Brooker Creek Corridor approved for Hillsborough County ELAPP acquisition
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12/02/09 Joshua Lee Holton
WMNF Drive-Time News Wednesday | Listen to this entire show:

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The Brooker Creek Preserve: the largest wildlife habitat in Pinellas County


photo by http://pucpuggy.wordpress.com/2009/05/20/st-pete-times-newspaper-article/

Today the Hillsborough County Commission voted unanimously to acquire nearly 1700 acres for preservation in the Brooker Creek Corridor, along with the approval of selling for bonds for environmental land acquisition. Proceeds from the bonds will be used to purchase environmentally sensitive land under the county's Environmental Land Acquisition and Protection Program (ELAPP).

After years of deliberation, the Hillsborough County Commission voted to buy the Brooker Creek Corridor in northwest Hillsborough County and connect it with the 10,000 acre Brooker Creek Preserve in Pinellas County. ELAPP will bid for $60 million in bonds for purchasing lands. Forest Turbeville with Hillsborough County Parks, Recreation, and Conservation says this will include the Brooker Creek Corridor, ensuring the uninhibited movement of wildlife.

Turbeville said water quality has been a special concern, since Tampa Bay Water is allowed to pump 12 million gallons of water per day from Odessa to be sent to Pasco, Hillsborough, and Pinellas counties.

Local residents like Steve Morris, a board member of the Keystone Civic Association, applauded the acquisition.

With the land approved for ELAPP preservation, the water supply will be further protected. Tom Aderhold is also a board member of the Keystone Civic Association, and is running for Kevin Ambler’s seat in the House of Representatives. He says that since Keystone is a well head protection area, the aquifer will provide critical water supply.

Hillsborough County will acquire almost 1,700 acres of Kay O’Rourke’s property for preservation through ELAPP. The cost will be $20 million at about $12,000 per acre and is funded by a referendum approved by a large majority of voters in the 2008 election. ELAPP acquisition manager Kurt Gremley said O’Rourke recently offered to sell the property.

So developing the land for any reason will be difficult. Gremley says the Hillsborough County will ask SWFMUD to provide joint funding for half of the $20 million acquisition costs.

Laura Swain once was Vice-Chair for the Hillsborough County Planning Commission and Conservation Chair for the Tampa Sierra Club, and says that Hillsborough County started talking about purchasing the property more than 10 years ago when it was put on the A-list for ELAPP.

Cone Ranch is public land that Swain anticipates should also be acquired by ELAPP.

The Hillsborough County Commission will consider acquiring Cone Ranch at its December 16th meeting.

The County is expected to close the sale of the Brooker Creek Corridor on December 17th. When fully opened to the public, the site will have access from Tarpon Springs Road including parking, equestrian access, and walking trails depending on another public meeting on the final design.

More information:

Friend's Brooker Creek

Hillsborough County Acquired ELAPP preserves

Cone Ranch Advisory Panel

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