improvements to the SR 50/US 98, FDOT will be relocating and providing CMA with a new larger more efficient gatehouse.
- And, in December 2016, you will be able to go on-line and make reservations for all 9 of our improved campgrounds with dates beginning April 15, 2017. Checkout our website for details as they become available.
Visit these web pages for recreation fees and additional information.
I am a native Floridian born and raised in Sumter County and graduate from the University of South Florida. I began my career in Recreation with Hernando County in 1988. In 2000, I accepted a position as Parks and Recreation Manager in Sumter County. Since 2012, I have been with the Florida Forest Service (FFS) as Withlacoochee State Forest Recreation Administrator and plan to finish out my career with the state.