Florida Conservation Highlights for 2002

Tallahassee, 1/2/03— Last year the Trust for Public Land completed 26 conservation projects in 13 counties in Florida, protecting 1500 acres valued at almost $36.7 million. The value of these lands to future Floridians: priceless.

The projects ranged from a 1.6-acre waterfront parcel in Ft. Walton Beach that will become a city park, to a more than 400-acre site near Orlando that has been added to the Florida National Scenic Trail. These acquisitions bring the total projects in Florida to 259 since the Trust for Public Land began acquiring land in Florida in 1978. All of the sites were acquired with the purpose of turning the land over to a public entity such as city, county, state or federal government, to be preserved as open or green space for the public to enjoy.

“Our successes last year occurred in the heart of our cities, on the urban fringe, and in wilderness areas,” said TPL State Director Greg Chelius. “The new year promises to yield even more spectacular results of connecting people with Florida’s most precious lands.”

The Miracle Strip Park-on-the-Sound in Ft. Walton Beach is a former restaurant site across the street from City Hall and one of the last remaining properties along Santa Rosa Sound not developed or slated for development. It eventually will serve as a terminus for the proposed Walton’s Walk, a waterfront boardwalk being planned to link other public spaces along Santa Rosa Sound.

The 470-acre site known as Mills Creek Woodlands was designated part of the Florida National Scenic Trail in a ceremony on October 27, 2002. Congressman John Mica joined the Florida Trail Association and TPL, and members of the Murray Family and the Pineloch Management Corporation, former owners of the property, to celebrate the preservation of the site, which will protect a two-mile section of the Florida Trail that will link to the Big Little Econ State Forest to the northwest and Seminole County’s Chuluota Wilderness to the southeast. This was the largest single purchase by the USDA Forest Service for the Florida National Scenic Trail.

Some additional projects include:

Goffinsville Park, a beautiful 19-acre oak hammock on the Nassau River in northeast Florida, is now a Nassau County Park. The property has a high bluff, with deep river access and a marsh vista. The site is the original location of Nassauville, one of the first organized settlements in the area and the location of the east coast’s first oyster canning plant, build sometime after the end of the Civil War.

Atlantic Industrial Services Site, a 4.3-acre site in unincorporated Broward County. Purchase of this property saved from industrial development this parcel located just south of the City of Pompano Beach. The site will be used as a neighborhood park and as a buffer to an adjacent environmentally sensitive site known as “The Jungle ESL”. This is the fifth property TPL has purchased and conveyed to the county since leading the successful public finance campaign that is financing the county’s $400 million land preservation program.

Auby Park, a 15-acre tract in the classic Keys fishing village of Islamorada that will preserve one of Florida’s rarest upland habitats, the tropical hardwood hammock. The site contains a native tropical hardwood hammock and mangroves that feature rare Keys flora and fauna, including the endangered East Indian mahogany tree and the tree snail. It will be kept primarily in its natural state with limited public access via walking trails leading to the water.

Bayview Park in Clearwater preserves one of the last vestiges of natural open space in urban Pinellas County. The park is located in one of the first settlements in Pinellas County, Bayview, and is within the city of Clearwater. The 4.5-acre site at the heavily traveled intersection of Gulf-to-Bay Boulevard (SR 60) and the Bayside Bridge will become a public passive recreation and environmental park. A joint effort by the city and the Historic Bayview Neighborhood will improve the park to include a walking nature trail with environmental education kiosks, picnic facilities and a trail to access the beachfront on Old Tampa Bay.

The Historic Kroegel Homestead is a part of the Pelican Island National Wildlife Refuge designated by President Theodore Roosevelt in 1903. Paul Kroegel became the first warden for Pelican Island and he voluntarily protected the habitat for a dollar per year. In 1963 Pelican Island was designated a National Historic Landmark – a first for a national wildlife refuge – and now draws over 30,000 visitors annually. The property added to the park this year contains the house built for Paul Kroegel’s son, Arthur Rodney Kroegel, as well as Paul’s photo studio and two workroom/warehouses filled with the memorabilia of the first warden of the national wildlife refuge system.

Beach and Peach Urban Park, located on the south side of Beach Boulevard in Jacksonville, is one of the few open spaces in a mostly commercial and multi-family neighborhood. Working with the City of Jacksonville’s Preservation Project, the Trust for Public Land acquired the land and conveyed the 68-acre site to the city for a neighborhood park. This urban park is one of several projects TPL has worked on for the Preservation Project. Others completed this year include: Palms Fish Camp, a two-acre parcel within the National Park Service’s Timucuan Preserve; and Ribault River, a 35-acre property located in one of Jacksonville’s older neighborhoods.

Lake Toho Park, a 12-acre site formerly known as Scotty’s Landing was conveyed to Osceola County and will become a lakefront park and boating/fishing marina. Before being purchased by TPL it was slated for a 60-unit gated multifamily housing development. Now that it is in public ownership plans call for development of the permitted boat slips for much-needed public access to the birding, boating, and fishing on Lake Tohopekaliga.

In its ongoing efforts to preserve land for people’s use, the Trust for Public Land is working on numerous projects for next year. One of the most significant is an addition to Salt River National Historical Park and Ecological Preserve, St. Croix, US Virgin Islands. The site – which was donated to TPL on December 20, 2002 – will be donated to the National Park Service. Salt River NHS is a relatively new unit of the National Park Service. It is the only location in United States territory where Christopher Columbus landed in any of his voyages to the New World. He visited Salt River on his second voyage, in 1493. NPS is expanding the boundaries of the park and TPL is working on a number of projects to acquire inholdings and adjacent properties at Salt River.

About TPL: Founded in 1972, the Trust for Public Land is a national nonprofit organization that works exclusively to protect land for human enjoyment and well-being. TPL helps conserve land for recreation and spiritual nourishment and to improve the health and quality of life of American communities. Operating in Florida since 1975, TPL has helped save more than 250 sites as community parks, waterfronts, historic sites, greenways and trails. The Wall Street Journal’s Smart Money magazine recently named TPL the nation’s most efficient large conservation charity for the third year in a row, based on the percentage of funds dedicated to programs.

Posted 1/8//03