gary maidhof walk to nature boardwalk

The Gary Maidhof Walk to Nature

By Sally White Posted on December 7, 2022

Taking Small Steps Can Make Big Impacts

At the sound of footsteps, a crab scuttled across the boardwalk, watching visitors approach like a troll guarding a bridge. Satisfied there was no threat, the crab darted behind a handrail post to watch from its shadowy refuge.

Short on Walk: Big on Nature

Gary Maidhof Walk to Nature
A short boardwalk gives visitors a glimpse of a saltwater marsh_ Gary Maidhof Walk to Nature. Photo by Sally White

The short boardwalk nature trail led from a hardwood hammock to an overlook over a salt marsh.  Water rose through mounds of swamp ferns around the boardwalk, higher than usual from the recent rains. Trees felled from recent storms reached from the tea-colored water like giant modern sun-bleached sculptures, molded by the elements. Farther from the boardwalk, acres of tall cordgrasses and stands of needle rush swayed in the late afternoon breeze- a wetland prairie.

A tidal creek cut through the grasses, leading to the wider expanse of the Salt River Estuary, where palm trees jutted towards the sky to frame the low-lying clouds. The white tufts in the sky caught the last lingering rays of the golden hour over Florida’s west coast.

Vital Wetlands Serve as Community Protectors

The wetlands serve to preserve the inland communities, a buffer from coastal storms. They also act as a filter to prevent runoff and debris from running into the ocean waters. The salt marsh provides a safe haven and breeding grounds for small fish and animals against predators unable to navigate the tidal shallows and thick vegetation.

Trees stretched from the water like sculptures, molded by the elements. Photo by Sally White

The Gary Maidhof Walk to Nature in Crystal River offers a brief glimpse into a complex estuarine environment on Florida’s Nature Coast while paying homage to its namesake. The short walk is the representation of how individual elements play a part to affect the environment around them.

the salt marsh ecosystem
Every part of the salt marsh ecosystem plays an essential role in maintaining balance in the environment. Photo by Sally White

Gary Maidhof: A History of Promoting & Preserving the Natural Environment

Gary Maidhof, a 30-year resident of Citrus County effected change in the community through his leadership and works. He co-founded the Save Our Waters Week to bring attention to protection of the county’s water.

Maidhof proposed spring shed protection plans, helped negotiate the city of Crystal River’s acquisition of the Three Sisters Springs property. His positive influence spread statewide by his appointed tenure to the Governor’s Springs Task Force. He was an involved leader in the Academy of Environmental Science and a valued resource for organizations, bringing them together into partnerships in benefit of the land, habitat restoration and the environment.

Gary Maidhof was one person who influenced many to help preserve our natural environment. Image courtesy of Pixabay.

He was posthumously awarded the Community Steward Award, presented by the 1,000 Friends of Florida. The College of Central Florida awards a perpetual STEP scholarship in his name.

The Walk to Nature was dedicated to Maidhof’s memory and the “ideal that a single individual has the ability to make a difference for the betterment of an entire community”.

boardwalk at Gary Maidhof Walk to Nature
Even the smallest steps in the right direction can have a positive impact. Photo by Sally White

Taking a Step in the Right Direction

It only takes a few steps in the right direction to change the world for the better and Maidhof took those steps, making the world a brighter and better place.

Along the nature walk, it’s difficult not to see a better world, as bright orange hues illuminated the clouds, the brilliant glow catching the tops of the palm fronds in the distance. Overhead flocks of white ibis and egrets swooped low in the darkening sky in search of their evening roost, the last lingering light dancing across their outstretched wings.

The lone crab slid out from behind the post to stare at the boardwalk visitors again. Satisfied that all was right with the world, the crab darted down a boardwalk post to its natural habitat in the waters below.

view for observation deck at gary maidhof walk to nature crystal river
The observation deck looks out over a tidal creek to the Salt River. Photo by Sally White

The Gary Maidhof Walk to Nature is located at 12835 W Fort Island Trail, Crystal River, FL 34429 near Shrimp Landing and next to the Crystal River Academy of Environmental Science.  It is a brief boardwalk trail with interpretive signs. Handicap accessible.

The park allows for 3-car capacity, if vehicles are well parked. There is one-handicapped parking space available.

Sunset & the Nature Walk

Gary Midhof Walk to Nature at the golden hour
The Golden Hour (1 hour before sunset or sunrise) found on the Gary Maidhof Walk to Nature. Photo by Sally White

The sun sets on the opposite side of the nature walk, but the glow of the light will illuminate the palms and river beyond during a good golden hour.

Be like Gary Maidhof and commit to helping our natural environment.

How to Commit to helping the Natural Environment

  • Start in your own backyard. If you are able, make your yard an environmentally friendly landscape to attract wildlife and reduce waste.
  • Learn about natural landscaping, pesticide treatment, fertilizer usage and what to plant and when from your local extension office, a branch of the University of Florida’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (IFAS) and Florida Cooperative Extension Service system.
  • Educate yourself by becoming a Florida Master Gardener or a Florida Master Naturalist. And volunteer your services to teach others what you have learned from the programs.
  • Adopt a local park or section of the Florida Trail and attend the local clean ups.
  • Become a friend of your local river and gather family and friends for annual waterway clean ups.
  • Volunteer at your local state park.
palm hammock
Palm hammock in a wetland prairie along the Salt River at the Gary Maidhof Walk to Nature. Photo by Sally White

Join forces to make a difference in your community

Join or support a group that aligns with your beliefs and interests. If you can’t donate money, consider donating your time or expertise as needed.

1000 Friends of Florida
Save Our Waters Week
Save Crystal River
Audubon Society

Florida Native Plant Society

Fish & Wildlife Foundation of Florida
Florida Wildlife Corridor
Save the Manatee Club
Florida Springs Institute
Florida Springs Council

Did we miss your favorite local organization? If so, give them a shoutout in the comments below.



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