The Alachua County Commission has approved an agreement to purchase roughly 4,000 acres from the Weyerhaeuser Company. When the transaction closes in late August, it will be the largest single acquisition for the Alachua County Forever land conservation program. The property is being purchased with funds from Wild Spaces and Public Places, the one-half-cent sales tax approved by the voters in 2016. Funding for the Alachua County Forever program is used to protect lands for water quality, wildlife habitat, and natural areas suitable for resource-based recreation.
The property, known as the Fox Pen Connector, lies in the southeast corner of the County. It connects the County’s 1,861-acre Lochloosa Slough Preserve to the south with the 473-acre Fox Pen Preserve to the north. Together with other contiguous public lands, the property will be part of a protected corridor of more than 10,000 acres. The purchase agreement with the Weyerhaeuser Company calls for the County to pay $2,690 per surveyed acre. Based on the estimate of 3,995.67 acres, the total price for the land will be $10,748,352.30. Weyerhaeuser has agreed to pay $60,000 towards the cost of the survey.
“The Fox Pen Connector is a beautiful and vital new land conservation acquisition for the County,” said County Commission Chair Ken Cornell. “This purchase will protect the natural ecology and creates a much needed corridor for wildlife.”
Over 40 percent of the property is classified as wetlands, including both dense hardwood swamps and shallow, open-water ponds. These areas account for much of the property’s ecological value. The uplands are dominated by pine plantations that will be restored to more natural plant communities under the County’s management.
Final plans for the restoration and recreational use of the property will be drafted once the transaction is complete. The area has been a popular destination for hunters, so County staff has initiated discussions with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission to evaluate options for providing public hunting. Any plans for the property must be reviewed and approved by the County Commission.