I had the pleasure of participating in a once-in-a-lifetime event today, the community celebration of the Ocala National Forest’s Centennial. It’s hard to believe this popular recreational resource has only been protected as a National Forest for the past 100 years, but that’s so. On November 24, 1908, President Theodore Roosevelt set aside this land for future generations, and here we are enjoying it. Thinking of those future generations ahead, part of today’s ceremony – which included a reading of that original declaration by President Roosevelt – was to prep a time capsule to be opened 100 years from now. I had the honor of representing the Florida Trail Association’s dedicated volunteers and hikers by placing a copy of the Florida Trail Official Map & Guide in the time capsule, for I do believe the trail will be fully completed and protected by then, and although I won’t be here to see it, my little niece Autumn, who was born three weeks ago, just might.
Today’s celebration went on from 9 AM to 3 PM and included guided hikes by master naturalist Jim Buckner, booths from many environmental organizations, including FTA, hands-on traditional crafts like candle-dipping run by Crones Cradle Conserve, kayaking on Mill Dam Lake (although it was a bit chilly for that), various vendors, and this whopping big birthday cake cut by our dignitaries and shared by all. I shot a few short videos during the day and will share them soon. Meanwhile, if you haven’t experienced the treasure we have here in Marion County in our Ocala National Forest, it’s about time you did! The USFS has a newly designed website with more info and maps than ever to help you figure out what you want to do in the Ocala: check it out at https://www.fs.usda.gov/ocala