Spruce Creek Property Preserved (FL)

Port Orange, FL, 7/21/05 – Seventeen acres of a previously inaccessible, rare natural area along Spruce Creek will soon be transformed into a public park, complete with hiking trails, a playground, and picnic areas.

The Trust for Public Land (TPL), a national nonprofit land conservation organization, purchased the property from landowner E.W. “Bill” Russell, a retired developer, on July 18, 2005. The property will eventually be purchased by the City of Port Orange using funds from the Florida Communities Trust and Volusia Forever land acquisition programs. TPL will hold the property until funds are available.

In the 1970s, Russell developed the Summer Trees subdivision, which is located to the north of the 17-acre property. Russell originally intended this property to be part of the adjacent subdivision, but the property’s towering oak trees and meandering blackwater creek lured him into building only a small home for himself, leaving the rest of the property in a relatively natural, untouched state. In addition to the 100-year-old oak trees and rare blackwater creek, the site also contains many species of wildlife, including deer, opossums, and raccoons.

“It’s a beautiful piece of property,” said Kent Donahue, grants coordinator for the City of Port Orange. “There’s an abundance of wildlife, including documented panther activity. There are even stories of a 14-foot alligator nicknamed ‘Old One-Eyed Joe,’ estimated to be over 50 years old.”

Lindsay Stevens, project manager for the Trust for Public Land’s Northeast Florida Office in Jacksonville, said that Russell always knew the benefits of keeping the land undeveloped.

“Mr. Russell really wanted to see his land preserved and turned into a park for the public,” said Stevens. “As a native of the Spruce Creek area, he remembers the way the area used to look over 70 years ago. He wanted to keep a little piece of that memory and share it with others.”

The property will give residents and visitors to Port Orange and Volusia County direct access to Spruce Creek through pontoon-boat trips and canoeing and kayaking trails. Since access to Spruce Creek is very limited, the waterway can be experienced in its natural state. Visitors will also be able to visit the historic Gamble Place, the former winter residence of James Gamble (of Proctor & Gamble), which features a cracker-style house constructed in 1907.

The Spruce Creek project is TPL’s first project with the City of Port Orange, but it builds upon TPL’s prior work with the Volusia Forever county grant program.

“This fits in perfectly with our idea of land preservation. We’re glad that TPL partnered with us in this project,” said Ken Parker, city manager of Port Orange.

The result of this partnership will be a beautiful park where residents can access the black waters of Spruce Creek while preserving an important wildlife corridor for some of Florida’s indigenous species.

“This is such a rare piece of land,” said Donahue. “We have to save it so that our children and grandchildren are able to experience all the natural beauty of Florida.”

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 www.tpl.org.