NEW PORT RICHEY — Nature, specifically the Jay B. Starkey Wilderness Park, is the allure of western Pasco County's River Ridge community.
The more than dozen separate subdivisions that comprise River Ridge either border or are in close proximity to the park, which has almost 7 miles of paved biking trails that connect to the 42-mile Suncoast Trail. There is also a 10-mile equestrian trail as well as picnic shelters and camping areas.
"Over 8,000 acres of nature: What could be better to live right next to?" said Dan Hunter, a real estate agent with Prudential Tropical Realty.
"I have watched many new communities and neighborhoods come out of the ground and grow. From the start, River Ridge was one of few where the focus was to preserve the natural Florida landscape," said Eva Frank, a 20-year real estate agent. She works for Prudential Tropical Realty.
"It is a master-planned community for residents of all ages," Frank said.
"Each village offers a different lifestyle with homes to match. A great number of homes were built at the edge of the wooded conservation area or overlooking one of the many ponds.
"Prospective buyers can choose which village or home is right for their family and lifestyle. There are larger, custom-built homes on half-acre or larger lots in gated Gracewood, newer homes in Rosewood, homes on the golf course, home sites in a country club setting, low-maintenance homes, villas with or without garages, cluster homes on zero lot lines, and even townhomes," Frank said.
"They come for the location," Hunter said of the more than 2,000 homes in the River Ridge developments. "It's out of the way of most everything and yet it's easy to get to," Hunter said.
Thirteen-year-old Sara Wheatley, who lives in the Rosewood subdivision, said the schools are a big reason she likes living here.
"The teachers are great. They are like part of your family," Sara said. And because the schools are nearby, they draw lots of friends to the neighborhood. "I like it here because of all the kids," she said.
The subdivisions in River Ridge range from small 50-home tracts to large 400-home tracts.
"River Ridge has held up better than a lot of others (in the economic downturn) because it's so compartmentalized with so many different subdivisions," Hunter said.
"And the different subdivisions are all unique," Judi Pobst, an agent with Realty by Design, said.
"There's a golf course, swimming pools, River Ridge Middle School and River Ridge High School," Pobst said.
"You are close to nature. You can have a great experience whether you are on the golf course or on your half-acre lot. It's a relaxed lifestyle," Pobst said. "There is something for everybody."
Patti Ewald is a freelance writer based in Gulfport. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.