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Patch of land a worthy purchase

A Times Editorial
Published April 27, 2005

Oldsmar has been working hard in recent years to encourage developers to look favorably upon it. As a result, the little city is growing and changing in ways residents could not have imagined even a decade ago.

Yet as eager as it is for development, Oldsmar still is working toward building a balanced community. A recent land purchase is an example.

The city has purchased a 4.6-acre parcel immediately south of Bicentennial Park on Lafayette Boulevard - not to offer to developers, but to protect.

The city's plan is to add the acreage to the Mobbly Bay Wilderness Preserve. The price, $206,000, is being covered by a $103,000 grant from the Florida Communities Trust and by the city and county.

This is a small piece of land beside the comparatively large Mobbly Bayou Wilderness Preserve, a 300-acre slice of marshland, mangroves, pine trees and palmettos that extends from just south of Bicentennial Park down the east side of the Mobbly peninsula and over to the Hillsborough County line. The primary value of the new acreage is that it bridges a gap in publicly owned land between Bicentennial Park and the previous northern boundary of the preserve.

One day city officials hope to build a nature trail that stretches all the way from near Lafayette down to the tip of the peninsula. Walkers would be able to view the lakes and marshes, the abundant wildlife, and the upper expanses of Old Tampa Bay.

The city even dreams of eventually seeing trails extend from county-owned, 8,000-acre Brooker Creek Preserve on the north side of the city down to Mobbly Bayou. Trails also would link city parks and neighborhoods under a city master trail plan that will take years to develop.

It takes vision to see future value in picking up a little piece of land here, building a little segment of trail there. It also takes political commitment for officials to devote dollars to such a long-range effort when so many needs seem more immediate.

Yet look at what can be accomplished. Mobbly Bayou Preserve was cobbled together piece by piece using city, county and state funds. Officials at all three levels of government recognized the value of owning a stretch of land where buildings, streets and noise did not intrude. The only substantial clearing has been at the north entrance to the preserve, where city crews have built a playground, picnic area, restrooms, a dog park, a canoe launch and observation decks.

With land values throughout Pinellas County skyrocketing and population densities likely to increase, every city should be doing what Oldsmar is doing: purchasing small plots of undeveloped or environmentally sensitive land whenever possible. The land will never be cheaper than it is today. And one day those small plots may be combined with others to create precious islands of green in a sea of dense urban development.

[Last modified April 27, 2005, 00:47:14]

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