Thursday, May 20, 2010

About Lake Beresford Park (Guide to Lake Beresford Park)

Introduction
One of the most difficult things about being a runner, walker or bicyclist in Central Florida is finding a safe place to do it. It was therefore no surprise to me that the bucolic, paved trails through the forest of Lake Beresford Park quickly became popular with the local biking and running community. Training for marathons in this park since before it was officially open, I have watched this hidden gem of a park grow and develop. This blog is devoted to introducing some of my behind-the-scenes park discoveries.

History of Lake Beresford Park
The creation of this park was a culmination of much planning and community/political support. So before I take you on a virtual tour of the park, let’s start with a little of its history and how this park fits into the bigger picture of Florida Greenways. The 210 acres of land that would eventually form the core of Lake Beresford Park was acquired in 1991 with assistance from the Florida Communities Trust. In November 2000, the citizens of Volusia County approved a referendum to tax themselves (.20 mill) for both the ECHO and Forever initiatives. Volusia County Council Member Pat Northey and others convinced the County Council in 2004 to dedicate $1 million from the ECHO fund for the park’s development. She caught a lot of heat for her support, but as the park becomes more popular, her foresight will be vindicated.

What most visitors to Lake Beresford Park don’t realize is that this is not just a park. It is part of a much larger project called the Spring to Spring Trail. Once built, it will provide bikers and runners with a base to access over 28 miles of paved trails and will eventually link to more trails in Brevard, Seminole and Orange Counties. Once the links are completed, it will become part of the even larger St. Johns River to the Sea Loop Trail. This 260 mile trail will be intermittent paved and unpaved trails that when completed, will be the longest multi-use loop trail in the southeastern United States.

Directions to the Park:
Lake Beresford Park is located at 2100 Fatio Rd., DeLand Florida. Google Maps has the park located on the wrong side of the lake, but its easy to find. Here are the directions: In DeLand get to Spring Garden Avenue (S.R. 15A) and travel to W. Beresford Avenue. Turn west onto W. Beresford Avenue (C.R. 4112). Turn south (left) on Fatio Road. The park is on the west side of Fatio road. The entrances are well marked and there are signs on Fatio Rd. to tell when you are approaching it.


The Entrances, Parking and Hours of Operation

 North Entrance Parking

The north entrance is for “equestrian” trailer parking. It has a grass parking area, picnic table, an information kiosk and is a great base for hiking the non-paved trails. I have rarely seen a trailer in this parking lot, so feel free to park in it if you don’t have a horse. No restrooms or other amenities are available at this parking area.






South Entrance Parking

This picture shows the main entrance to a paved parking area, contains most of the amenities and is also the junction to all of the paved trails. I’d recommend you park here.




Hours of Operation



The park is generally open from sunrise to sunset. A visitor-friendly clock sign (see left) will greet you at the entrance to let you know when the park opens and closes.










After Hours Entry
As the signs warns you, you can’t do it and park staff have been erecting gates, barriers and angry signs to impede your (and pesky off-roaders) after hours access to the trails. They also sweep the trails at closing to shoo people off. But, people use this park after hours all the time, especially mornings in the winter when sunrise is later and to beat the heat during summer. What most people do is park on Fatio Rd. near the entrance and ride their bike/walk/run into the park or they run/ride from home or other offsite location into the park. I personally don’t see the entrance of legitimate visitors as a problem before the park opens in the morning, but consider yourself warned. I also wouldn’t recommend evening entry into the park on weekends.

Safety and Crime
Before the park opened, homeless people lived in this area and moved through it via the railroad tracks. People living in the adjacent West Highlands subdivison also used this area for offroading, target shooting and dumping. You may still see a rare homeless person walking down the trail, an occasional dirt bike riding the rail right-of-way and hear gunshots near the trail. I have noticed people having “clandestine rondevous” in their cars at the equestrian parking lot at closing time and have been told perverts work the restrooms on rainy days and that prostitutes work the picnic tables near the info kiosk in the equestrian area during the weekdays. I am not sure if any of this is true, but recommend carrying a cellphone while running and calling 911 if you see anything suspicious.

Ok so now that you are having second thoughts about visiting this place, development of the park and the presence of people in it has made this a very safe place. Literally the only times I've seen things that worried me was at closing time. I’d recommend you take the usual precautions of lock your car/hide valuables, run/ride with a friend, bring a cell phone and stay aware of your surroundings. This park has many secluded areas, so you may want to take some mace in case the worst happens while running or riding alone.  To track the latest crime trends in or around the park, or in case I've scared the crap out of you, check out this Crimemapping website.

Park Amenities
Highlights of the park includes a 1.8 mile, paved multi-use trail that follows the perimeter of the parcel and a 3.3 mile trail (one way) from the park to the entrance of Blue Springs State Park. The multi-use trail is 12-feet wide and primarily used by walkers, runners, bicyclists and rollerblading. There are also some horse trails through the woods (the red/blue trails) which bisect the loop and take you to past the remains of an old fish camp and to the shore of Lake Beresford.

Most of the non-trail amenities can be found adjacent to the south entrance parking lot. Adjacent to this parking area is a very nice playground frequented by stay-at-home moms during the weekdays and an adjacent covered pavilion is often used for family reunions and get-togethers on the weekends. The north side of the parking area contains four individual stall restrooms and a water fountain (the water comes straight out of a well and tastes great). The restrooms are usually kept very clean.

Bugs and Wildlife
I rarely hike the non-paved trails in this park. Why? Because this place has more ticks and chiggers than just about any other place I’ve been in Florida. You will see signs around the park attesting to their presence....take them seriously! If you plan to go off the paved trails, make absolutely sure you are wearing repellant and check yourself for ticks upon leaving. Spiders also love to string their webs across the trail during the night. While none of these spiders are venomous, some people get creeped out by a face full of webbing and something crawling up their neck. If you are the first one down the trail in the morning, consider yourself warned. Since you are walking through a forest, you will encounter a variety of wildlife. On my morning runs, I routinely encounter rabbits, deer, turkey, raccoons and armadillos. Don’t pet any possums or raccoons that appear friendly…they are probably rabid. Snakes are occasionally seen crossing or sunning at the side of the trail....including rattlesnakes. A momma bear and her cub have recently been seen in the oak forest area of the trail.

What about My Dog?
When the park first opened, you rarely saw people with their dogs. Recently, this place has started to feel like a dog park…. complete with people letting their dogs run free all over the trails. I can understand why. Its a great place to walk a dog...just beware of the trail surface as it will chew up your dog's pads and give them bloody toenails.  Here are the official dog rules. Dogs are allowed in the park and on the trails, but the County requires them to be on a leash at all times or you could get a $55 fine. This rule is in place for you and your dog’s safety. A biker traveling 30 mph down the trail will not have time to react to your unleashed dog, resulting in possible injury to both. If your dog has aggression issues, you can’t bring them into the park at all. If you do and they attack somebody (or another dog), the news media will expose you to be the idiot you are, animal control will likely euthanize your dog, you will likely be sued and the County will give you a $5000 fine. 




The Scoop on Dog Poop
As the number of dogs in the park has increased, so has the amount of poop on and around the trails. The County has recently installed these poop bag dispensers near trashcans around the parking lot. Please use them. The penalty for not cleaning up after your pet is $55. If I accidently step in your dog’s poop while running the trail, I’ll embarrass you first then turn you in. Consider yourself warned.

6 comments:

  1. What a great essay! I just rode this trail this afternoon for the first time and you covered everything and much more than I took in while there. Keep writing!

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  2. Thanks, its an awesome park and a hidden gem in our county. I am slowly writing other modules to add to this blog, but life keeps me from finishing them.

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  3. Great job! Volusia needs to put this up on their site for the park because it really blows the one they have out of the water. Again Great Job!

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  4. Thanks Kevin, yes I would have to agree the County's website doesn't tell you much. That's a shame, because our County offers its citizens amenities you don't find outside of cities like Seattle....and that is a major accomplishment the website should be advertising.

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  5. Interesting and helpful...but you comment on rabid animals is silly!
    There are about 7500 cases of animals who contract rabbits...about 1...That's right 1!
    Human gets it.
    There are billions of wild animals in the U.S...the incidence of rabid animals is rare...it's always wise to stay clear of wild animals...but making blanket statements without any merit has no benefit to anyone or anything.
    Thanks

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  6. Each year, the Volusia County Health Department receives approximately 800 animal bite reports. Over the past 20 years, 5-30 (each year) of the animals will test positive for rabies. And while rabid animals are found county wide, recent trends have been that more of the positive cases are being found in the Beresford Park area of the county. Humans don't typically contract rabies because bite victims are given a post-exposure vaccine that kills the virus....hence the disease's rarity. So my advice would be to avoid wild animals acting friendly....especially nocturnal ones out during the day.

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