Alachua County residents will have about 600 new acres to explore thanks to a $1 million purchase made by the county.
The Alachua County Commission bought a 597-acre piece of land in Hawthorne, near the Putnam County line, on Tuesday for about $1.3 million, said Sandra Vardaman, the land conservation program supervisor for Alachua County’s Parks and Conservation Lands Program. The purpose of the land will primarily be for preservation but will also include amenities that the public can enjoy.
“It has some of the nicest grounds covered, and it’s just a really pretty site,” Vardaman said. “I think it’s going to make an area that will be a wonderful amenity for people to just wander around in the woods.”
About 67 percent of the project is being funded by the Wild Spaces & Public Places tax, an initiative passed by voters in 2008 that protects and improves recreational spaces. The Alachua Conservation Trust, a nonprofit that works to protect natural and historic resources, will cover the remaining 33 percent, said the county’s spokesperson Mark Sexton.
The preserve includes about 175 acres of wetlands and will likely have a nature trail and benches for people to enjoy the land. It will take about two years to complete the project, Vardaman said.
Now that the contract is signed, the county will go to the site and look for any signs of contamination, she said. The county will then establish a management plan for the property and for the County Commission to approve. This will include the types of amenities that this property will feature, Vardaman said.
Jozee Coyne, a 19-year-old UF psychology junior, thinks the project is important because it helps conserve areas for future generations to enjoy.
“There is constantly construction going on everywhere, and I feel like we’re losing land to development, so having people that care about the land enough to want to preserve it is amazing,” Coyne said.
The preservation encompasses almost 600 acres and is located on the Putnam County line near Lochloosa Lake, said Sandra Vardaman, the land conservation program supervisor for the county’s Parks and Conservation Lands Program.