Orange spends $2.5M on land
County eyes expansion for Magnolia Park by buying adjacent 20 acres
Orange County may expand Magnolia Park after spending $2.5 million last month for 20 wooded acres adjacent to the park on Lake Apopka’s eastern shore.
But if the newly acquired land stays untouched, environmentalists would consider that a win too, said Jim Thomas, founder of the environmental group Friends of Lake Apopka.
“That’s the best we can hope for,” he said.
Orange County park staff noticed a small “for sale” sign on the property last year, alerted park administrators and the county realestate division struck a deal for the land.
“It would have been turned into houses, no doubt,” Orange County Parks & Recreation Director Matt Suedmeyer said of the property, bordered by South Binion and Ocoee-Apopka roads.
Development pressure in northwest Orange has ramped up in recent years spurred by the opening of new sections of the Wekiva Parkway toll road and AdventHealth’s new 120-bed $203 million hospital.
Some of the acquired acres back up to Magnolia Park, others touch Magnolia Estates, where homes have been selling in the range of $250,000 to $400,000.
Suedmeyer said the county doesn’t yet have firm plans for the new acreage.
Orange County commissioners agreed without comment Dec. 3 to pay $2.5 million for the land.
The previous owners, Lo Bros. Enterprises, had wanted $4 million, Orange County procurement documents show, while a county appraisal estimated the land’s value at $2.9 million.
The company, headed by Henry P. Lo of Lake Mary, paid $130,000 for the property about 35 years ago.
Suedmeyer said he envisions an expansion of Magnolia Park becoming an overnight stop for bicyclists on Florida’s Coast-toCoast Trail, a 250-mile paved path across the state from the Gulf of Mexico to the Atlantic Ocean.
The 52-acre park includes a campground and hosts several notable annual events including the Bluegrass and Country Music Festival, usually held in May; the “non-scary” Halloween Pumpkin Fest and Hayride, held in October; and an Afternoon with Santa staged in December when the jolly old soul arrives by airboat.
The park is best known as a base for hikers, cyclists and bird watchers seeking adventure on the Lake Apopka Loop Trail, which follows the lake’s edge.
The park also has hosted Birdapalooza, a birding festival celebrating the abundance and varieties of species around the lake and its north shore.
Visitors should be wary of wildlife, including large alligators which sometimes crawl out of the water to sun themselves on the lime-rock trail.
Suedmeyer said the county plans to add a spur to its West Orange Trail network with some of the new acres likely to become a stretch of the proposed Lake Apopka Connector Trail.
According to Orange County’s master trails plan, the proposed 5.4-mile path would connect the existing Lake Apopka Loop Trail to the West Orange Trail using a trail head at Clarcona’s Horseman Park.
Bird-watcher Greg Miller peers at a flock of water fowl from a pier on Lake Apopka at Magnolia Park.
Orange County may expand Magnolia Park after spending $2.5 million on 20 wooded acres adjacent to the park on Lake Apopka. Some of the land backs up to Magnolia Park, and others touch Magnolia Estates.