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Environmentally Sensitive Lands: Acres to Love and Learn From

Florida’s Adventure Coast is rich in unspoiled natural spaces. With outdoor recreation on the rise, ensuring environmental protection is key. 

On Florida’s Adventure Coast, the county Environmentally Sensitive Lands (ESL) program was born in 1988. It is a program for the protection of natural resources and accommodating public use of those natural areas.


Sunrise at Cypress Lakes-2.jpgCypress Lakes Preserve Sunrise


Jim King, Conservation Lands Specialist for Florida’s Adventure Coast, states “The ESL Program’s mission is to thoughfully retain parts of our natural and cultural heritage. Our eight Preserves are all unique and deliver a range of recreational opportunities. Among the ESL Preserves are five county parks which are loaded with amenities such as facilities, trails, boat ramps, piers and bank fishing.”

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Jenkins Creek Pier

King goes on to say “Together, our Preserves have more than twenty miles of hiking trails, nine of which serve double duty as equestrian trails.”

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The Florida Trail in Cypress Lakes Preserve

Wildlife viewing, photography and bird watching are popular pastimes, given the range of ESL habitats. Tour each Preserve to see uncommon native plant and animal life.

Birding HC Bird Book.jpgBirdwatchers at Peck Sink Preserve


Around coastal areas, look for otters, manatee and occasional dolphin sightings. King sums up, “From solitude to baseball, picnics to sunsets, wildflowers to wildlife, our ESL Preserves have it all.”

Jim King Fickett.jpgJim King at Fickett Hammock Preserve


A Breathtaking Array of Plant and Animal Life

The Environmentally Sensitive Land Preserves on Florida’s Adventure Coast total 1,230 acres. From freshwater and saltwater marshes to cypress swamps, flowing streams, springs and rivers, wetlands surround us and support a variety of life. Abundant wildlife thrives throughout the hardwoods, scrubs, sandhills, bottomlands and uplands.

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Thanks to this lush environment, everything grows, driving the need for trail clearing and maintenance. The woodlands are full of many native species of trees, shrubs, and wildflowers.

In addition - whether planted or accidental - invasive species such as Brazilian pepper, water hyacinth, cogon grass shrub morning-glory, Asian marsh weed, and Australian pine are a few of the non-native species on the ESL target list. 

A key to successful protection of the ESLs is wise oversight of lands within the program. Another aspect of protection is sensible landscape design. Check out the free presentations offered at local libraries and the Chinsegut Conservation Center


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Laughs, Loppers and Loads

Do you have some time, energy and enjoy sharing your passion for the Preserves?

The Hernando County ESL program hosts several volunteer workdays throughout the year. Sign up to participate, meet like-minded folks, enjoy the outdoors and share Jim King’s great knowledge of the area.

Florida’s natural environment is a proud part of our Adventure Coast heritage. It will also be a keystone of its legacy, with our care.

Learn more about when and where to volunteer