Alachua County announces major land donations

Alachua County has announced two major donations of land that it says will protect the Santa Fe River and preserve ecological resources in key areas. 

Both donations came through the Alachua County Forever program, which manages conservation lands.

Dr. Dale A. and Helen C. Lundgren made the 236-acre Santa Fe River donation, according to a county press release, which said the joint gift went to Alachua County and two local land trusts, Alachua Conservation Trust (ACT) and Conservation Florida. 

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“ACT and Conservation Florida were granted a conservation easement over the property before ownership was transferred to the County,” the press release said. “The donors requested this arrangement to ensure that their beloved property would remain undeveloped, further protecting their conservation legacy.”

The property lies in the Upper Santa Fe River basin, about five miles northwest of Waldo. It has almost a mile of frontage on the Santa Fe River and includes the Moccasin Branch, a pristine tributary of the river. 

The county cited several environmental benefits of the donation, including protecting water quality, storing floodwaters and providing wildlife habitat. It plans to develop public access and recreational areas once the management planning process is complete. 

The second donation came from Pierre and Nancy Warny, the county reported. It includes the Watermelon Pond area in southwestern Alachua County, including a mix of Sandhills, hardwood hammocks and wet prairies that support a range of native species. 

“Protecting reptiles and amphibians and the landscape they depend on has been a long-time passion of the Warnys,” a county press release said. “Their commitment led to the purchase of 80 acres adjacent to the Ashton Biological Preserve in 2000. The intact natural communities were ideal for the study and conservation of their species of interest. In 2002, the property was placed on the Alachua County Forever active acquisition list to purchase a conservation easement, similar to the easement the County holds on the Ashton Biological Preserve.”

The county said the couple eventually decided that donating the land—which they did in memory of their son, Peter Henry Warny—was the best way to achieve their conservation goals. 

The 244-acre donation increases the county’s Watermelon Pond Preserve to 1,240 acres.

“In addition to reptiles and amphibians, the preserve provides key habitat for burrowing owls and sandhill cranes, among the many terrestrial and wetland species,” the county press release said. 

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