From: The Trust for Public Land (TPL)
Published October 26, 2004 04:26 PM

1,600 Acres on St. Mary's River Preserved (FL)

Contact:
Bob Guido, Sr. Project Manager (850) 222-7911, ext. 27, bob.guido@tpl.org


Baker County, Florida, 10/26/04 - The Trust for Public Land (TPL), a national conservation organization, today announced that is has permanently conserved a 1,632-acre site on the St. Mary's River in Northeast Baker County.


TPL bought the 1,600-acre property, with nearly two miles of river frontage, and transferred the land to Baker County for its permanent protection. Funding for the project came from the Florida Communities Trust (FCT) state grant program.


"We are excited about the acquisition of this property and cannot say enough about TPL and our gratitude to FCT for giving this community the opportunity to provide a potential connector from Osceola National Forest to the St. Mary's River," said Jason Griffis, County Manager.


Plans for recreational programs at the site include canoeing and kayaking facilities for access to Cedar Creek and the St. Mary's River, nature trails, shared-use trails for equestrians, hikers and bicyclists, and primitive and group camping facilities. Facilities will include playground and athletic fields, providing a much-needed regional recreational park for Baker County residents. The regional park also will include a nature center to provide environmental education and interpretive programs based on the resources protected by the park.


"It was important to me as a long-time county resident to preserve this site. Other developers wanted this property and it was important to us that we set it aside. We have very limited public access to the St. Mary's River and it was crucial to the people of Baker County to provide greater access to the water," said Ricky Davis, a partner in the landownership. "We worked for nearly two years to get this accomplished, and without the Trust for Public Land, it would not have happened."


"This is an extraordinary property," said Bob Guido, Sr. Project Manager with the Trust for Public Land. "It was truly gratifying to see how excited the people of Baker County are about this addition to their park system. I'd especially like to thank the landowners, the Baker County Board of Commissioners, the County Manager and staff, and the staff of the Florida Communities Trust Program for their help in making this project possible."


The park's size and location provide an opportunity to provide a meaningful connection between the vast resources of the federally owned and managed Osceola National Forest and Okefenokee Swamp National Wildlife Refuge. The state has been working to acquire lands between these facilities to form a massive greenway and wildlife corridor that would reach the pristine St. Mary's River. The water quality of the river is among the highest in the state, and the scenic bluffs along with the wide, white sandy shoals make for an unrivaled recreational experience.


The overall value of the project can best be summed up by Lew Scruggs, park planner who said, "Of all FCT management plans I have been involved with, St. Mary's Shoals Park is, by far, the most impressive in resource and recreational values."


The Trust for Public Land (TPL) is a national nonprofit land conservation organization that conserves land for people to enjoy as parks, gardens, and natural areas, ensuring livable communities for generations to come. Since its founding in 1972, TPL has helped protect more than 1.9 million acres of land in 45 states. In Florida, TPL has protected more than 290 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 or visit us on the web at http://www.tpl.org


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