Alachua County Forever, the County’s environmental land acquisition program, has closed on purchasing 189 acres of land from Betty and Joel Matthews. The closing was held on Friday, February 10, 2023, and protects over half a mile of frontage on the Santa Fe River. The voter-approved Wild Spaces and Public Places one-half-cent sales tax provided funding for this $841,798 conservation land purchase.
“Protecting family land through conservation provides an exciting way to combine a family legacy and love for their land with a healthier and more sustainable future for the next generations of Alachua County citizens,” said Alachua County Land Conservation and Management Program Manager Andi Christman.
Protection of the Matthews property connects the family’s history of land ownership in the County to the future significantly. This important property protects the wetland floodplain forest and key uplands on the Santa Fe River’s south bank. The Santa Fe River is a unique, spring-fed system, the protection of which is one of the highest priorities of the Alachua County Forever program. Only one mile downstream from the property is an unnamed fourth-magnitude spring, and the first magnitude Santa Fe Spring (AKA Columbia Spring) is only 0.3 miles further. Protection of lands like the Matthews property helps to safeguard the drinking water supply of North Florida and protects the water quality of the river itself and the springs that flow into it. Decades of efforts by public and private conservation partners have assembled an expanding corridor of protected land along this Outstanding Florida Waterway, which this property helps to secure further. The commitment of the Matthews family to the protection of this land was critical to the conservation of this property.
Future plans for the property include longleaf pine habitat restoration and nature-based public recreational access, highlighting a sweeping view over the floodplain forest into Union County and a pristine section of the Santa Fe River.
The Matthews property is the second Alachua County Forever acquisition of 2023, following County voters' re-authorization of the Wild Spaces and Public Places initiative in 2022. Through ongoing citizen support, the program has protected 32,879 acres since its inception in 2000.