Welcome to this week’s “Wednesday Workshop” where we will explore one of the key environmental features of Groveland’s natural charm – the Green Swamp.
The Green Swamp, in its entirety, comprises 560,000 acres located between Tampa and Orlando. The Green Swamp is recognized as one of the two most important swamps in Florida and is an essential piece of the Florida Wildlife Corridor. It is composed of longleaf pine sandhills, upland hardwoods, herbaceous wetlands, pine flatwoods, cypress swamps, and floodplain swamps. Over 300 species of fish, amphibians, reptiles, birds and mammals are dependent on these habitats and the great native biodiversity of the Green Swamp.
Rainwater drains across the Green Swamp to create the headwaters of the Withlacoochee, the Ocklawaha, the Hillsborough and the Peace rivers. Named the “Heart of the Floridan Aquifer,” the Green Swamp also serves as an important recharge source and pressure head for the Floridan aquifer system, which supplies drinking water for most Floridians. In 1974, the State designated a section of the Green Swamp as an “Area of Critical Concern” (ACSC) due to its vulnerability in the context of rapid development along with its importance to the hydrology and native ecology of central Florida.
In addition to these ecosystem services, the Green Swamp also provides physical and mental health benefits through its recreational value. For example, the Van Fleet State Trail, also designated as a National Recreation Trail, runs through the Swamp and is known as one of Florida’s most rural trails. With the foundation of the trail being a railroad originally built in the early 1900s, this trail is easy for biking due to its straight and flat nature. The trail offers nearly 30 miles of superb wildlife viewing opportunities, where one can find gopher tortoises, alligators, wading birds and hawks, among others.
As discussed in the Future Land Use Element, Groveland is located at the northeast edge of the Green Swamp, and a portion of the City lies within the designated boundaries of the Green Swamp Area of Critical State Concern. The City of Groveland is working closely with state agencies to assure that our Future Land Use Element and Comprehensive Plan safeguard this natural treasure.
For example, the City has reduced allowable lot coverages and requires an upland buffer of 50 feet surrounding wetlands to protect the Green Swamp from harmful runoff. Through the Future Land Use policies, the City has also prohibited any development in the floodplains and wetlands and all new industrial activities within the Green Swamp ACSC. Most notably, Groveland has also created two new Green Swamp Future Land Use categories, Green Swamp Town and Green Swamp Rural, to protect this distinct natural landscape.