Clay County Florida

Green Cove Springs
Saratoga of the South rises again

Green Cove Springs was a booming town on a bend of the St. Johns River early in the 1900s. River steamers brought visitors to the "Saratoga of the South," noted for the health-giving qualities of its spring. Its hotels and boarding houses rivaled the best northern resorts.

As an expanding railroad system carried tourists south, Green Cove Springs saw its first decline. Grand hotels, most made of wood, were left to disrepair or burned down. The city experienced renewed development in the 1940s with the war-time construction of Benjamin Lee Field, a 1,500-acre air auxiliary complex, by the US. Navy. After the war, the base became home port to a fleet of 600 ships. Green Cove Springs experienced yet another decline when the Navy decommissioned its base in 1961.

But Green Cove (many residents shorten the name) may be on the brink of another period of growth. Its population is 5,300, according to the 2000 Census, up from 4,700 in 1990.

There are many older homes in Green Cove, but in and around town a lot of new homes continue to be built. The average home price is $158,521. Magnolia Point, a golf and country club off of U.S. Highway 17, is home to 740 residences and is zoned for about 975.

Charles E. Bennett Elementary and Green Cove Springs Junior High are within the city limits, and ClayHigh School is just outside. Recreational opportunities also abound. SpringPark, a beautiful layout along the St. Johns River next to City Hall and a new City Hall under construction, features playground equipment, picnic facilities, gazebo, springfed pool and a 500-foot city pier with 12 boat slips.

Keystone Heights
Lakes, hills and friendly folks

Paradise is what many people call the small picturesque community of KeystoneHeights at the southern tip of ClayCounty amid numerous sandbottomed lakes.

Keystone was settled by Pennsylvanians drawn to these numerous lakes in the early 1920s. The town's name was derived from Pennsylvania's nickname - the KeystoneState - and for the area's unusual hilly terrain.

Today, KeystoneHeights is a small, peaceful, family oriented town, with most businesses family-owned. Many residents belong to civic and social organizations such as the Federated Women's Club, Rotary Club, Lions Club and Kiwanis Club. The average home price is $106,828.

There are numerous recreational opportunities, including a beach with bathhouses and shaded picnic tables, public boat ramps, lighted tennis courts, nature trails and the Keystone Golf and Country Club.

Keystone Heights Airpark, constructed in 1942 as Crystal Lake Airfield, also calls the area home. The 2,500 acre park has one of the few aviation sports facilities in Florida and also offers flight training. The Airpark Authority also leases wildlife area to a sportsman's club, and there are plans for corporate leasing and an industrial park.

A simpler way of life

Twenty-five years ago, dirt roads were common, you rarely saw a street sign and most residents came to Middleburg, southwest of OrangePark, looking for a way to escape the hustle and bustle of city life. Now, most - if not all - of that has changed.

Middleburg covers a large area in Clay County, with 4,000 more residents than Ponte Vedra Beach, and projected to reach more than 45,000 residents by 2008.
Spurred by new water and septic lines coming into the community, a great deal of commercial building has occurred, including new fast-food restaurants and retail outlets. This has led to increased property values and has made Middleburg more appealing to commuters.

The Ravines development east of Middleburg, for example, offers new homes from the $155,000s, in a country club setting.
Potential buyers have numerous choices... everything from manufactured housing to million-dollar properties. The average home price throughout Middleburg is $140,514. The community is still "a little bit country offering a laid-back lifestyle, larger home lots and a chance to commune with nature.

Orange Park
 A town with its own flavor

The town of Orange Park stretches along the western bank of the St. Johns River, which is the nation's longest north-flowing river and Florida's largest. Once known as Laurel Grove after the name of the old Kingsley Plantation, the area now known as OrangePark was incorporated into ClayCounty in 1877.

Orange groves, available commodity planted by developers from Massachusetts, originally enticed many relocaters to the area. The groves died out in harsh freezes in the mid-1890s, but a strong community flourishes in their place.

Orange Park is now ClayCounty's largest city, with about 10,000 residents.OrangePark sits on a high and dry area featuring beautiful oak trees and splendid vistas along the St. Johns River. Convenient to Inter-states 10, 95 and 295, many residents have chosen to work elsewhere but to live and raise their families in this "bedroom community."

Wells Road has been dubbed "Restaurant Row" for all of its dining options. JacksonvilleInternationalAirport, downtown Jacksonville and the Beaches are also all within a 45-minute drive.

Another big draw to OrangePark is ClayCounty's top rated school system.The area also has many recreational activities. Project Playground, a new park funded by private donations and built by volunteers at ClarkeHousePark, has equipment that includes tunnel slides, a castle, a ship, a P-3 U.S. Navy plane, swings, sandbox and a playhouse.

Orange Park also boasts a 9-mile jogging and mountain biking trail that winds parallel with U.S. Highway 17 and a 1.5-mile concrete riverwalk along the St. Johns River. The Orange Park Kennel Club (greyhound track) has been in OrangePark since the 1930s.

Orange Park also has a reasonable tax base, with home prices ranging from $80,000 to more than $1 million. Homes have an average price of $153,224.

OakLeaf Plantation
Bi-county Hometown

OakLeaf is really a giant subdivision, but it is somewhat unique in that it includes parts of Clay and Duval counties.
Most of the 64,000-acre property is in Clay, however, southwest of Jacksonville and next to the 20,000-acre JenningsStateForest.

Several areas offer single-family homes and condominiums prices from the $150,000s to more than $500,000. Amenities (some already built or under construction) include two village retail centers, a 30-acre athletic center with a clubhouse and waterpark, five new school sites, a public library and 2.5 million square feet of commercial space.

Penney Farms
 A haven for retirees

The town's name is, indeed, from department store icon J.C. Penney, who, in 1923, founded an experimental farming community where destitute farmers could live and work until they rebuilt their lives.



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