Driving down SR 42 along the southern border of the Ocala National Forest two weeks ago, we noticed brand new survey markers and St. Johns Water Management District signs along the south side of the highway. They extended a significant distance, from CR 452 coming from from Eustis past Brooks Buck & Does store and on a great deal of the way towards the Ocklawaha River.
The entrance to Fly’n R Ranch is along this stretch of highway, and sure enough, it was flanked by the new public land signs. Back in 2004, Will Radcliff – the man who created Slush Puppie – sold the St. Johns Water Management District a conservation easement for his ranch for $5.2 million, a fraction of the land value, or about about $1600 per acre. He’d bought the ranch back in 1988, and it was his getaway from his home in Ohio. The stipulation was he could keep living there as long as he lived, enjoying his Ocklawaha River frontage and vast open spaces where hundreds of sandhill cranes gather each winter.
After he passed away this September, 3,106 acres of the 5,000 acre ranch became public land, as he’d arranged in 2004. During the past decade, Mr. Radcliff actively restored the landscape from an old cattle ranch, removing dams and ditches and rebuilding lakes that had silted in.
Protecting the northward flow of the Ocklawaha River from Lake Griffin, this new swath of public land sits between Emeralda Marsh Conservation Area and Sunnyhill Restoration Area, both important sites for wintering migratory species. We drive SR 42 frequently, and not a visit goes by without spotting groups of sandhill cranes in the cattle pastures.
St. Johns Water Management District has officially added Flyin R’ Ranch to Sunnyhill Restoration South. Check their website for a map.