Clay County, Florida
In God We Trust
|Coordinates: 29°59′N 81°52′W / 29.98°N 81.86°W|
|Founded||December 31, 1858|
|Named for||Henry Clay|
|Seat||Green Cove Springs|
|• Total||644 sq mi (1,667.95 km2)|
|• Land||604 sq mi (1,564.35 km2)|
|• Water||39 sq mi (101.01 km2) 6.1%|
| • Estimate |
|• Density||375/sq mi (145/km2)|
|Time zone||UTC−5 (Eastern)|
|• Summer (DST)||UTC−4 (EDT)|
32003, 32043, 32065, 32068, 32073, 32079, 32091, 32234, 32656, 32666
|Area code||352, 904|
Clay County is located in the northeastern part of the U.S. state of Florida along the west bank of the St. Johns River. As of 2020, the population was 218,245 and in 2022, that number increased to 226,589, making it the third largest county in the Jacksonville metropolitan area. While most of the county is unincorporated, there are 4 municipalities with Green Cove Springs being the county seat and the unincorporated Lakeside CDP being the largest place. It is named in honor of Henry Clay, a famous American statesman, member of the United States Senate from Kentucky, and United States Secretary of State in the 19th century.
Since 1990, Clay County has transformed into a largely suburban county with the third highest household median income in Florida behind neighboring St. Johns County and Santa Rosa County. This transformation has come as workers from Jacksonville, and to a smaller extent other nearby cities such as St. Augustine and Gainesville, have moved into newly built residential subdivisions. Over half of workers living in Clay County work in another county, which is the highest rate of any county in Florida. As such, the county has the third highest average commute time in the state at almost 33 minutes. With the population expected to surpass 300,000 residents by 2040, projects such as the First Coast Expressway are being constructed to alleviate chronic congestion on major roadways in the county such as Blanding Blvd and U.S. 17.
Clay County is known for its rich military history with major current and former installations such as Branan Air Field, Naval Air Station Green Cove Springs, and Camp Blanding all being located in the county. The county also attracts many tourists due to its abundance of natural water features. Many notable lakes such as Kingsley Lake, Lake Asbury, Doctors Lake, Lake Geneva, and Lake Brooklyn are all located in the county. Black Creek begins at the St. Johns River just north of Green Cove Springs and runs through the central portion of the county.
This section needs additional citations for verification. (May 2019)
Early in the 19th century, Zephaniah Kingsley built his prosperous Laurel Grove Plantation, planting oranges and trading slaves, where Orange Park is today.
Clay County was created on December 31, 1858, from a section of Duval County. The area was once a popular destination for tourists because of its hot springs and mild climate. Steamboats brought them to various hotels in Green Cove Springs, such as the St. Elmo, Clarendon, and Oakland. President Grover Cleveland was the most prominent of such tourists and had spring water shipped to the White House. Clay County's popularity among tourists peaked during the last three decades of the 19th century. Tourism later waned because of Henry Flagler's extension of the Florida East Coast Railway to other destinations such as Palm Beach and Miami.
The military has also played an important role in Clay County history. In 1939, Camp Blanding opened on Kingsley Lake in southwest Clay County. The Florida National Guard developed this 28,000-acre (110 km2) complex. During World War II, it trained over 90,000 troops and became the fourth-largest "city" in the state. In Green Cove Springs, Lee Field was a flight training center. After World War II, Lee Field became a base for the mothball fleet. Although Lee Field closed in the early 1960s, Camp Blanding continues to operate today as a base for military training. Clay County is also a popular choice of residence for military personnel stationed on bases in nearby Duval County (NAS Jacksonville, NS Mayport, and, before it closed, NAS Cecil Field).
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the county has a total area of 644 square miles (1,670 km2), of which 604 square miles (1,560 km2) are land and 39 square miles (100 km2) (6.1%) are covered by water.
The average elevation in Clay County is 95 feet above sea level with the highest point, located on the western border in Camp Blanding, being 259 feet. The southwestern portion of the county features many lakes which contribute to the Floridan Aquifer and are an important source of water for the surrounding region. During the 2000s, high growth rates in Northeast Florida caused many of the lakes to dry up as demand for water increased. To combat this, a project began in August 2022 to construct a pipeline from Black Creek in the central part of the county to Alligator Creek in Keystone Heights. This pipeline is expected to restore the water levels in the lakes to their former high points.
Clay County is home to Goldhead Branch State Park, Belmore State Forest, and Jennings State Forest. These protected areas provide critical habitat to many native species of plants and animals, as well as provide a buffer around Camp Blanding from surrounding development.
- Duval County, Florida - north
- St. Johns County, Florida - east
- Putnam County, Florida - south
- Bradford County, Florida - west
- Baker County, Florida - northwest
|U.S. Decennial Census|
|Largest ancestries (2000)||Percent|
|Race||Pop 2010||Pop 2020||% 2010||% 2020|
|Black or African American (NH)||18,085||25,621||9.48%||11.74%|
|Native American or Alaska Native (NH)||734||680||0.38%||0.31%|
|Pacific Islander (NH)||179||363||0.09%||0.17%|
|Some Other Race (NH)||306||1,064||0.16%||0.49%|
|Hispanic or Latino||14,609||23,134||7.65%||10.6%|
As of the 2020 United States census, there were 218,245 people, 75,360 households, and 57,587 families residing in the county.
At the 2010 census, 190,865 people, 65,356 households, and 39,390 families resided in the county. The majority of Clay County's population was located in the northeastern region, where large suburban communities have been built. Orange Park, Middleburg, and the surrounding area specifically have the majority of the population. Green Cove Springs area has the lower population spread west and south, along with the small city of Keystone Heights, which lies at the southwestern end of the county. Although the population of Clay County is relatively high, the majority of the county is still rural and consists of many farms connected by county roads. The population density was 234 inhabitants per square mile (90/km2). The 73,208 housing units averaged 89 per square mile (34/km2). The racial makeup of the county was 81.8% White, 9.9% Black or African American, 0.5% Native American, 2.9% Asian, 0.1% Pacific Islander, 1.1% from other races, and 2.9% from two or more races. About 7.7% of the population were Hispanic or Latino, with Puerto Ricans being the majority of the Hispanic population. There were 50,243 households, 39.60% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 63.80% were married couples living together, 10.70% had a female householder with no husband present, and 21.60% were not families. Around 16.90% of households were one person and 5.50% were one person aged 65 or older. The average household size was 2.77, and the average family size was 3.11.
The age distribution was 28.00% under the age of 18, 7.90% from 18 to 24, 30.30% from 25 to 44, 24.00% from 45 to 64, and 9.80% 65 or older. The median age was 36 years. For every 100 females, there were 97.00 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 94.20 males.
The median income for a household was $48,854 and for a family was $53,814. Males had a median income of $36,683 versus $25,488 for females. The per capita income for the county was $20,868. About 5.10% of families and 6.80% of the population were below the poverty line, including 8.90% of those under age 18 and 7.40% of those age 65 or over.
Clay County's large population in unincorporated areas is served by the Clay County Sheriff's Office and Clay County Fire & Rescue. The current Sheriff, Michelle Cook (R), was elected in 2020.
Board of County Commissioners
Clay County's government is led by a five-member Board of County Commissioners, each elected from a single-member district. The county commission appoints a County Manager as chief administrative officer of the county. Howard Wannamaker currently serves as the County Manager. The current office holders are,
- District 1: Alexandra Compere (R)
- District 2: Wayne Bolla (R)
- District 3: Jim Renninger (R)
- District 4: Betsy Condon (R)
- District 5: Kristen Burke (R)
According to the Florida Department of State, Republicans account for a majority of registered voters in Clay County.
|Clay County Voter Registration & Party Enrollment as of June 30, 2022|
|Political Party||Total Voters||Percentage|
Politically, Clay County is one of the most reliably Republican counties in the state during presidential elections outside of the Panhandle. It last supported a Democrat for president in 1960, and Jimmy Carter is the last Democrat to manage even 40 percent of the county's vote. However, conservative Democrats continued to hold most state and local offices well into the 1980s.
|2022||74.69% 67,292||24.60% 22,187||0.71% 640|
|2018||68.89% 64,401||30.11% 28,150||0.99% 931|
|2014||72.40% 49,330||23.41% 15,948||4.19% 2,861|
|2010||69.97% 44,547||27.09% 17,246||2.94% 1,874|
|2006||73.00% 37,632||24.46% 12,610||2.54% 1,309|
|2002||77.38% 39,347||22.09% 11,233||0.53% 272|
|1998||76.29% 26,585||23.71% 8,261||0.00% 2|
|1994||70.86% 24,290||29.13% 9,986||0.00% 1|
- Clay County Historical and Railroad Museum, Green Cove Springs
- Middleburg Historical Museum, Middleburg
- Black Heritage Museum, Middleburg
- Camp Blanding Museum, Camp Blanding
The Clay County School District operates 42 public schools, with currently 28 elementary schools, five junior high schools, six high schools, and one junior/senior high school.
The Clay County Public Library System consists of five branches:
- Green Cove Springs Library
- Headquarters Library (Fleming Island)
- Keystone Heights Library
- Middleburg-Clay Hill Library
- Orange Park Library
The first public library in Clay County was made up of a small collection established by the Village Improvement Association within the county. Other small libraries were established by other organizations within Clay County. In 1961, representatives from different women's organizations in the county started a movement to establish a library system within the county, and resulted in the Clay County Board of County Commissioners beginning to set aside funds to create the county library system. Due to their efforts, the first public library in Clay County was opened in 1961 in Green Cove Springs. The Green Cove Springs Library purchased a bookmobile in 1962 and began to provide outreach services to different areas within Clay County that same year. In 1962 two more public libraries opened in Clay County, the Keystone Heights Library and the Orange Park Library. A fire destroyed the Keystone Heights Library in February 1962. The Keystone Heights Library was relocated to a new building in Theme Park in 1964. The Headquarters Library in Green Cove Springs became open to the public in 1970 after a population boom caused the need for a new library. In 1976, the Orange Park Library moved to a larger location within the town of Orange Park. The population growth experienced in the county during the late 1970s necessitated the development of the Middleburg-Clay Hill Library, which first opened in a storefront in the late 1970s. The permanent facility for this library was completed and opened to the public in 1986.
Other unincorporated communities
- ^ Bureau, US Census. "County Population Totals and Components of Change: 2020-2022". Census.gov. Retrieved March 30, 2023.
- ^ "Explore Census Data". data.census.gov. Retrieved March 30, 2023.
- ^ Publications of the Florida Historical Society. Florida Historical Society. 1908. p. 30.
- ^ Gannett, Henry (1905). The Origin of Certain Place Names in the United States. Govt. Print. Off. pp. 83.
- ^ a b "Explore Census Data". data.census.gov. Retrieved March 31, 2023.
- ^ "First Coast Expressway Built to Handle Growth in Clay County, Fla. : CEG". www.constructionequipmentguide.com. Retrieved March 31, 2023.
- ^ Florida; a Guide to the Southern-Most State. US History Publishers. 1939. p. 352. ISBN 978-1-62376-009-0. Retrieved December 17, 2019.
- ^ "US Gazetteer files: 2010, 2000, and 1990". United States Census Bureau. February 12, 2011. Retrieved April 23, 2011.
- ^ "Clay County topographic map, elevation, terrain". Topographic maps. Retrieved March 31, 2023.
- ^ Swirko, Cindy. "Water district launches Keystone Heights recharge project". Gainesville Sun. Retrieved March 31, 2023.
- ^ "North Florida Land Trust has acquired 400 acres for conservation in Clay County". 104.5 WOKV. October 6, 2022. Retrieved March 31, 2023.
- ^ "U.S. Decennial Census". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved June 13, 2014.
- ^ "Historical Census Browser". University of Virginia Library. Retrieved June 13, 2014.
- ^ "Population of Counties by Decennial Census: 1900 to 1990". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved June 13, 2014.
- ^ "Census 2000 PHC-T-4. Ranking Tables for Counties: 1990 and 2000" (PDF). United States Census Bureau. Retrieved June 13, 2014.
- ^ "State & County QuickFacts". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved June 22, 2019.
- ^ "U.S. Census Annual Population Estimates 2007". Factfinder.census.gov. Archived from the original on May 16, 2013. Retrieved April 18, 2014.
- ^ http://www.census.gov[not specific enough to verify]
- ^ "About the Hispanic Population and its Origin". www.census.gov. Retrieved May 18, 2022.
- ^ "Explore Census Data". data.census.gov. Retrieved May 27, 2022.
- ^ "Explore Census Data". data.census.gov. Retrieved May 27, 2022.
- ^ "U.S. Census website". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved May 14, 2011.
- ^ "Florida DOS Voter Registration Statistics". Archived from the original on April 6, 2019. Retrieved September 26, 2019.
- ^ Leip, David. "Dave Leip's Atlas of U.S. Presidential Elections". uselectionatlas.org. Retrieved June 13, 2018.
- ^ a b c d e f g h i j k "Clay County Public Library System". Retrieved November 16, 2017.