Jacksonville (FL) Waterway Parcel Protected

Jacksonville Beach, 8/9/01 – A 36-acre site on the eastern side of Pablo Creek (part of the Intracoastal Waterway) in Jacksonville Beach has been permanently protected from development by the Trust for Public Land (TPL), a national nonprofit conservation organization, working with the City of Jacksonville Beach and the City of Jacksonville.

The site, known locally as the Helow property, contains both fresh and saltwater marshes, as well as 11 acres of uplands. Residential developments lie to the north (Marshside) and east (Plantation Oaks), with the Intracoastal saltwater marsh to the west and south. The tract is one of the last remaining pieces of undeveloped land on the Intracoastal in the area.

The property was destined to be developed as a new residential subdivision. Instead, the Trust for Public Land purchased the property, and then sold it to the City of Jacksonville Beach. The City of Jacksonville provided assistance with 50 percent of the funding through the Preservation Project. The City of Jacksonville Beach is applying for state matching funds through the Florida Communities Trust program in order to finance the acquisition. The word as to whether that application will be successful will be out in December of this year.

“This property is located on the Intracoastal Waterway in the heart of Jacksonville Beach,” said Susan Grandin, director of TPL’s Jacksonville Office. “It is heavily wooded, with very large, mature trees. This location will make an excellent point along the Intracoastal for canoe portage and a stop for canoists from other points on the waterway.”

“This was an opportunity of a lifetime to preserve these lands,” said George Forbes, city manager of Jacksonville Beach. “The city is being built out so quickly, if we hadn’t moved fast to purchase the property we would have lost it to development. The Trust for Public Land was instrumental in this project, working with the landowners to purchase the property and then working out the partnership with the City of Jacksonville. Jacksonville also has been a tremendous help, providing 50 percent of the purchase price and helping guide us through the process.”

“It was very refreshing to see two local governments working together so well,” Grandin said. “If the state funding is approved, both the City of Jacksonville Beach and the City of Jacksonville will have contributed 25 percent each to the cost of acquisition, with the state picking up the remaining 50 percent. Its a great way to stretch local tax dollars.”

Forbes said the land will be preserved primarily in its natural state, with the addition of boardwalks for nature viewing and a canoe launch site.

“My dream is to have a canoe trail along the Intracoastal Waterway that connects beach communities,” Forbes said. “The Helow site is a wonderful site – you can see a beautiful part of the old Pablo River, with lots of wildlife, including eagles. We’re turning it into a nature preserve where people can hike and canoe and see nature and the original Florida. That’s a much better use than turning it into a subdivision.”

Connecting beach communities also is a goal of the City of Jacksonville.

“The marshland tributaries on this site are an important part of a blueway we’ve been working on along the Intracoastal Waterway, allowing people to canoe or kayak along the waterway without being in the main channel,” said Jerry Holland, Jacksonville City Councilman, District 3. “This piece will help connect the north end of the county’s beaches with south end and integrate the two sides of the intracoastal.”

Holland pointed out that this is the third project the City of Jacksonville has supported along the blueway. The first was a partnership with the City of Atlantic Beach to purchase theDutton Island Preserve, and the second was a series of purchases with the Trust for Public Land which are now Castaway Island Preserve.

About TPL: Founded in 1972, the Trust for Public Land is a national nonprofit organization working 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, based on the percentage of funds dedicated to programs. For more information, please visit our web site at www.tpl.org.