Alachua Conservation Trust looks to buy property

The Alachua Conservation Trust signed a contract to buy Orange Lake Overlook, a 71-acre patch of land off U.S. 441 near McIntosh, Florida, for $1.35 million. The trust has until July 5 to raise the funds.

A conservation trust has five months to pay $1.35 million for new land, or it could lose the land.

The Alachua Conservation Trust wants to raise $1.7 million to purchase Orange Lake Overlook, a 71-acre patch of land off U.S. 441 near McIntosh, Florida, said Tom Kay, the executive director of the trust. The trust protects land through purchases, donations and conservation.

The land will be protected and new developments won’t be built on it, Kay said.

The $1.7 million budget is needed to buy the land and will include funding for surveys and environmental site assessments, he said.

The contract for the overlook was signed Feb. 5 for $1.35 million, Kay said. The land used to be a citrus grove and shop.

The trust has until July 5 to pay for the land, he said. If it can’t raise the funds, then short term loans will be used.

The trust has raised about $2,000 through its website and mail donations, he said. It has also raised $2,125 on its Facebook donation page as of Thursday evening. Kay said the trust plans on sending out emails, hosting fundraising events and using direct-mail methods to raise money.

Over the last 30 years, it has purchased more than 19,700 acres of land for conservation, including Serenola Forest and part of Lochloosa Forest this year, he said.

Kay said the Orange Creek Basin, which Orange Lake is a major part of, has been one of the trust’s most wanted areas. Its concern is the basin, which will have an excess of nutrients in it if developments are built.

“We will make it happen one way or the other,” he said. “It’s one of the most iconic properties, most iconic views in this whole region.”

To artist Stacey Breheny, a 60-year-old High Springs resident, donating $25 was more than saving a piece of land, it was saving something dear to her. She has been using the outlook as inspiration in her paintings for the past 10 years.

“I’d be phony if I didn’t step up,” Breheny said. “If that were to turn into a subdivision, I would be heartbroken.”