Alachua County Forever, the County’s conservation lands program, has completed the purchase of an important link to the statewide system of ecological greenways.
The County took ownership of the 1,861-acre property known as Lochloosa Slough from the Trust for Public Lands (TPL) on December 12, 2019 for a price of $4,838,990. Funding for the purchase came from Wild Spaces and Public Places, the eight-year, one-half cent sales tax initiative approved by county voters in 2016.
The County’s Comprehensive Plan identifies the area that includes Lochloosa Slough as a Critical Ecological Corridor. The property adjoins the Orange Creek Restoration Area owned by the St. Johns River Water Management District to the south. It extends to the west, across U.S. Highway 301 to meet the District’s Lochloosa Wildlife Conservation Area. Together, these lands are part of a system of natural areas forming a wildlife corridor that links the Ocala and Osceola National Forests.
Lochloosa Slough is actually a broad stream and wetland that connects Lochloosa Lake to Orange Creek. County management of the slough and surrounding lands helps protect the quality of water that eventually flows into the Ocklawaha and St. Johns rivers.
TPL obtained an option to purchase the property from Weyerhaeuser NR Company in June of 2018 and then offered it to the County. Ultimately, TPL took title several days before transferring it to the County at the same price the organization paid. This arrangement protected the property while the County considered the purchase. It also saved taxpayers money since TPL picked up half the cost of the boundary survey and paid for other transaction costs.
Prior to purchase by the TPL, Weyerhaeuser Company managed the upland portions of the property for pine production. The County will now begin the process of restoring the property’s native plant communities.
Multi-use trails and hunting are among the potential recreation uses that will be considered as staff drafts a management plan for consideration by the Board of County Commissioners.
For more information, contact Alachua County Parks and Conservation Lands Director Charlie Houder at 352-264-6804 or firstname.lastname@example.org