On January 31, 2023, Alachua County and Alachua Conservation Trust partnered to protect 128 acres of conservation land along the Upper Santa Fe River. Through the $441,385 purchase of the Santa Fe River-Bell property, two-thirds of a mile of frontage on the Santa Fe river was acquired (with ACT purchasing 21 acres in Bradford County on the north side of the river and Alachua County purchasing 107 acres in Alachua County on the south side of the river).
Located west of Waldo, this property falls in the highest priority geographic project area for the Alachua County Forever Program, protecting the Santa Fe River corridor. The Santa Fe River is an Outstanding Florida Waterway that flows for 75 miles through seven counties in North Florida before merging into the Suwannee River. Protecting land along the Santa Fe River not only safeguards North Florida’s drinking water supply, it also protects the water quality of the river itself and the springs that flow into it and creates a corridor of land for wildlife to roam freely. The river also forms the northern boundary of Alachua County, which added to the complexity of this conservation land purchase.
This property could not have been protected without Alachua Conservation Trust’s ability to partner with the County and their ability to protect land outside of Alachua County. ACT regularly works with Alachua County Forever to protect land within the County by providing broader regional connectivity to the local efforts. As part of this acquisition, ACT raised funds to protect the 21 acres in Bradford County. The Alachua County Forever program utilized $367,465 in funding from the Wild Spaces and Public Places initiative to acquire the remaining 107 acres located in Alachua County.
“ACT is thankful to our partners at Alachua County Forever for recognizing the importance of conserving land along the Santa Fe River,” said ACT Executive Director Tom Kay. “Being able to partner with local, state, and federal agencies helps leverage funding sources, such as the Wild Spaces & Public Places program, with private funds to ensure that Florida’s natural lands and waterways are protected in perpetuity.”
Plans for the property include longleaf pine habitat restoration and passive public recreational access.
The Bell property is the first Alachua County Forever acquisition of 2023, following County voters’ re-authorization of the Wild Spaces and Public Places initiative in 2022. The Alachua County Forever program has protected 32,690 acres since its inception in 2000.
For more information, contact Alachua County Land Conservation and Management Program Manager Andi Christman at 352-264-6803 or [email protected]
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