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Neighborhood Natural Area Network

Neighborhood Natural Area Network

Willow Oak Neighborhood

Near the Willow Oak neighborhood in Gainesville Florida, there are several neighborhood natural areas that are maintained by the Homeowner Association in collaboration Environmental Protection Department of Alachua County. These areas are forested with one scrub habitat area that contains several gopher tortoises. Residents in the area collaborated with University of Florida’s Department of Wildlife Ecology and Conservation, Environmental Protection Department of Alachua County and IFAS Extension to install an educational sign that has 5 educational panels that discuss gopher tortoises, landscaping native plants, invasive exotics, pollinators, and bird habitat. These panels are rotated throughout the year by the homeowner association

iNaturalist: Residents in the Willow Oak neighborhood are monitoring plants and animals in the area with the iNaturalist program and their iNaturalist project can be found here. If interested in participating in the iNaturalist project, contact Dr. Mark Hostetler (

Restoration Activities: Before COVID-19 hit, residents collaborated with Alachua County Department of Environmental Protection, University of Florida’s Department of Wildlife Ecology, and UF students to remove the invasive plant, sword fern, from the natural area that contains the gopher tortoises. They also planted several native flowering plants in the open area. More than 8 large trash bags of sword fern were removed in Feb of 2020! In 2022, residents in conjunction with UF students planted trees and bushes for wildlife around one of the neighborhood’s stormwater ponds.  If interested in learning more about the natural areas, becoming involved in the iNaturalist neighborhood project, and even doing restoration, please contact resident Tonya Becker ( and Dr. Mark Hostetler (