A section of Highway 301 runs between Ocala and Belleview Florida. There is a spot where the highway has a large median and a sheriff’s office and behind it is a park called “The Island”. Massive concrete structures stand towering among the trees. They look like something from an ancient civilization but in fact they are rather modern.
They are the remnants of the Cross Florida Barge Canal. During the 1800s there was always a wish by some to have a canal that cut thru central Florida to the Gulf Of Mexico. During president Roosevelt’s New Deal an attempt at a canal was made but funding for it ran out after three years. After World War II and shipping being threatened by German U-boats, interest in building the canal gained in popularity. Construction resumed in 1964, with President Lyndon B. Johnson presiding at the groundbreaking in Palatka, Florida.
Environmentalists protested the building of the canal saying it will damage the Sunshine State’s ecosystem. Activist Marjorie Harris Carr appealed to President Richard Nixon and he stopped the project in 1971 and congress officially defunded it in 1990. The concrete supports for a bridge over the canal still stand as a reminder of the ill fated project. The Marjorie Harris Carr Cross Florida Greenway follows the proposed path of the canal and is maintained by the Florida State Parks.
If you want to check out the old concrete bridge supports you can park at the sheriff’s office and there is a hiking path that takes you past them with signage about the canal.
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