Residents’ enthusiasm for a potential bike and walking trail connecting downtown Mount Dora to neighboring downtown Tavares never seems to wane. Last year, the project was studied for its feasibility and local governments collaborated to apply for a Federal grant to fund the project, dubbed the Tav-Dora Trail. The regional paved trail was not awarded the grant this year, so Mount Dora Buzz once again sought the valuable insight of impassioned local trail expert, Tavares City Manager John Drury, for more details and the next steps in the ongoing process.
MOUNT DORA BUZZ: Did last year's feasibility study conclude if "Rails to Trails" (a trail that replaces train) or "Rails and Trails" (a trail built alongside train tracks) or some other alignment was preferable? DRURY: Rails to Trails.
MOUNT DORA BUZZ:What factors made "Rails to Trails" more feasible? DRURY: The railroad (Regional Rail) would not accept a Rails and Trails program due to liability. MOUNT DORA BUZZ: What entity would own the Tav-Dora trail and who would maintain it? DRURY: This is a Lake County project and they are applying for the Federal grant to acquire the ROW (Right of Way), design it and construct it. Tavares, Mount Dora and Lake County are in discussions about developing an interlocal government agreement to address maintenance. This is being worked on. MOUNT DORA BUZZ: How much grant money is being sought and how much would each entity (Lake County, Tavares & Mount Dora) have to put up in addition? DRURY: A $25 million Federal Grant is being applied for again. Lake County, Mount Dora and Tavares are identifying projects that are programmed for the corridor that will contribute to the overall success of the trail. These projects will be identified as Grant Matches to the project. Each entity will have at least one project to contribute toward this trail project. Examples would be Broadband, a traffic circle at the Golden Triangle “intersection” that the County is looking at, underground utilities that may need to be co-located in the trail ROW. These project totals would be in the millions and where no match is required would make the application more competitive.
MOUNT DORA BUZZ: When can you re-apply for the grant? Does the grant have a specific name? DRURY: We expect to be applying for the grant in the next 60 days. We are awaiting the “Notice Of Funding Opportunity” (NOFO) to be issued in the next 60 days.
MOUNT DORA BUZZ: How much work and money has been done on this trail project? DRURY: Lake County developed a trails master plan that has the project in it. (not sure how much was spent on the master plan). The State of Florida did an alternative analysis (about $240,000 was spent on this study). Lake County is currently doing a PD&E (Project Development and Environment) study ($500,000). MOUNT DORA BUZZ: Any other funding proposed? DRURY: State Senator Baxley is proposing a $2 million State appropriation to assist in the design in this upcoming legislative session MOUNT DORA BUZZ: What still has to be done on the project? DRURY:
Complete the PD&E (Project Development and Environment) study
Acquire the Right of Way
Open it up
MOUNT DORA BUZZ: What will a bike trail do economically for Tavares and Mount Dora? DRURY: (Answered in 2020)A 2011 Orange County study found that the West Orange Trail, connecting Apopka, downtown Winter Garden and Clermont, had 1.7 million annual trail visitors that spend an average of $20 per trail visit at local businesses. Trail visitors’ total annual spending was $32.6 million. A Pinellas Trail study cited 1 million annual trail users. The numbers would be less for the Tav-Dora Trail due to the lower regional population, but it would still be significant.
MOUNT DORA BUZZ: What is the earliest residents could expect to see the Tav-Dora Trail completed? What is the more likely timeframe? DRURY: Fastest would be five years. Most likely would be 8 years. (Originally answered in 2020 Buzz article)
ABOVE: Swimming area at Kelly Park. (photo provided by Orange County)
Just in time for warmer weather, scenic Kelly Park at Rock Springs re-opened in March after months of closure due to the pandemic. The popular wooded venue features a crystal-clear, 68-degree natural swimming area and a gentle flowing spring that’s perfect for a relaxing tube ride.
The 325-acre park, located 15 minutes from Mount Dora, is now operating at half capacity and fills up early with the 140 vehicles currently allowed. The next 25 vehicles in line receive a pass to return for a post 1 p.m. admittance. The park's picnic pavilions are available to reserve and rent for groups with less than 50 people.
TIPS BEFORE GOING...
Tubing on Rock Springs Visitors to Kelly Park can tube down its free-flowing natural spring. Guests can bring their own tubes or pool floats or opt to rent a tube from vendors outside the park. The waterfront closes one hour prior to park closing.
Park Admission: $3 per vehicle for 1-2 people; $5 per vehicle for 3-8 people; and $1 for additional person/walk-ins/motorcycles/bikes. No pets and no alcohol.
Kayak/Canoe/Paddle Board Launch The launch is located at Kelly Park's Camp Joy and the fee is $3 for 1-2 people; $5 for 3-8 people; and $1 for additional per person. Launching hours are between 8 a.m. and 12 p.m. Guests must return no later than 5 p.m. Rentals are not available at Kelly Park or Camp Joy, but paddlers can rent kayaks, canoes and paddle boards at Wekiva Springs State Park or Kings Landing as alternate destinations.
Hours & location: The Kelly Park is located at 400 E. Kelley Park Road in north Apopka near Mount Dora and Zellwood. The park is open daily from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m and the waterfront closes one hour prior to park closing. On busy days and holidays, cars sometimes line up at 6 a.m. to ensure entry while capacity is limited during COVID-19 restrictions. During the summer, inclement weather can affect park operations and the swim area will be closed if a storm produces lightning.
ABOVE: A gator cruises the water at sunset at Trout Lake Nature Center (photo supplied by TLNC)
Heading into the great outdoors has never been more popular. Surrounded by its many trails and peaceful lakefront boardwalk, Trout Lake Nature Center (TLNC) has been adding activities for nature lovers eager to be outside. The 230-acre property in Eustis also features a swinging bridge, museum, a picnic area, educational displays and the expansive canopy of a majestic grandfather oak. Here are some of the activities the popular nature center is hosting to lure nature lovers to explore the outdoors: SUNSETS AT THE LAKE TLNC has extended hours on Thursdays to encourage visitors to come out to enjoy the stunning sunsets at the lake. Guests are asked to depart by dusk. NATURE WALKS Visitors can opt to hike the walking trails on their own or join the Wednesday Morning Nature Walks on the second and fourth Wednesday of every month at 9 a.m. BIRDING On the first Saturday of every month there is a Birding and Nature Walk starting at 8 a.m. NATURALIST PRESENTATIONS his month’s Friday Night Naturalist presentation on February 19 is "Gardening For Your Health" by Elizabeth Salazar. The outdoor presentation starts at 6 p.m., weather permitting. $5 donation PACK WALK Visitors can enjoy some quality time with their well-behaved leashed dogs on Saturday, February 20, with a guided walk on the trails. The walk starts at 10 a.m. and there is a $5 donation. NATURE SPROUTS PROGRAM This is a free, fun and active program created for two- to five-year-old children and their favorite adult. It’s held on the fourth Wednesday of each month from 10:30 to 11:30 a.m. for a positive nature experience to little ones. Kids respond with wide-eyed awe, as they are introduced to the creatures that make their home at TLNC. (Currently this program has been suspended due to COVID-19) FIELD LEARNING EXPERIENCES TLNC offers activities February 27 1-3 p.m. Activities for school age children and up on February 27 from 1 to 3 p.m. $10 donation. TLNC’s Education Building recently installed a new photography exhibit, “Florida’s Enchanted Waters,” featuring a collection of images of Florida’s springs, swamps and seas as well as the wildlife found at the park. The exhibit by Linda Wilinski will be up until March 1, 2021.
Trout Lake Nature Center is located at 520 E. County Road 44 in Eustis. General admission at the nature center complex is donation-based and funds programs, new exhibits and staff costs. TLNC’s regular hours are Tuesdays through Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. (extended hours on Thursdays to 5:30 p.m. and Sundays from 1 to 4 p.m.) TLNC is closed for maintenance on Mondays. Phone 352-357-7536 or go to www.troutlakenaturecenter.com/events for more information. For more news and events in Mount Dora, Tavares & Eustis, this month, click here. Discover the area's online event calendar here. Also download the area's free mobile app.
ABOVE: Honeymoon Island State Park (Florida State Parks photo)
One of the best kept secrets from Central Floridians is the unspoiled treasure a mere 130 miles west of Mount Dora just off the coast from historic Dunedin. A scenic causeway connects the mainland to Honeymoon Island State Park. with four miles of some of the most unspoiled white sandy beaches in the state.
So pack your beach chairs and sunscreen and head out for an island escape just a few miles from Tarpon Springs. There is even a Pet Beach at the park in case you want to take Fido along. Just be sure to follow the leash requirement.
Besides just chilling with your feet in the sand and your eyes on the surf, here are some other things to enjoy while visiting Honeymoon Island:
EXERCISE: Peace and solitude can be enjoyed by walking or running the two-and-a-half-mile sand spit by parking at the northernmost parking lot, then hitting the beach and heading north. The sand spit has grown during the past forty years from a few sandbars to over two miles of the most pristine beach found anywhere in Florida.
The Osprey Trail, a three-mile trail through one of the last remaining virgin slash pine forests, and four miles of beach are also perfect for runners and walkers.
For anyone wanting some exercise on the water, kayaks are available for rent at the island’s concession or visitors can bring their own to explore Pelican Cove which lies between the sand spit and nature trail.
For pedal-powered fun, beach cruisers and multi-passenger surreys are available for rental and can be ridden on the paved trails throughout the island.
BOAT RIDE: Visitors can also take the 20-minute ferry ride from Honeymoon Island Docks across St. Joseph Sound to Caladesi Island. Boat is the only way to get to the pristine island which received the #6 rating for Best Beach in the U.S. in 2020 by Dr. Beach. The ferry departs Honeymoon Island Monday through Friday starting at 10 a.m. and Saturday and Sunday starting at 9 a.m. every half hour or as weather permits.
SHELLING: The island provides exceptional shelling and visitors can eat up a chunk of their day wandering the beaches as they collect the natural treasures.
FISHING: Anglers can put their lines in the water and try to hook spotted sea trout, mackerel, snook and many other species of saltwater game fish.
WILDLIFE: Animal lovers will love the many species of native birds that can be spotted, including osprey, great horned owls, oystercatchers, snowy plovers, least terns, roseate spoonbills, great blue herons and snowy egrets.
On land, visitors can spot lumbering gopher tortoises, armadillos and raccoons along the nature trail and picnic areas.
SHOPPING & DINING: Take a pit stop after the beach to the tree-lined streets of charming historic Dunedin. Main Street is sprinkled with quaint shops and diverse eateries. Mount Dora Buzz recommends Casa Tina for their great vibe, perfect margaritas and incredibly fresh and authentic Mexican food. The Mole Poblano Enchiladas are arguably the very best in Florida.
ISLAND HISTORY: In the early 1940s newsreels, ads and magazines touted the island's undiscovered beaches for newlyweds and honeymoon-type huts with thatched roofs were built for vacationing. As a result, the name was appropriately changed from Hog Island to Honeymoon Island. After the huts fell into disrepair during World War II, they were razed and the 385-acre island was converted into a pristine State park.
The Honeymoon Island State Park is located at #1 Causeway Boulevard in Dunedin and is open from 8 a.m. until sundown, 365 days a year. The cost to enter is $8 per car.
Cooler weather means Floridians head outdoors, and Trout Lake Nature Center (TLNC) in Eustis has extended its hours one day a week for visitors to take in its gorgeous sunsets. The park stays open later on Thursdays for nature lovers to walk the trails and enjoy the lake’s scenic beauty. On this day, visitors can be admitted until 5:30 p.m. and are asked to depart by dusk.
Visitors can stop in to the Education building to view a photography exhibit and see the new bull alligator mount in the diorama. This 13’7” specimen weighed 680 pounds when taken in Alachua County. Dogs are welcome on leashes, but not in buildings. Restrooms and hand sanitizer are available and masks are required indoors.
Regular TLNC hours are Tuesdays through Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. and Sundays from 1 to 4 p.m. It is closed for maintenance on Mondays. The center’s natural history museum is not open to visitors at this time, but will reopen soon.
Trout Lake Nature Center is located at 520 E. County Road 44 in Eustis. Admission to the 230-acre nature center complex is donation-based. Proceeds fund programs, new exhibits and staff costs. More information can be found on its website, www.troutlakenaturecenter.com For more news and events in Mount Dora, Tavares & Eustis, click here. For local things to do, click here and for the area's free mobile app, click here.
Nestled in Central Florida’s oaks and pines, scenic freshwater springs provide refreshing outdoor activities all year. Whether you’re interested in dipping your toes in the water, enjoying nature or partaking in a kayaking adventure, here’s what you need to know about the top seven scenic springs in Central Florida: Read more
After large bicycle festivals across the state cancelled, Mount Dora Bicycle Festival decided to switch it up. This October, instead of the big annual four-day event, festival organizers will kick off Cycletober on October 1. The month-long event will feature groups of smaller, pop-up rides organized by community riders in contrast to the large-scale rides organized by Mount Dora Area Chamber of Commerce (MDACC) during previous festivals. In addition to road rides, this year’s event will include trail rides for mountain bikes, as well as gravel rides. Cyclists will be recognized for the completion of various rides.
Also new this year, Cycletober will feature a QR Code scavenger hunt at downtown businesses throughout the month to help bring cyclists and visitors into the city’s unique shops.
MDACC President, Rachel O’Ryan, expects October 8 through 11 to be the busiest weekend of Cycletober judging by lodging reservations that have already been made. Interested cyclists can contact MDACC for more information about specific rides and events during the month.
For more news and events in Mount Dora, Tavares & Eustis, click here. For local things to do, click here and for the area's free mobile app, click here.
Even the best kept secrets eventually get spilled. The Leesburg Lightning is no exception.
Among the power hitters, double plays and curve balls, the Lightning experience delivers a big dose of summer nostalgia. During the home games, played at Buddy Lowe Field, a few bars of classic songs blare from old scratchy speakers to provide commentary to particular plays. "Free Ride" roars when a batter is walked. "The Streak" blares every time a runner steals a base, leaving fans wondering about the last time they heard that song.
During the COVID-19 pandemic the game must go on, but there are plenty of safety precautions in place. Masks are required and to allow for social distancing, only 200 spectators are allowed in the stadium. As an added precaution, everyone’s temperature is taken prior to entry.
The Lightning, a Florida Collegiate Summer League baseball team, consists of talented players from colleges throughout the country that compete in their off-season. Commonly referred to as the Florida League, the Lightning is as close to a minor league team as Lake County claims.
In keeping with America's favorite pastime, there are plenty of hot dogs, peanuts and eager kids vying for foul balls. After one inning, the run of the Lightning Bugs ensues, which gives the team's youngest fans the opportunity to run the bases. The traditional seventh inning stretch is welcomed after sitting on the aluminum benches, but seasoned fans come prepared with their own stadium seats.
The whole experience is priceless Americana and well worth the short drive up US 441. There is no admission fee. Seating is limited due to COVID-19. The complete schedule can be viewed here.
For more news and events in Mount Dora, Tavares & Eustis, click here. For local things to do, click here. For the area's entertainment calendar, click here.
It’s up for debate. Are they creepy creatures or the stunning work of nature? One thing is for sure, if you love your garden, Eastern Lubber grasshoppers aren’t your friends.
Here’s everything you need to know about these oversized, lumbering grasshoppers that invade Florida yards in the spring and summer:
These giants are unable to fly and are clumsy jumpers, so they take to climbing plants and trees to forage on new growth at the tips of branches.
The colors of Eastern Lubbers vary drastically as they age. The immature insects, called nymphs, look like a different species from the adults. When the young ones first emerge on plants, they are solid black with a red stripe and only about half an inch long.
The nymphs tend to congregate in groups on plants, so where there is one, there are typically several.
As these grasshoppers age and molt several times, they become black with a yellow stripe before their final yellow and brown coloring with red under their wings. Adults measure two to three inches long and have a thick body.
As much as gardeners despise them, lizards and birds don’t care for them either. When alarmed, lubbers spread their wings, hiss, and can expel a fine toxic spray that makes them unappetizing.
Shortly after the brown and yellow adults emerge, the mature females begin laying clusters of pods with 30 to 80 eggs in each. The busy females can lay egg pods every two weeks.
Eggs take about 200 days to develop and hatch from the ground in early spring.
The highest number of adult Eastern Lubbers in Florida is typically found in July and August
How the heck do you get rid of them? Gardeners that come across these robust pests know that managing them is a difficult challenge. The smaller black nymphs can be controlled by spraying an insecticide like Raid directly on them. However, as these Lubbers grow, their exterior becomes harder and more resistant to sprays. The yellowish adults are incredibly hardy, so gardeners are left with the unenviable task of removing them from plants manually and putting a shoe to them or placing them in a resealable plastic bag with a cotton ball soaked in acetone (nail polish remover) to be discarded. Gardeners can also use bran bait containing corn oil and insecticide to attract and kill lubbers. However, these big grasshoppers are less likely to eat bait if there’s attractive vegetation in the area. Another option is to spray a pyrethroid insecticide directly on the mature lubbers. Other insecticides used on lubber grasshoppers with varying results include spinosad, carbaryl, permethrin, bifenthrin, and cyhalothrin.
Here’s some useless facts on Eastern Lubbers:
Lubbers bright color pattern is believed to be a warning to predators that they aren’t palatable.
These large insects are widely used in biology classes for dissection.
Male and female lubbers make noise by rubbing their wings together.
“Lubber” is derived from an old English word “lobre” which means lazy or clumsy.
Eastern lubbers are found from North Carolina to Florida, and west to central Texas.
There are two different names for the same species, a Romalea microptera (Palisot de Beauvois) and Romalea guttata (Houttuyn).
For more news and events in Mount Dora, Tavares & Eustis, this month, click here. Discover the area's online entertainment calendar here. Also download the area's free mobile app.
During these times of social distancing, one of the activities that is deemed essential is exercise that follows the CDC’s guidelines. In an effort to help people be creative with social distancing and get healthy exercise, the City of Mount Dora is hosting a three-day Virtual 5K Race.
May 1 through May 3, participants can choose their own course, which can be in their neighborhood, down a trail, or even on their bedroom treadmill. After the 3.106 miles has been run, walked or jogged, the time can be recorded on social media with the hashtags: #WeRunThisCity and #MountDoraVirtual5K. Anyone who logs their time will receive a participation medal in the mail from the City.
“Leisure Services staff are excited to host our first virtual race when it is needed most due to social distancing requirements,” said Mount Dora Leisure Services Director Amy Jewell. “We hope the race motivates and inspires people to set a new personal goal, challenge a friend, enjoy nature, or exercise with family members.”