March 19, 2009
ALACHUA COUNTY, FL - Alachua County and the Department of Community Affairs today announced that together they had acquired Levy Prairie through the assistance of Florida Forever funds provided by Florida Communities Trust (FCT). The County's share came from the last of the Alachua County Forever funds. The 3,309-acre property expands the county's "Emerald Necklace" initiative, an ecological corridor of trails, greenways and open spaces that include several previously acquired FCT and County projects.
"Levy Prairie will greatly enhance an already excellent network of conservation lands in Alachua County and provide even more recreational opportunities for residents and visitors," said DCA Secretary Tom Pelham. "I am pleased for the county's continued success in preserving its local treasures through its ongoing partnership with Florida Communities Trust."
Levy Prairie is adjacent to Paynes Prairie State Preserve in south central Alachua County and it forms the entire northern boundary of the Barr Hammock Preserve, which was previously acquired by Alachua County through the assistance of FCT. These two properties create more than 5,000 acres of contiguous publicly-owned conservation land, further enhancing the "Emerald Necklace" corridor. The proposed recreational facilities for Levy Prairie include a hiking trails and wildlife observation platforms. Florida Communities Trust awarded more than $2.9 million in Florida Forever funds to the project. The Alachua County Commission, through the Alachua County Forever Land Conservation Program, contributed $100,000. The Federal Government, through the North American Wetland Conservation Act contributed $1 million and the sellers generously donated the final $800,000 in land value towards the acquisition.
"Levy Prairie is one of the largest, most beautiful, and ecologically intact pieces of land left unprotected in Alachua County," said Alachua County Commission Chairman Mike Byerly. "With the landowner's and FCT's assistance we will be able to provide an important connection between Paynes Prairie Preserve State Park and the county's Barr Hammock Preserve."
Alachua County has been a strong partner with Florida Communities Trust in preserving green space and recreational opportunities. Starting with the Mill Creek Nature Preserve in 2002, FCT has now awarded more than $13 million in Florida Forever funds to Alachua County projects. Additionally, more than $9 million in local matching funds have been provided, resulting in more than 6,900 acres preserved for open space and recreational purposes.
Florida Communities Trust is a state land acquisition grant program that has provided more than $752 million to local communities to preserve parks and recreational space with $63 million of Florida Forever funds available each year through its Parks and Open Space grant program.
The Alachua County Forever program is a voter-approved bond-funded conservation land acquisition program passed in 2000 to acquire, improve and manage environmentally sensitive lands. This project is the last project funded by the original Alachua County Forever Bond. Future projects will be funded by the 1/2-cent Wild Spaces Public Places Surtax passed by the voters in 2008.
For more information on Florida Communities Trust or the Department of Community Affairs, please visit www.dca.state.fl.us.
For more information about Alachua County Forever, click here, call 352-264-6800, or email email@example.com.