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Flatwoods Preserve continues to expand

By Staff | Dec 21, 2008

One of the most environmentally important pieces of property on Pine Island continues to expand with the aid of Lee County Conservation 20/20 and the Pine Island Calusa Land Trust organization. Having recently acquired an additional 10 acres, the Pine Island Flatwoods Preserve now spans a total of 729 acres on the south end of the island.
The landowners originally were asking $495,000 for the property, but following negotiations with the Division of County Lands, the selling price dropped to $250,000. Of that total, $5,000 was contributed for the purchase by the Calusa Land Trust. The land trust, in conjunction with C20/20, will manage and maintain the property in perpetuity.
“The Calusa Land Trust has had great success working with 20/20. The only money we have comes from memberships and donations so when working with 20/20 it helps our money to go a long way,” said Harold Bruner, president and land acquisition chair with CLT. “We also were fortunate in that the owners of the property, John and Rachi Farrow, were very cooperative when negotiating the price. They worked with us because they also felt the land should be preserved.”
According to Bruner, 20/20 does not generally consider the purchase of such a small piece of property, however since this piece of property abutts the existing preserve and due to its pristine condition, 20/20 committee members made an exception.
The 10 acres is primarily made up of a pristine pine palmetto forest which is in an area of privately owned land surrounded on three sides by other portions of the Flatwoods Preserve. The group of private lands, also known as “out parcels,” makes stewardship a greater challenge, however, acquisition of this parcel begins the process of removing the out parcels over time.
The Pine Island Flatwoods Preserve is located on the west side of Stringfellow Road about 4 1/2 miles from the island center. Available for passive recreation, visitors will find a trail head marker in the parking lot on Stringfellow Road. Several hiking trails take visitors to upland areas, wooded lots and salt flats all within the boundaries of the preserve. Wildlife and native vegetation are very abundant on the property and even serves as the home of a nesting pair of bald eagles, several gopher tortoises and many varieties of birds.
Other property on the island funded in part by the 20/20 program are the Edison and Bocilla Preserves at the north end of the island and the Eagle and Galt Preserves in St. James City. These preserves are under the stewardship of the Calusa Land Trust as well.
Bruner said that earlier this month the Calusa Land Trust presented another 200-acre property to be considered for purchase using 20/20 funds. This large tract of land had been brought before 20/20 committee members in the past but was rejected. However, those with CLT feel that it is environmentally significant and hopes that it may be reconsidered for purchase by C20/20 members.
The Conservation 20/20 program buys environmentally important land throughout Lee County to be preserved and spared from future development. It is funded with a portion of property taxes collected each year from Lee County taxpayers.
For every $1,000 of taxable property value, $.50 is earmarked for 20/20 specifically for land acquisition.
Since having been approved by a referendum in 1996, Conservation 20/20 has purchased 96 parcels of land and now has an inventory of 20,560 acres.