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The Gulf Coast Conservancy takes pride in expansion of the Nature Coast Greenway and Wildlife Corridor.

SWFWMD Governing Board OK’s Boat Springs Purchase

Reversing a policy of recent years, SWFWMD governing board authorized the purchase of approximately 86 acres lying across the border of Hernando and Pasco Counties.

These parcels owned by Fleamasters, Inc. have been on the acquisition list of both counties for several years, but the Hernando Board of County Commissioners refused to authorize payment. Pasco County, on the other hand, has frequently expressed a desire to proceed.

Enter SWFWMD. Under new direction from Tallahassee, the water management district became involved and was able to reach agreement with the property owner on a price. While the contract has not yet closed, there appears to be no obstacles to the acquisition and probable addition to the Weeki Wachee Preserve.

Combined Hernando/Pasco County Appraiser’s Maps (some property lines removed); click for larger version.

The acquisition (outlined in red), totals 85 acres, with approximately 54 acres in Hernando County and 30 acres in Pasco County. The property is a mosaic of springs, spring runs, a natural sand ridge rising to 40 feet, and freshwater swamps that support the adjoining saltwater estuary of Hammock Creek.

The springs are part of the Hammock Creek system, a second-magnitude system. It includes Boat, Magnolia, and Aripeka 1 and 2 springs, which all flow into Hammock Creek that connects with the Gulf of Mexico at the SR 594 bridge in the village of Aripeka. Locals have long used the estuary as a premier site for fishing and kayaking, and visiting fishermen drop their lines from the two bridges every day. Placing the headwater parcels in protection will go a long way toward ensuring the health of this valuable recreational asset.

Aripeka Sands Park Opens To Public

The GCC had sought to facilitate public purchase of the 210 acre Aripeka Sands property as part of the Greater Chassahowitzka Black bear population range. The parcel, originally slated for 235 residential units, is now permanently protected and open for the public to enjoy. We worked for several years to oppose development of the property.

New ownership along with a downturn in the real estate market enabled acquisition by the Pasco Environmental Lands Program in partnership with the SWFWMD. The diversity of habitat and presence of several imperiled species make it a key section of the Weeki Wachee Preserve's southern end.
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Land Acquisition

The Gulf Coast Conservancy is proud of its role in the expansion of the Nature Coast Greenway and Wildlife Corridor. As a result of acquisitions by federal, state, and local government agencies, more than 75,000 acres have been preserved in Citrus, Hernando, and Pasco counties since 1992.

  • With negotiation by the GCC in 1994, Oak Sound became the Weeki Wachee Preserve when an offer was made for the property by SWFWMD. Six thousand proposed homes and shops became a 7000 acre preserve.
  • The GCC has proposed creation of Aripeka Coastal Greenway, identified member parcels to SWFWMD. Parcels are listed in their 5 year plan. Several parcels have been acquired with GCC serving as facilitator.
  • Two parcels donated to the GCC were transferred to SWFWMD. The GCC proposed the ACG to the Hernando Environmentally Sensitive Lands Program and it was ranked in their Land Acquisition Program.
  • The GCC has proposed parcels in the ACG to the Pasco ESL for acquisition. As a result of GCC facilitation, the 210 acre parcel known as Aripeka Heights was acquired in 2007 and 250 homes were not built in core bear habitat.
  • We are continuing to work to complete the ACG as an extension of the Weeki Wachee Preserve.

Presence in the Community

  • Press articles, radio programs.
  • Partnerships with other organizations, Pascowildlife, Hernando Audubon, Gulf Restoration Network, Defenders of Wildlife.
  • GCC board participation in State Parks Planning, and Environmental and Land Conservation initiatives.
  • Planning Awards from the Sons of Norway, Conservation Group of the Year from the Land Trust Alliance, Florida Greenways Commission Grant.
  • Service on the Interagency Bear Working Group, Hernando Environmental Sensitive Lands Committee, Pasco ELASC, River Task Force, Pasco County Greenways, Trails & Blueways Advisory Committee.
  • Testified before Hernando and Pasco Development Review, Planning and Zoning, and Boards of County Commissioners to insure habitat preservation is considered in land use decisions.
  • Initiated an Ecotourism program for Hernando County.
  • Participation in events: Swampfest, Umatilla Bear Festival, Crystal River National Wildlife Celebration, Crews Lake Earth Day Celebrations.
  • Supported larger sanctuary for manatees in Homosassa in 2001.
  • Educational presentations for civic groups and at yearly public meetings.
  • Chosen by FFWC to Beta Test new software.

 

 

GCC members are a common sight at community events throughout the Nature Coast.
Children have no problem understanding that bears are important.

The GCC mascot travels to community events to teach young and old citizens about the Florida black bear.

 

GCC Florida Black Bear Hotline

  • The Bear Hotline started in 1995, and resulted in the Bear study by the University of Kentucky funded by SWFWMD.
  • The Bear Hotline continues to collect data on sightings of bears.
  • Worked w/ Hernando County to move the site of a new transfer station to minimize contact with bears.
  • Received permit from FWC to display mounted bear cub at educational events.

Memorial funds for board members Niki Everitt and Linda Pedersen enabled GCC to provide an educational display at the Springs Coast Environmental Center in Hernando County.

Nature Pays

The GCC "Nature Pays" initiative, with resulting brochure, was effective is showing citizens and policy makers the true costs of uncontrolled development.