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Company still plans to map cavern

A subdivision plan has collapsed, but World Woods Corp. still believes a survey would be valuable.

Published March 22, 2005

World Woods Corp.'s deal with a developer to build a subdivision near its famous golf courses may have fallen through, but the plan to map an ecologically valuable dry cave on the land is set to continue.

"World Woods is definitely going to map the cave," said Stan Cooke, World Woods' vice president and director of golf.

WCI Communities Inc., one of the largest developers in the state, announced last week that it had reached an impasse with World Woods over developing the 1,170-acre parcel just south of the Citrus-Hernando county line.

Though the company did not give details about what caused it to back away from the deal, the uncertainties caused by the cave were a contributing factor, said Jim Stackpoole, a WCI vice president.

That is the main reason World Woods wants to map the cave as quickly as possible, though Cooke said he did not know exactly when the work would begin.

"Our intent is to take the unknown and make it part of the known," he said.

Determining the boundaries of the cave, as well as the land that drains into it, would make the remaining property easier to market, Cooke said. The company may try to sell the land over the cave to the state, as WCI had planned to do. Or it may sell both the land and the cave to a developer. If that happens, Cooke said, it would be with the understanding that the cave must be preserved and that it could be visited only by qualified cavers.

"The only people who would be able to get in there would be expert cavers and geologists," Cooke said.

One of them will almost certainly be Lee Florea, a graduate student in geology at the University of Florida. Florea already has done some initial mapping of the cave and determined that it is at least three-quarters of a mile long.

He also was set to be part of the survey team enlisted by WCI that was to be led by Jason Gulley, owner of Subsurface Exploration Services, a Kentucky company that specializes in such work. WCI told the team last week that the developer would not be needing its services because the deal had collapsed.

Cooke had not yet contacted Florea on Monday, Florea said. But he will be ready to begin mapping the cave - which he said is one of the most spectacular in the Southeast - as soon as he gets the word.

"I'm ready and able to get back in there as soon as I can," Florea said.

--Dan DeWitt can be reached at 352 754-6116 or

[Last modified March 22, 2005, 01:21:16]

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