By FELICIA NUDO
Southwest Florida Water Management District
Q: What kind of recreation opportunities does the District offer?
There are thousands of acres of district recreational lands and access to most of them is free to visitors. If you are into biking, birding, boating, camping, canoeing and paddling, equestrian activities, fishing, hiking or hunting, there’s something for everyone on the nearly 70 properties. Several District properties offer picnic facilities, and you can check the individual property for specific information about picnicking on that tract and the level of amenities provided. Additionally, many of our cooperatively managed properties are wheelchair accessible.
Q: Can I go camping with my family on District Recreational Lands?
With 30 unique campgrounds, the District offers primitive, back country and equestrian-styled sites for camping. The District provides primitive camp areas for campers with tents, backcountry camp areas, which offer small, cleared areas that are accessible only by foot or from a water body and generally have no amenities or water sources, and equestrian camp areas that provide camping for tents and/or horse trailer camping rigs.
Q: How can I make a reservation at a District campground?
Making a reservation is simple through the recreation website. Reservations are free but are required for camping on District-managed properties. Day use reservations are required for reserving a pavilion, horse-drawn buggy riding and equestrian trailer parking on some properties. Group camping activities or special events require a Special Use Authorization. Reservations can be made by creating an online account at WaterMatters.org/Recreation.
Q: Why does the District buy lands?
The region’s lands and waters are forever linked by Florida’s natural water cycles. Therefore, one of the main ways the District carries out its mission of balancing water needs and protecting the environment is by obtaining conservation lands around lakes, rivers, wetlands and estuaries. These lands serve as a natural buffer that filters out pollution from runoff before it reaches the nearest body of water. The District also buys lands to preserve and restore native Florida ecosystems that provide water resources benefits and water storage during hurricanes and other major storm events. The District’s acquisition program has primarily been funded through state programs such as Save Our Rivers, Preservation 2000, and Florida Forever.
Q: How can I learn more about District lands?
You can order the District’s new, free recreational guide highlighting nearly 70 properties. With its new, sleeker design, users can scan QR codes to discover specific up-to-date details about each property. You can also check out the new Water Matters Podcast found on the District’s recreation webpage or major podcast platforms. The first episode of the podcast answers the most popular questions about recreation on District lands. To download or order the free recreation guide, make a free camping reservation, listen to the podcast, or learn more about the District’s recreational opportunities, visit WaterMatters.org/Recreation.●