A 30-acre tract within the city of Gainesville, this patch of preserve is the legacy of Mrs. Gladys Cofrin, an active environmentalist who had a horse farm and family homestead on this site.
Thankfully, she passed it along to the people of Gainesville instead of selling out for yet another subdivision.
The short nature trail through the park provides a shady walk through several habitats, including along a seepage stream and through upland forest.
Resources for exploring parks and trails around Gainesville
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Length: 0.5 mile round-trip and loop
Trailhead: 29.660186, -82.394850
Land manager: City of Gainesville
Since entrance to the park is controlled by gates, make sure you note the time the park closes and leave before it does. The park is open from 8 to 6, Nov-Apr, and 8 to 8, May-Oct.
There are picnic tables and a portable toilet at the trailhead, plus a bike rack for passing bicyclists to park and take a walk on the nature trail.
From Interstate 75 at Newberry Road, drive east, passing the Oaks Mall. Stay in the left lane. When NW 8th Street splits off of Newberry Road, turn left onto NW 8th Street. The park is on the left almost immediately; look for the sign.
As the trail leaves the parking area, it passes the picnic tables and immediately crosses over Beville Creek.
A short side trail leads to an overlook with a bench, a nice spot to sit in the shade and write in your journal.
The trail continues uphill beneath tall loblolly pines and water oaks, magnolias, and chestnut trees. The area was once a horse pasture but has reverted to upland forest.
Past an interpretive sign for a seepage slope, the trail reaches a decision point at a loop.
Turn right and follow the path beneath the oaks, noticing the bracken fern in the understory.
Up in the limbs of the oaks, resurrection fern stands out in sharp green relief after a rain.
Beville Creek is born of rainfall on these upland areas, which seeps from the slope into the stream. Houses peep out from behind a screen of forest.
A side trail leads to another bench and dead ends. The main trail comes back to the end of the loop. Retrace your walk back to the parking area.
More worth exploring while you’re in this area.
John Mahon Nature Park
Ten acres isn’t a lot for a natural area, but at John Mahon Nature Park in Gainesville, it’s plenty for a quick, refreshing walk in the woods off Newberry Road.
Bivens Arm Nature Park
The City of Gainesville’s very first nature park, Bivens Arm surrounds a marshy “arm” of Paynes Prairie, where trees tower above the network of nature trails.
Morningside Nature Center
Since 1970, Morningside Nature Center has been Gainesville’s flagship nature park, protecting the largest stand of longleaf pine savanna remaining within city limits.
On the eastern side of Sweetwater Preserve, hike a gentle loop through the woods along Sweetwater Branch.