From the Pensacola News Journal, April 14, 2015.
“Sprawled across more than 300 acres in the Blackwater River state Forest in Milton is a network of 27 miles of winding trails, groomed and ready to ride — the only facility of its kind in Northwest Florida.
“Off-road enthusiasts of all skill levels can finally enjoy the recently-opened Clear Creek Off-Highway Vehicle Trails near Whiting Field Naval Air Station, a project more than a decade in the making.
“Experienced riders can challenge themselves on narrow, switchback paths through the woods, but newbies need not be discouraged — off-road motorists as young as five years old have already tackled the beginner-friendly tracks and youth training area at Clear Creek.
“The faciity fills a long-awaited desire in the area for a safe, legal place to ride OHV’s, said Wayne Briske, an avid rider who has been part of the efforts to make the trails a reality since about 2004.
“The need was huge,” Briske said, “There are thousands and thousands of ATVs and dirt bikes that are sold in Northwest Florida, and unless you have a large track on your own property, there’s no legal place to ride them.”
“Clear Creek was the result of a joint efforts between the local OHV clubs, the Florida Forest Service, the Nature Conservancy, United States Navy and the Santa Rosa County Commission, Briske said, with dozens of meetings and thousands of hours of volunteer work.
“All of the trails were cut by volunteers as part of our motorcycle and TV clubs here locally, so there was a lot of local manpower that actually went into cutting the trails, Briske said.
“The facility ws funded through OHV title fees, along with about a $300,000 grant from the Federal Highway Administration’s Recreational Trails Program and donations from Yamaha and Polaris.
“Located adjacent to Whiting Field, the trails also helped further the county, state and Navy’s partnership to buffer land around the base and prevent unsuitable development, said David Creamer, recreation administrator for the Blackwater river State Forest with the Florida Forest Service.
“It preserves the abiity to have some more open areas around Whiting Field to prevent encroachment,” Creamer said.
“Only about half of the state’s 640 acre property is being used for the trails, Creamer said, which may be expanded in the future as funding is available.
“There are other places people can ride dirt tracks and things like that, but as far as riding in the woods, this is kind of a unique experience, ” he said.
“Though the state owns the land, the park and its restrooms and concessions are operated by Coastal Concessions, which also manages outpost stores at Fort Pickens along with the Navarre Beach Pier and its gift shop and restaurant.
“A safe environment of off-roaders of all ages is the top priority at the park, which prohibits alcohol and requires riders to wear helmets, said Coastal Concessions General Manager Stephanie Maddox. The company also plans to bring annual passes in the future to make the facility more affordable for frequent users.
“Our priority is to make it family-oriented, make it fun and enjoyable for the whole family where they can come out for the day,’ Maddox said. …”