When I saw the billboards pop up in downtown Tampa a few years ago touting “Connerton, FL, ” with images of herons and trees, I thought … here we ago again. Create a city in the middle of a rural area and invite sprawl. Indeed, it was a development of regional impact, as they are known here in Florida. They change the landscape.
A brilliant mitigation move on the part of the Southwest Florida Water Management District was the purchase of 3,000 acres of land that was part of the Conner family holdings, a legacy stretching back to the 1940s. It was bought in part with Florida Forever funds, the same funds that have been frozen by our legislators to stem budget shortfalls. And it is now open as Conner Preserve.
SWFWMD has done a great job of putting together a puzzle of lands as a wilderness corridor though this rapidly developing area. Cypress Creek and Serenova are neighbors to this new preserve. All three are so new that they didn’t exist when I was finishing up my last big hiking guide, Hiker’s Guide to the Sunshine State, four years ago.
Here’s the article I saw in the Tampa Tribune about the grand opening.
Here’s the official recreation page for Conner Preserve from SWFWMD, with map