Bulls Bay Preserve
Bulls Bay Preserve in western Jacksonville, Florida, contains more than 1,200 acres of numerous wetlands and green space, with tributaries to Cedar River and Six Mile Creek. The preserve, off Old Plank Road, about 8 miles west of downtown Jacksonville, originates in swamps that buffer the Jacksonville-Baldwin Rail Trail from Imeson Road to Bulls Bay Highway.
Hanson provided civil engineering services as part of a design-build team to develop certain portions of the preserve for recreational use. The project was time critical and had to be designed, permitted and constructed in just four months. Only certain areas of the preserve could be developed due to a Conservation Easement for Mitigation, from which the city acquired the land.
The project included design of a 2-mile hiking/mountain bike loop trail to capture the variety of elevation changes in the park; an earthen parking lot with a concrete pad for an Americans with Disabilities Act-compliant parking space; permanent standalone restroom facility; bike rack; a layout of a cleared path for the trail; and a low-profile boardwalk at one wetland crossing.
The trail system within the preserve passes by a small waterfall, which is unique in Northeast Florida, and provides picturesque views of wetlands with abundant wildlife and wildflowers. The project team included a specialized mountain bike trail planning consultant to provide insight on creating an elite trail that would attract all levels of off-road bicyclist enthusiasts.
During design, special care was taken to avoid exceeding permit thresholds, so the project could qualify for exemptions, and to prevent delays that could have jeopardized the expedited completion. The trails were designed to avoid impacting wetlands or restricting wildlife while providing mountain bikers with a challenging course.