St. Johns River Land Protected for Park

March 21, 2011

A 25-acre parcel of land on the historic St. Johns River in Georgetown was sold to Putnam County and will be permanently protected as a park, The Trust for Public Land (TPL) announced today.

"We are pleased to protect this land as a place which will provide fun and recreation for a wide variety of people," said Susan Grandin, TPL's Jacksonville Field Office Director.

The land was sold for $1.1 million, which was the same price TPL paid for it, said Ms. Grandin.

Dollars for this purchase came from a variety of sources, the Florida Communities Trust grant and Federal Land and Water Conservation Fund and the local match was less than 15% to complete the purchase.

The property is on County Road 309 in Georgetown and includes 650 feet of frontage on the St. Johns River. Preliminary County plans call for it to have a dual boat ramp and docking facility; walking trails; picnic pavilion; children's play area, and restrooms and parking. It will also be a trailhead for the 260-mile St. Johns River to Sea Loop bike trail and a canoe and kayak launch for the newly designated Putnam County Paddling Trail. In addition, the Putnam Land Conservancy has agreed to hold environmental classes on the site several times a year.

Brad Purcell, Chairman of the Putnam County Commission and member of the St. Johns River Alliance said, "We've been very fortunate to capitalize on federal and state grant opportunities to develop this parcel for current citizens and future generations. This parcel will provide public access to our greatest natural resource, something this community has gone without. I want to thank the Biggs and Babbitt family for their shared vision and making this community dream come true."

Five years ago, the county and TPL said more access to the St. Johns River should be a top priority.

Ms. Grandin said, "At that time in 2006, this parcel of land, which had been in the Biggs and Babbitt families for generations, was identified as a key acquisition parcel for river access in the southeast portion of the county. It was wonderful to work with these landowners, both of whom wanted this parcel to be a park, in honor of their shared grandmother, Mabel Hind Biggs."

Nancy Harris, Putnam County Commissioner and Chair of the Putnam Waterways Committee, said, "Georgetown is the perfect spot for our first riverfront park in response to both the Better Place Plan and the visioning process that we began in 2006 regarding our river. Parks today require more than just a boat ramp. We need parking, a place for children to play, and an opportunity for Putnam's citizens to have a place to sit, relax and enjoy the view of our beautiful river. Combining these activities helps us be good stewards of tax dollars. With 25 acres we will be able to accommodate all these uses."

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 2.8 million acres of land in 46 states. In Florida, TPL has protected almost 400 sites.