tampabay.com

1,000 acres are set aside

Hillsborough buys the land adjoining a Pinellas reserve.

By JACKIE RIPLEY, Times Staff Writer
Published December 6, 2007


TAMPA - More than 1,000 acres of environmentally sensitive land in northwest Hillsborough have been officially set aside for preservation.

Hillsborough County commissioners agreed Wednesday to spend $17.25-million for the Wilde family tract.

County administrator Pat Bean told commissioners "we've been trying to acquire this land for a long time and this is really good news for Hillsborough County and our citizens."

The purchase was significant because the site will connect with Pinellas County's Brooker Creek Preserve and provide a larger area for migrating wildlife.

A portion of the property also includes well fields that are a source of millions of gallons of the region's drinking water supply.

"Do this for our water if nothing else," urged civic activist Denise Layne.

The property is situated where Hillsborough, Pinellas and Pasco counties come together. It was purchased under the Environmental Lands Acquisition and Protection Program.

The county has had its eye on the land for nearly a decade. But it has only been recently that its owners - Peter Wilde of Brookline, Mass., and G. William Wilde of Key Biscayne - expressed interest in selling.

The county hopes to recoup about half of its purchase price through a state-run program that provides partial reimbursement if the public is allowed to use the property.

In this case, that means providing a small area for parking and a few picnic shelters.

At a meeting held in Keystone last month, some homeowners who live near the property expressed concern about plans for creating a park area there. They said they were worried about the potential for increased traffic through their neighborhood.

County officials, however, assured them that public use of such areas is typically nominal. And access to the property would be limited to hiking.

None of the neighbors raised concerns during Wednesday's County Commission meeting.

The county staff plans to have one more public hearing in the area of the park to hear from residents about the proposed use. The date has not been set.

Jackie Ripley can be reached at ripley@sptimes.com or at 813269-5308.

FAST FACTS

Preserve lands at a glance

Brooker Creek Preserve: 8,300 acres. Has hiking and equestrian trails and an environmental education center.

Wilde family tract: 1,018 acres. Expected to have a few picnic shelters and some parking.

Why they matter: Officials say the proximity of the preserve lands will provide a larger area for migrating wildlife.