Hillsborough's Environmental Lands Acquisition and Protection Program considers buying two new properties

10/29/12 Janelle Irwin
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Hillsborough County’s Environmental Lands Acquisition and Protection Program will consider purchasing two new sites in the Tampa Bay area at a meeting Monday night.

WMNF’s Janelle Irwin spoke with Forest Turbiville, from the county’s Parks, Recreation and Conservation department about what the plans mean for residents.

The meeting Monday at 6 p.m. will be on the 18th floor of the County Center on Kennedy Boulevard in downtown Tampa. Members of the public are invited to comment.

"The first site is called the Brooker Creek Buffer Addition. It's a 426 acre site owned by the city of Clearwater. It's located in NW Hillsborough County off of Patterson Road and it adjoins our existing Brooker Creek Buffer Preserve which is also contiuguous to roughly 9,500 acres of the Brooker Creek Preserve that's located in Pinellas County. It all forms one large contiguous natural habitat. The second site is called the Knight's Griffin Road site. It's located kind of in the Thonotosassa-Plant City area of Hillsborough County. The property itself is 269 acres in size and it represents a lot of different natural habitats that you'll find in Central Florida. It has flood plain wetlands, it also has scrub habitat, and also some threatened species on the site including gopher tortoises and Sherman Fox squirrels. These are the two sites that have made it through the process and tonight they will be ranked according to lots of different criteria including environmental criteria, public interest and some things like that."

If these two lands are acquired by your group what are the plans for them?

"As with all of our ELAPP sites we will start with what's called a site management plan where we look at the overall habitats of the site, the sensitivity of the site and what level of public access would be compatible with the existing natural resources on the site. Nearly all of our ELAPP sites do have public access in particular for hiking and I would expect that both of these sites at some point if they are acquired would have at the very least hiking and maybe additional activities but, again, as we go through the site management plan process over the next year to year and a half those kind of issues will be resolved."

What does the cost look like on acquisitions of this nature?

"It's really difficult to tell, we go through and appraisal process with the ELAPP program. We typically get two or three appraisals for each site and we cannot pay more than fair appraised value for a property so we obviously have to go through that process and make sure the public is getting the best bang for the buck."

Are there any early projections of what those costs may be?

"Right now there's not."

I know you've had some budget issues in the past. Where does the organization stand right now with funding?

"Within the ELAPP program we have roughly $9 million remaining out of our first bond issue. Our first bond issue was approximately $59 million."

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