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March 30, 2023 Clay County Regional Park quickly becoming reality

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MIDDLEBURG – Bulldozers were five acres away, busily turning Florida scrubland into what soon will become Clay County Regional Park when County Commission Chair Betsy Condon put the project in perspective Tuesday.

“I can’t wait for the day to see this open,” she said. “I can’t wait to see kids out here playing. I want to bring people outdoors and onto the playing fields.”

If construction stays on schedule, the opening day should be next spring, construction project manager and Middleburg High graduate Jeb McLendon said.

The county bought nearly 250 acres of land on U.S. Highway 21, a mile north of State Road 16, to create a unique sports park to draw national tournaments.

North Florida Land Trust bought the 750 acres between the park and SR 16. The nonprofit committed to preserving natural places told the county it could add nature trails in its portion.

“This will be a first for Clay County and Northeast Florida,” Condon said.

Former Florida Sen. Rob Bradley and Rep. Travis Cummings were instrumental in working with County Manager Howard Wanamaker in securing a matching grant from the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity program. The county paid the first $3 million, and the state matched it.

Once operational, the park could become a money-maker in taxes, Condon said.

“This facility is a great investment for Clay County,” she said.

The multi-sport fields will allow the county to host massive events, Airstream Adventures CEO Alan Verlander, who works with the county to attract events.

McLendon said the first phase would include permanent restrooms, parking for 350 cars and ponds.

“This puzzle started many, many, many months ago with design,” said Fleming Island-based Carlton Construction President Matt Carlton. “Like Betsy, I can’t wait to drive out here and see kids playing.”

“More community members can share (the park) than ever before,” Wanamaker said. “We can host big tournaments with national recognition.  

Much of the land has already been cleared for the first phase. Work continued Tuesday while officials with the county, state, tourism development council, Airstream and Carlton Construction officially broke ground.  

Article written by Don Coble

Managing Editor, Clay Today