On Sunday, December 9th at 9:30 AM, a trail ride for STRIDE members will take place at Shangri-La Trailhead, 12788 SW 69th Ct., Ocala, FL .

The trail ride will be led by a STRIDE member well versed in the layout and geography of the Cross Florida Greenway Trails and is a great opportunity to experience the trails free from directional worries (Hey- I could swear I’ve passed that live oak three times…). 

Now a gem among recreational riding opportunities in the United States, this wasn’t always the plan. Encompassing roughly 110 miles across Florida, this stretch of land was originally slated to be a barge canal intended to provide a shipping shortcut from the Gulf of Mexico to the St. John’s River.

Work on the project began during the Great Depression in 1935 but ceased in 1936 when federal funds dried up. In 1964, construction began again, but was stopped in 1969 by a lawsuit spearheaded by Marjorie Harris Carr and filed by the Environmental Defense Fund.

Carr saw the folly of this project known as the Cross Florida Barge Canal. She lobbied in earnest to save the Ocklawaha River ecosystem and challenged the questionable benefits the canal would provide.

President Richard Nixon officially ended further work on the canal with an executive order in 1971.  By that time, nearly $74 million had been spent on land acquisition and construction for the project. The canal was formally deauthorized in 1990 and the Cross Florida Greenway State Recreation and Conservation Area was born.

Shangri-La, as described by the Florida State Parks Service, is “an idyllic spot…located along the southern boundary of the Cross Florida Greenway in the rolling sand hills 5 miles west of I-75 off of the County Road 484 exit.  Situated just south of one of the historic sea-level Cross Florida Ship Canal diggings, Shangri-La provides optimal access and overnight opportunities to explore the myriad network of well-marked trails through xeric hammock.”

There is a picnic pavilion and restrooms with potable water. Campground hosts are on site.

The landscape features towering berms now disguised with the foliage of saw palmettos, lofty pines, and hardwoods. A variety of wildlife inhabits the area.

Let your hair down, leave the show nerves at home, and get to know the Greenway and your fellow STRIDE members during this trek on the Cross Florida Greenway.

For additional info, call 352-454-3255 or email Oakhillfarm55@gmail.com.