Seaside Bluffs Preserved (St. Augustine, FL)
St. Augustine, Florida, 4/5/2001: Purchase by the Trust for Public Land (TPL) of 23 acres known as the Vaill property on Moultrie Creek in St. Johns County will protect a magnificent environmentally sensitive and archeologically significant site threatened by development as a residential subdivision.
Located on the Intracoastal Waterway just south of St. Augustine, the Vaill property is surrounded by residential development. “There’s not a whole lot of property like this left anywhere in the county,” said Marc Jacalone, St. Johns County Commissioner. “We’re happy to have this in public ownership, and very pleased that it will be available to people in this heavily developed part of the county.”
The Trust for Public Land, working with St. Johns County, closed on the property on April 4. TPL will hold the property while the county, with TPL’s help, seeks state grant funds from the Florida Communities Trust to leverage county dollars. “We are counting on getting that state funding to offset what we’ve got invested in this property,” Jacalone said.
The site is strategically located on a geologically unique 25-foot bluff at the confluence of Moultrie Creek and the Intracoastal Waterway. The property provides panoramic views of the surrounding water bodies and will provide a much-needed canoe and kayak launch site. Vegetative communities include large mature Live Oaks, Southern Magnolia, Cabbage Palm, and Long Leaf and Slash Pines, all indigenous to north Florida.
At least two thirds of the site is located within an archaeological zone listed by the Florida Division of Historical Resources. The site contains shell middens, historic foundations, historic drainage facilities, aboriginal ceramics, European ceramics, glass, and a coquina foundation.
“The bluffs overlooking Moultrie Creek and the Matanzas River at Vaill Point are an extraordinary resource,” said Roger Van Ghent, a member of the county Land Acquisition Management Plan board. “Nowhere else in this county, and in very few places in Florida, do we find a high elevation of oak hammock combined with scenic views of salt marsh, an estuarine tributary, and a tidal river. Looking down from Vaill Point one can imagine what the Indians saw when they camped there.”
Surrounding properties are all single-family residential developments, and the parcel was actively being marketed for sale to residential developers before TPL and the county stepped in.
Vaill Point is one of three properties TPL has preserved in Northeast Florida in the past two weeks. The other two are:
1. A 40-acre tract that will become the site of Fernandina Beach’s new public boat ramp. Nassau County officials asked TPL to help acquire the property because traffic associated with the city’s existing downtown boat ramp was causing problems in the historic downtown area. The city was going to lose its boat ramp, and the next nearest access point was more than 10 miles up the Amelia River. The property was acquired by TPL last week and will be conveyed to the County through a lease/purchase arrangement. The County will develop the property for public boat access during the lease/purchase period.
2. A six-acre site on Egans Creek that will become part of the Egans Creek Greenway. Located in historic Fernandina Beach, the property was destined for development as a new residential subdivision. Instead, the Trust for Public Land, working with the City, purchased the property on March 21. TPL will provide a temporary lease on the property to the city. Ultimate protection of this unique parcel is dependent upon approval by Fernandina Beach voters of the April 10 Open Space Bond Referendum.
Founded in 1972, the Trust for Public Land specializes in conservation real estate, applying its expertise in negotiations, public finance, and law to protect land for public use and enjoyment. Operating in Florida since 1975, TPL has partnered with private landowners, communities, and government agencies to protect more than 220 special places throughout state. 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.