-A river is like a life: once taken, it cannot be brought back-
The $1.3 million deal closed on Jan. 15, and is expected to help protect the wildlife and water systems in the area. Both public and private monies were used for the purchase.
A 578-acre parcel of land within the Lochloosa Forest Project area has been jointly purchased by Alachua County and environmental protection nonprofit Alachua Conservation Trust to protect the wildlife in the area.
The Fox Pen tract, near the southeastern Alachua and Putnam county border, was bought for $1,321,177. The county used $876,492 to buy most of the land using the voter-approved Wild Spaces Public Places sales tax. The initiative passed in 2016 with the funds meant to conserve land and maintain recreational facilities.
The Alachua Conservation Trust pitched in $444,685 for 194 acres using private funds. The nonprofit plans to open walking paths, two trailheads, install bike racks, information kiosks, benches and parking lots.
The deal closed on Jan. 15, and is expected to help protect the wildlife and water systems in the area. The land has a gamut of ecosystems, including sandhill, flatwoods and mesic hammock. The purchase also protects the habitat for animals that call the Fox Pen tract home, including the gopher tortoise, indigo snake and the Florida black bear.
“It’s got a good wildlife habitat,” said Charlie Houder, county parks and conservation lands director.
The land is part of the Lochloosa Forest Project, the 59,853-acre area that stretches from the northern part of the county to the southeast. The state approved the Forest purchase in 2017.
The Fox Pen tract is a piece within the larger, surrounding area that is also of interest to the county, Houder said.
The preserve is expected to open in early 2020.