History of the Park
Little Orange Creek Nature Park is a land acquisition and conservation project of the city of Hawthorne in collaboration with the non-profit organization, Putnam Land Conservancy (PLC). The purpose of the acquisition is to protect the natural resources, historic sites, and plant and wildlife abundant on this property.
The funding for the property acquisition was achieved though a grant, written by Putnam Land Conservancy (PLC), awarded from Florida Forever/Florida Communities Trust in 2010. Part of the grant’s stipulations was that the property be owned by the City of Hawthorne. The City of Hawthorne agreed to be the property owners with agreement of management help from Putnam Land Conservancy. Friends of Little Orange Creek (FLOC) was formed to be a citizens support group to assist with funding and promoting the park.
Importance of the Park
The park protects the original mill site of the city of Hawthorne (from 1850). It also protects an important water discharge area. Little Orange Creek receives its water from Fowlers prairie on the north side of the property. By providing oversight and land management for this large parcel, water quality can be protected and ensured for population growth into the future. Conservancy of this property also provides protection of the Ocala to Osceola wildlife corridor. A crosswalk passage for both wildlife and hikers is slated to be built by the Department of Transportation along with the widening of Highway 20 which separates the two adjoining properties.
Project goals include development of the house into a nature museum, environmental education center, summer day camp, and community event facility where gatherings such as weddings, meetings, and classes can be held. A one mile handicap-accessible trail will also be developed, complete with educational kiosk and educational signage. The trail will initiate near the house, meander through sandhill and upland areas, providing access to a historic grist mill and cemetery site, and return around the edge of Little Orange Creek which runs through the property.
Our plan to create a nature and environmental education program was inspired by PLC founder, Dr. Kathleen Cantwell who passed away in July, 2010. Dr. Cantwell was a pediatrician and was dedicated to “curing nature-deficit disorder.” She was committed to bringing children who otherwise have little exposure to nature into a beautiful setting where they can learn and become excited by the natural world. This purchase is a perfect setting for her dream to materialize—indoor/outdoor spaces all with beautiful panoramic views of the sandhill/upland environment, complete with creek, water birds, majestic oak groves, and lots of Florida sky. We are very excited about this project coming to fruition in honor of our beloved mentor and visionary, whose legacy we honor by nurturing this project as lovingly and with as much painstaking attention to detail as she herself would have done.