Today Governor Rick Scott and the Florida Cabinet, as the Board of Trustees, approved the purchase of more than 155 acres of property adjacent to the Lower Wekiva River Preserve State Park in central Florida and approved the sale of surplus, non-conservation lands totaling more than $27 million.
Governor Scott said, "It is important that we invest in preservation of the state's valuable natural resources like land and water so they are available for Florida families for generations to come. I believe in being a good steward of state resources and believe today's approval of the sale of certain properties and acquisition of conservation land are both win-win scenarios."
"Audubon Florida applauds the decision by Governor Scott to allow the sale of non-conservation lands to put the funds into preserving the environment," said Executive Director of Audubon Florida Eric Draper. "The Wekiva-Ocala Greenway is a long-sought and high priority for Florida Forever. Today's purchase brings us one step closer to a ribbon of green stretching between two of Florida's largest parks. The Wekiva-Ocala Greenway provides waterfront access for people and provides a corridor for bears and other wildlife. We are excited that additional land acquisition is planned for the Greenway."
"I applaud the Cabinet's approval of the 2014 Florida Forever workplan today that includes acquisition priorities that will further land and water resource protection in Florida," said Janet Bowman with the Nature Conservancy. "We look forward to the proceeds of the sale of non-conservation state properties approved today being used to purchase Florida Forever conservation priorities as soon as possible."
The Board of Trustees approved the acquisition of more than 155 acres of property adjacent to the Lower Wekiva River Preserve State Park. The property within the Wekiva-Ocala Greenway protects the Little Wekiva River and St. Johns River basins by preserving natural corridors connecting Wekiwa Springs State Park, Rock Springs Run State Reserve, the Lower Wekiva River Preserve State Park and Hontoon Island State Park as well as the Ocala National Forest. The springs, rivers, lakes, swamps and uplands stretching north from Orlando to the Ocala National Forest are an important refuge for the Florida black bear, as well as other wildlife such as the bald eagle, swallow-tailed kite, Florida scrub jay and wading birds. The parcel will be managed by the DEP's Division of Recreation and Parks as an addition to the Lower Wekiva River Preserve State Park, providing passive recreational opportunities.
The eight parcels of land approved for sale include four correctional institutes that are no longer in use and the acreage they sit on. The properties approved for sale include: Broward County Correctional Institute (66 acres), Glades Correctional Institute (211 acres), Hendry County Correctional Facility (1,110 acres), Hillsborough County Correctional Institution (135 acres), and other non-conservation surplus land sales in Lee, Miami-Dade, Volusia and Monroe Counties.
The 2014-2015 Florida Legislature gave DEP spending authority to utilize up to $40 million of the proceeds of non- conservation land sales to acquire valuable land needed for conservation and public recreation.