By Jessica Tuggle
INDIAN RIVER COUNTY -- Eco-tourism in Indian River County isn't just for visitors. There are 3 miles of oak forests, mangroves and various native flora and fauna just waiting to be explored.
The Indian River Land Trust celebrated the completion of phase one of the Indian River Lagoon Greenway project with a ribbon-cutting ceremony on Jan. 12.
The project, conceived in 2007, was approved by county commissioners in June 2009 and last week the walking, biking and adventure trails were officially open for daily use and enjoyment, said Ken Gruden, executive director of the land trust.
People have been using the trails for a while now and enjoying them, including several county commissioners.
Commissioner Bob Solari said he and his wife, Jackie, have explored the trails on multiple occasions and are delighted with them.
He said he was very proud of the public-private partnership that helped the greenway come to life and was glad to point to them as an example of something good for the county.
"There was very little controversy and a lot of benefit," Commissioner Solari said.
Phase one of the project included a 3-mile trail route with an information kiosk at the parking area trailhead, picnic tables, informational and directional signs and benches at various locations along the trail, which meanders through various Florida landscapes, including along the Indian River Lagoon.
Phase two will include an approximately quarter-mile boardwalk through mangroves ending at an observation station over the water.
"It will be a great opportunity for people to look out and experience nature and enjoy the edge of the river," Mr. Gruden said.
A third phase could potentially include educational programs about local natural and historic resources.
The exact cost for the project was not available at press time, but an estimated $450,000, coming from grants, private donations and county funds will be spent on the project once phase two is completed, Mr. Gruden said.
Funding partners include the Florida Inland Navigation District and the Florida office of Greenways and Trails.
For more information about the Indian River Land Trust projects, call (772) 794-0701 or visit www.indianriverlandtrust.org.