Alachua County and Alachua Conservation Trust (ACT) recently completed a joint acquisition that permanently protects important wildlife habitat in the Lochloosa Forest Project. The purchase of the 578 acres known as Fox Pen from Weyerhaeuser NR Company closed on January 15, 2019. The total purchase price was $1,321,177.
The 59,853-acre Lochloosa Forest Project Area is located in the eastern third of Alachua County. It extends southwards 27 miles from the Santa Fe River on the County’s northern boundary, to the Orange Creek Restoration Area in the southeastern corner of the County. It connects several existing state and local conservation areas.
The acquisition of the Fox Pen tract will protect the outstanding waters and wildlife species diversity within the Orange Creek Basin. The property is a mix of sandhill, flatwoods, and mesic hammock. This land south of Hawthorne has longleaf pine, wiregrass, and other critical native plant species necessary for a thriving ecosystem. The yet named preserve will offer passive public recreation in addition to improving the water quality area and providing wildlife habitat.
“This land is not only important to protect the waters in the Orange Creek Basin, but it also offers important habitat for such species as the gopher tortoise, indigo snake, and Florida black bear,” said ACT’s executive Director Tom Kay. “This property has some of the best intact native groundcover in the area, which will speed up the restoration of this landscape.”
View a regional conservation map.
The County purchased 383.5 acres through the Alachua County Forever program with funding from the Wild Spaces and Public Places initiative. The County’s purchase price was $876,492.
View a close-up aerial map.
ACT contributed $444,685 in private funds to purchase 194.5 acres of the preserve and will provide day-to-day management for the entire property. Planned improvements include walking paths open to the public, two trailheads, bike racks, informational kiosks, benches, and a parking area. The preserve is slated to open in early 2020.
The Wild Spaces and Public Places initiative levied an eight-year, one-half-cent sales tax approved by county voters in November 2016. Funds generated through Wild Spaces and Public Places pay for the purchase of conservation lands and the improvement of recreational facilities throughout the county and its municipalities.
For more information, contact Alachua County Parks and Conservation Lands Director Charlie Houder at 352-264-6804 or firstname.lastname@example.org.