Agreement to Purchase Caribbean Gardens (FL)

Naples, FL, 10/10/2005 — The Trust for Public Land (TPL), a national nonprofit land conservation organization, announced today that it has entered into a contract with the Fleischmann family to purchase the 166.5-acre Caribbean Gardens site, with the goal of long-term protection of the historic Naples Zoo and surrounding property.

Now that TPL has worked out a deal with the current landowner that takes the property off the market, the organization will begin immediately working on how to preserve and convey to Collier County the greatest amount of property for the least amount of money. The contract has a purchase price of $67.5 million, and gives TPL until November 8 to make a deal with the county and until December 15 to complete the purchase.

“Caribbean Gardens is an unusual case because of its history, and the great interest the community has in preserving the site,” said Greg Chelius, Florida director of the Trust for Public Land. “We are very pleased to be a pivotal part of the solution.”

Fleischmann family spokesman Paul Selzer added, “We are delighted that TPL has taken the initiative to preserve Caribbean Gardens and the Naples Zoo. This is a great day for the family, the zoo, and the community. Now it is up to county government to make this dream a reality.”

The Trust for Public Land has been working with Collier County for over a year in an effort to preserve the Caribbean Gardens site. When an agreement between the county and the Fleischmann family could not be reached, TPL intervened to purchase the property on its own. Now TPL will work with the county to preserve the zoo, any environmentally sensitive land on the site, and as much of the remaining property as is economically feasible. The remaining property will be land banked or sold for compatible development to recoup the cost of the acquisition.

In addition, TPL will be working with the Naples Zoo to sign a long-term lease, contingent on TPL acquiring the property, which will ensure continuity of zoo management. Presently, the zoo has no lease and is operating on a month-to-month basis.

“We will be looking at providing bid packages to developers concerning a portion of the property, sale of which will greatly offset the amount the county will have to pay for a majority of the land,” said Chelius. “We hope to provide one or more good acquisition proposals for the county to consider. Time is of the essence and everyone will have to work quickly.”

In many ways this project is similar to TPL’s work on preserving Marineland and Cypress Gardens. TPL, like the communities surrounding those attractions, would like to have seen all the property go into public ownership. When that was not possible, TPL worked quickly as a private company to meet the public’s goal by conveying some of the property for development.

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