Pinellas County community unites to save a historic preserve from destruction

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Photo by Sean Kinane/WMNF 2017

One Pinellas County community banded together to save a historic preserve from destruction by a private developer. Activists and community leaders came together in Dunedin to fight for its preservation.

Gladys E Douglas Preserve spans 43 acres and is currently the largest undeveloped sandy ecosystem remaining in north Pinellas County. It’s a rare glimpse into Florida’s undeveloped past—with preserved wild forest and a rare white moss, called reindeer moss that grows around it.

That’s why, when a large housing developer planned to bulldoze the area, hundreds of donors and non-profits teamed up with the City of Dunedin to save the land.

WMNF spoke by phone with Vince Gizzi, Parks and recreation director for the City of Dunedin, while he was at the preserve. He told us that preserving the land was a must.

“The community, the city, the county had a shot at getting this property for parkland, just a gorgeous piece of untouched, natural property and felt that we gotta get this property, one way or another so the city and the county got involved, and between the two, raised 5.5 million, which still left us short 4.5 million. The Pinellas community foundation were able to raise, with private donations of over 1100 people, contributed to that 4.5 million. It’s quite the story.”

The site was the home of philanthropist Gladys Douglas, who passed away in 2019. She loved listening to the birds fly over the pine scrub and looking out over the lake. City leaders created a plan to preserve that ecosystem while also providing nature trails for visitors to the preserve.

The hard work and fundraising culminated with the ribbon cutting on Saturday, February 25th, with over 500 attendees and several community leaders joining at the preserve for the ribbon cutting and official opening.

“It was real emotional, there were a lot of tears, our mayor was totally emotional. Seeing all of this come together, you gotta imagine, this could’ve been lost forever to a strip mall or condominium complex, but we’re able to preserve it and keep it forever, as in my words, forever and ever. This land will never be sold for anything, it’ll stay parkland forever.”

 

 

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