TPL Unveils Plan to Conserve the St. Johns River (FL)

October 18, 2006
Florida

Putnam County, FL, 10/18/2006: The Trust for Public Land, a national nonprofit land conservation organization, announced today that its Jacksonville office is working to create a comprehensive St. Johns River Greenprint, a detailed conservation plan that will identify key natural sites within the St. Johns watershed and establish priorities for which sites to save, how they should be used and managed, and which are suitable for river-based commercial uses such as marinas, restaurants, hotels, and fuel sales. The greenprinting will begin in Putnam County.

The planning process will depend on a collaborative effort - conservationists working in partnership with area residents, business interests, land owners, developers, and public officials.

"This planning process is vital to the future of the St. Johns River - and Putnam County," said Putnam County Commission Chairwoman Linda Myers. "The St. Johns is our river and it's the heart of Putnam County. The greenprinting effort is a very important step for our community."

"Putnam County's local elected leadership understands how important the St. Johns River is to those we represent and the significance of our location to the region," said Putnam County Commissioner Brad Purcell. "We are committed to developing strategies that will preserve, protect, and bring us closer to our greatest natural resource. The Trust for Public Land brings a shared vision and the expertise needed to formalize a plan that will provide the greenprint for future generations. We truly are exited about leading this effort."

TPL staff members are working with Putnam County in the planning process to help county and municipal governments along the river plan for the future of the region, identify priority sites for preservation, and facilitate acquisitions. Based on conversations with local leaders, TPL's greenprinting effort will include five key steps:

  1. 1. Engage local community members in the planning process.
  2. 2. Collect data and develop a GIS (Geographic Information System) model to identify high priority lands for protection, restoration, park development, and waterfront related commercial uses such as marinas, restaurants and hotels.
  3. 3. Identify and pursue potential funding for community conservation goals.
  4. 4. Identify potential economic and regulatory incentives for creating or maintaining private sector public access points.
  5. 5. Produce a comprehensive set of guidelines and recommendations.

"The number of jurisdictions involved and the amount of cooperation and coordination needed to complete this project make this a unique effort," said Bob Rhodes, chair of TPL's Northeast Florida advisory council. "The key to success will be to engage land owners and all stakeholders early. Our goal is not only to preserve the area around the St. Johns, but also to establish a model process for other communities to replicate."

Winding more than 300 miles, the St. Johns River is the longest river in Florida and one of few rivers in the western hemisphere flowing from south to north. The St. Johns and its tributaries drain about one-sixth of the state, an area of about 8,700 square miles. Because it flows slowly, the St. Johns is highly vulnerable to pollutants and particularly vulnerable to the effects of northeast Florida's continued growth and urbanization. Land along the river is rapidly being developed, and the region faces many of the ill effects of growth: sprawl, traffic congestion, pollution, damage to environmentally sensitive lands, loss of public access to scenic land and, as a result, harm to both the environment and residents' quality of life.

In the St. Johns watershed TPL works closely with the St. Johns River Alliance, the St. Johns Riverkeeper, the Stewards of the St. Johns, the St. Johns River Water Management District, and other local and regional organizations.

"Our aim is to create a greenprint conservation plan for the entire 310-mile length of the St. Johns, including its tributaries," said Susan Grandin, director of TPL's Jacksonville office. "We are beginning in Putnam County because it has the most river frontage, natural land is still relatively affordable and available for acquisition, and county leaders recognize the need and asked for our help. This planning process really puts Putnam County on the cutting edge."

In Northeast Florida, TPL has worked extensively on the City of Jacksonville's Preservation Project, a major initiative to manage growth and development while preserving the city's quality of life. In five years, TPL helped preserve more than 3,500 acres in 23 sites, enabling the city to acquire for $54 million land valued at $62 million, a saving of $8 million. Other important TPL efforts in Northeast Florida include acquisition of the 260-acre Moccasin Slough on the St. Johns River in Clay County and the heavily forested Martin's Island, a pristine barrier island off the coast of Nassau County.

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. Operating in Florida since 1975, 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.