Gainesville, Florida (March 1986-Present)

I am hired by the City of Gainesville directly out of graduate school to work as a comprehensive planner in the Department of Community Development in March 1986 (in 2000, the city population was 95,000). It turns out to be a fortunate decision, as Gainesville has served well as a convenient staging area for a number of adventures I enjoy on a regular basis. My favorite spots in the Gainesville area, in no particular order, include:

North Central Florida contains one of the most astounding concentration of springs in the nation, if not the world, which explains why the National Geographic featured the springs of the area in early 1999. About 45 minutes from Gainesville.

Parts of the Florida trail and a network of off-road bicycling trails parallel the river. The off-road bicycling trails, all of which I have bicycled, include 11 separate riding areas featuring a variety of forest ecosystems, palmetto thickets, pine forests, oak hammocks, and cypress swamps. Find old beaver dams, hidden springs, and glimpses of the blackwater Suwannee River along mountain bicycle trails that are second only to the Santos trails in all of Florida.

The Suwannee River is about a 1-hour drive from Gainesville.

Overlooks in multiple locations. Paynes Prairie was historically called the Alachua Savannah because in 1774, well-known artist and naturalist William Bartram wrote a detailed description of the area in which he called it the "great Alachua Savannah." Within this Natural Landmark, 20 distinct biological communities are found, including wet prairie, pine flatwoods, hammocks, swamp, and ponds. Most of the life Bartram described still flourishes here today.

Paynes Prairie South contains other attractions, besides the Visitor Center:

Cone's Dike Bison Trail Ride

I have bicycled this six-mile trail, which begins at the Visitor Center and runs through mixed forest and prairie habitat. This trail occasionally offers encounters with the Paynes Prairie bison herd.

Chacala Trail Bicycle Ride

Features a series of loops up to eight miles in length. When I bicycled it, the trail passed through pine flatwoods, mixed forest, scrub, sandhill, and baygall communities.

·         Horsefarms of North Central Florida. Marion County, just south of Gainesville, is horsefarm country. The County is graced with approximately 50 miles of extremely picturesque horsefarms along the famous "Horsefarm 100" bicycle route in Marion County. I have bicycled on rural roads through seemingly endless, yet gorgeous, horsefarms during a number of Horsefarm 100 events.

·         Canopy Roads for Bicycling. I have found countless scenic bicycling routes through north Florida farms, forests, and small towns.


Bed & Breakfast lodging for your stay in Gainesville 

 Sweetwater Branch Inn. A spectacular, classy B&B. 800.579.7760.

 Magnolia Plantation B&B. Very impressive, romantic, unusual Victorian. 352.375.6653.

 Laurel Oak Inn. Recently renovated and converted into a B&B. 352.373.4535.

 Herlong Mansion B&B. Enormous, impressive B&B in the heart of the very historic, walkable town of Micanopy. 800.437.5664.


There are many Seasonal Events in North Central Florida.


Favorite restaurants and pubs in Gainesville:

In the late '80s, I bought a cute little 55-year old bungalow in the historic Duckpond neighborhood (Duckpond goose guarding the neighborhood at right).

An important, memorable attraction in the neighborhood is the collection of Duckpond Historic Homes. The neighborhood is extremely romantic and walkable, and filled with turn-of-the-century Victorian homes and the Thomas Center along quiet streets lined with Spanish moss-draped oak trees.

The bungalow I bought was the first house built on N.E. 5th Street, which was called Kentucky Avenue at the time. I spent a lot of time and money restoring the house, including installing a solar water heater on the roof, building a wood deck, re-doing the bathroom and kitchen, repainting the interior and exterior, and re-wiring the electrical system. In 2001, I did an exhaustive title search to assemble a history of ownership on the house that reaches back to when it was built in 1935.

On Halloween in 2001, Maureen and I bought a lovely home in the neighborhood. The "Kelley-Swords" house is rich in Gainesville history.

In the nearly 20 years I have lived in Gainesville, hurricane season had never sent the city "seasons greetings." That is, until 2004, when the Hurricane Train paid us a visit…


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