The inaugural 7 Creeks Fest, an event designed to celebrate and explore the 7 Creeks Recreation Area, took place on Saturday, April 2, and was a great success. A crowd of approximately 1,000 people came to the parks to enjoy the event organized by 7 Creeks Recreation Area partners including the Timucuan Parks Foundation, the City of Jacksonville, Talbot Island State Parks (Florida State Parks), Timucuan Ecological and Historic Preserve (National Park Service), Visit Jacksonville, and North Florida Land Trust. The event was created to introduce the public to the parks by highlighting the recreational opportunities, raising awareness of the preserved natural and cultural spaces, and increasing support for the efforts to enhance and protect the area.
“We were very excited to see the great crowds who came out to visit the 7 Creeks Recreation Area and we consider this first year a big success,” said Felicia Boyd, program and outreach director for TPF. “We couldn’t have done it without the many volunteers who helped and the organizations and groups who came as exhibitors or led the many hikes and activities that we had scheduled throughout the day. We thank them for their efforts. We are also proud of the collaborative efforts of our park partners who worked together for months to organize this amazing event.”
The City of Jacksonville’s Betz-Tiger Point Preserve served as the Welcome Hub for the event where visitors picked up their map and activity schedule, checked out the numerous environmental exhibitors, and enjoyed the music of Ryan Sinclair NyGomaThunder and Dancers and Thomas Phelps and The Gospel Trio, Ray & Early, and Lonesome Town. Visitors then spread out among all the parks to choose their own adventure from the many free recreational opportunities available, including kayaking and canoe tours led by Kayak Amelia and volunteers, archaeology talks presented by Dr. Keith Ashley of the UNF Archaeology Lab, arts and crafts, dip-netting, prescribed fire demonstrations, yoga, and bike tours. There were also themed, guided hikes led by the host agencies and preservation park partners including:
- a through-hike on the seven-mile 7 Creeks Trail led by the North Florida Trailblazers of the Florida Trail Association
- nature hikes with the Sierra Club Northeast Florida Group from the Black Hammock Island Trailhead at Cedar Point Preserve, JaxParks from the Pumpkin Hill Trailhead at Betz-Tiger Point Preserve, and North Florida Land Trust at Bogey Creek Preserve
- a native plant hike led by the Ixia Chapter of the Florida Native Plant Society from Fitzpatrick Creek Trailhead at Cedar Point Preserve
- birding walks led by the Duval Audubon Society and a wildflower walk led by Talbot Islands State Parks at Pumpkin Hill Creek Preserve State Park, and
- history hikes to the marsh and Fitzpatrick Ruins led by Timucuan Ecological and Historic Preserve and a photography hike led by nature photographer Will Dickey from the Horseshoe Creek Trailhead at Cedar Point.
As part of the 7 Creeks Fest, the Timucuan Ecological and Historic Preserve and Timucuan Parks Foundation held a fishing clinic with stations on casting, knot tying, and ethical angling for more than 100 children and their families at Betz-Tiger Point Preserve, a program funded by a Junior Ranger Angler grant from the National Park Foundation. More than half of the participants were military families, and the grant additionally provided bus transportation for two groups of urban youth to participate in this outreach. A highlight of the fishing clinic was a multi-cultural history demonstration focusing on the lifeways and fishing traditions of African American peoples presented by the Cosmo Cultural Heritage Corporation and funded by the 400 Years of African American History Commission.
“We attended the 7 Creeks Fest and thoroughly enjoyed it! We unfortunately didn’t have the time to do many activities, but we were very impressed with what was on the schedule and the great range of exhibitors,” according to local resident Susan Scanlon. “We were approached by a ‘greeter’ right away who handed us a map and explained all that was going on – he was so friendly and welcoming and informative. We could tell that the Fest was well-organized and that a lot of planning had gone into it. Next time, and there has to be a next time!, we will plan to spend the whole day. Thank you for all the hard work to showcase Jacksonville’s gem!”
Organizers give a special thank you to staff, volunteers, and vendors for helping make the inaugural 7 Creeks Fest a success and look forward to hosting the Fest again next year. Organizations interested in learning about sponsoring 7 Creeks Fest 2023 can send inquiries to [email protected].
The 7 Creeks Recreation Area is 5,600 acres of contiguous parklands in northeast Jacksonville that are linked by trails and waterways. The collection of seven parks features more than 30 miles of trails on thousands of connected acres of public lands perfect for biking, hiking, horseback riding, kayaking, fishing and more, offering many opportunities for improving physical and mental health. The outdoors destination was made possible by the partnership of park agencies and nonprofits working together to expand access and recreational opportunities for park visitors: the City of Jacksonville’s Parks, Recreation and Community Services Department (JaxParks), Florida Park Service (FPS), National Park Service (NPS), North Florida Land Trust (NFLT), Timucuan Parks Foundation (TPF) and Visit Jacksonville. More information can be found at https://www.timucuanparks.org/7-creeks-jax/.