This engineered wetland in Ocala, Florida is a local favorite for its scenic walking trails and educational displays. It’s also a hotspot for birders, with an abundance of wading birds, songbirds, and even occasional rarities that draw visitors from near and far.
Boardwalks and well-designed paths take visitors through a variety of ponds, which are home to a variety of species including the striking red-winged blackbird. According to Cornell University’s eBird, birdwatchers have counted more than 170 species of birds at the park since its opening just a few years ago.
The park is designed as a wetland ecosystem to improve water quality and enhance regional groundwater supplies by utilizing treated wastewater. Covering a 60-acre site near Lillian Bryant Park, the park features a variety of amenities including educational exhibits and kiosks, boardwalks, two and a half miles of paved walking trails, and wildlife overlooks.
The park was designed to mimic the natural processes of a wetland and to act as a natural filtration system for the water that flows through it. Stormwater and wastewater from the surrounding area are diverted into the park, where they are treated naturally by the wetland vegetation and soil.
The treated water is then allowed to percolate down into the ground, where it recharges the Floridan Aquifer, a major source of drinking water for the region.
Black-bellied whistling ducks are regulars at the Ocala Wetland Recharge Park. So are egrets, herons, wood ducks, and a variety of other wading species. Regionally uncommon species such as Vermillion flycatchers, Mississippi kites, and Roseate spoonbills have also been spotted.
The ponds at the Wetland Recharge Park vary in depth from marshes that are just a bit soggy, to deeper ponds up to 10 feet deep. Because the water is reclaimed wastewater, no fishing, swimming or pets are allowed.
The park is designed to be truly accessible, and the two-and-a-half miles of 8-foot-wide trails and boardwalks are ideal for guests who use wheelchairs. There are also dozens of benches and overlooks to take a break and enjoy the scenery.
The Ocala Wetland Recharge Park is open daily from sunrise to sunset. It is located at 2105 NW 21st St, Ocala, FL 34475.
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