Caribbean Gardens Site Protected (FL)

December 19, 2005
Florida

Naples, FL, 12/18/2005- The Trust for Public Land (TPL), a national nonprofit land conservation organization, announced today that it has completed its acquisition of a 166.5-acre site in Naples from the Fleischmann family. The property, which includes the Naples Zoo at Caribbean Gardens, is one of the last large open space tracts in Naples. It has been the subject of a long-term preservation effort by Collier County.

"This is one of the most significant land conservations efforts in Collier County history," said Fred Coyle, Board of County Commissioners Chairman. "We are anxious to assure the continued operation of the Naples Zoo and to provide a passive central park for the enjoyment of residents and visitors of Collier County."

TPL conveyed the property in a series of transactions:

  • Collier County purchased 130 acres for preservation. Approximately 80 acres will remain in its natural state and eventually become a "Central Park" for this fast-growing community. The remaining 50 acres comprise the Naples Zoo and are subject to a lease agreement with the zoo's nonprofit board. TPL assigned the lease to the county.?
  • Seven acres were purchased by the Conservancy of Southwest Florida. The property will remain in its natural state, buffering the Conservancy from neighboring residential and commercial development, and becoming part of the "central park" envisioned for the community.

"Our purchase of this seven acres is significant to the Conservancy and the community," said Andrew McElwaine, president and CEO of the Conservancy of Southwest Florida. "The area will be preserved as greenspace and incorporated into a central park for all to enjoy. It makes tremendous sense from an ecological and recreational perspective."

  • Two tracts totalling 28 acres were sold to Luxury Homes of Naples for development as a residential community.

"I'm glad that the zoo could be saved, and that I could be part of the solution. Now my focus is to create something that will be attractive to the community and respectful of the environment," said Tom Ouverson of Luxury Homes of Naples. He added that it will be several months before he will have plans finalized and ready to unveil.

The Trust for Public Land worked with Collier County for over a year to preserve the Caribbean Gardens site. In October, when it became apparent that an agreement between the county and the Fleischmann family could not be reached, TPL intervened to purchase the property on its own. The purchase price of the property from the Fleischmann family was $67.5 million. TPL identified three tracts totalling approximately 35 acres that were sold separately in order to enable the county to purchase the majority of the site at a price it could afford.

"We were very pleased to be part of the solution to a long-standing conservation challenge in Naples," said Greg Chelius, director of The Trust for Public Land's Florida Office. "Our goal was to preserve and convey to Collier County the greatest amount of property for the least amount of money, and to ensure the continued success of the Naples Zoo. We were successful on both counts."

In addition, TPL worked with the Naples Zoo to sign a long-term lease that will ensure continuity of zoo management.

"We at Naples Zoo express our profound gratitude to all those involved in saving the zoo and surrounding land, said Larry W. Richardson, president of the Naples Zoo board of directors. "The collaboration of The Trust For Public Land, Collier County commissioners, the Fleischmann family and the overwhelming support of voters has ensured that Naples Zoo will be around for generations to enjoy."

Chelius credited the Fleischmann family for their commitment to seeing the land preserved and patience with the acquisition process.

"This project would not have happened without the Fleischmann family's willingness to put aside offers from developers and work with us," Chelius said. "They really wanted to see this land preserved for the people of Collier County and Florida, and for that we owe them a big thank-you."

"We are pleased that this transaction will protect these lands in perpetuity for the citizens of Collier County," said Paul Selzer, a spokesperson for the family. "Through this sale Dielle and Charles Fleischmann and their children have helped to preserve Julius Fleischmann's treasured legacy as a lifelong steward of Caribbean Gardens and his vision of the gardens as a botanical haven in the heart of the community."

The Trust for Public Land (TPL) is a national nonprofit land conservation organization that conserves land for people to enjoy as parks, gardens, historic sites, rural lands, and other natural areas, ensuring livable communities for generations to come. Since its founding in 1972, TPL has helped protect more than 2 million acres of land in 46 states. In Florida, TPL has protected more than 300 sites - over 200,000 acres at a market value of about $500 million. The Trust for Public Land depends on the support and generosity of individuals, foundations, and businesses to achieve our land for people mission. For more information please contact us at 850-222-7911 or visit us on the web at www.tpl.org.?