~ Orange Park & Clay County, Florida ~
Five counties make up the Jacksonville Metropolitan Area. Clay County is one of two not located on the Atlantic Coast and the only one not bisected I-95. Despite these two drawbacks, this fast-growing county is home to more than 150,000 residents. The vast majority of these people live in a collection of unincorporated bedroom communities clustered in the northeasternmost corner of the county near the hub town of Orange Park. These communities include Lakeside, Fleming Island, Middleburg, Lake Asbury and Belleair-Meadowbrook Terrace.
Basically, Northeastern Clay County is your stereotypical example of American suburbia, packed with restaurant chains, big box retailers, strip malls, office parks and housing developments. The most recognizable landmark is the Orange Park Mall, which has a 24-screen movie theater. Over 90% of Clay County's workforce commutes to Jacksonville for their employment, which means that Orange Park is always conjested with traffic, particularly on Blanding Blvd. between the mall and the Interstate 295 beltway at the county line.
The further south and west from Orange Park you go, the slower the pace of life. Green Cove Springs, the county seat, is a small, old fashioned town on the St. Johns River with an old downtown centered around a natural spring. Meanwhile, the sparsely populated southwestern half of Clay County is very characteristic of the other smaller, rural counties that make up much of the interior region of North Florida.
Overall, Clay County lacks the natural, cosmopolitan, historical, and, of course, seaside appeal enjoyed by the rest of the Jacksonville metropolitan area. I only drive out there myself maybe once or twice a year just to see if anything is new at the Orange Park Mall.
Visit my JACKSONVILLE METRO photo gallery on Flickr.
Visit my JACKSONVILLE home page.
Visit my FLORIDA page.