Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

County May Get Another Forest; Nassau: Measure Awaits Cabinet Vote

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

County May Get Another Forest; Nassau: Measure Awaits Cabinet Vote

Article excerpt

Byline: Amelia A. Hart, Nassau Neighbors staff writer

The St. Johns River Water Management District and the state of Florida have agreed to buy 12,886 acres in Nassau County from a Jacksonville developer to be used as a state forest.

If the $25.4 million sale is approved by Gov. Jeb Bush and the Florida Cabinet in February, Four Creeks Forest, which lies between Florida A1A and the Nassau/Duval border west of Interstate 95, would become Nassau County's third, and largest, state forest.

Stokes & Co., the forest's owner, retained 1,700 acres northeast of the parcel to be sold. That land, along with adjacent property also owned by the company, eventually will be turned into a commercial and residential development, a company official said. It would be the fourth development in Nassau County by Stokes & Co., which developed Summer Beach and the Golf Club of Amelia Island, and its second west of I-95.

District officials say the forest purchase, which was approved by the St. Johns Water Management District Governing Board Dec. 9, will protect the water quality of of Plummer, Mills, Alligator and Thomas creeks, which join together to form the Nassau River.

"Protecting these blackwater creeks is vital to maintaining downstream water resources, an extensive network of estuarine tidal marshes in the Nassau River-St. Johns River Valley Aquatic Reserve," District Governing Board Chairman Ometrias D. Long said in a statement.

The district is responsible for protecting wetlands, waterways and drinking water supplies in northeast and east-central Florida. The district owns about 5,409 acres in Nassau County.

Four Creeks Forest is comprised of 6,085 acres of uplands, 5,419 acres of wetlands and 1,383 of potential sovereign wetlands. More than 65 percent of the parcel is below the 100-year flood plain.

If the purchase is approved, the Division of Forestry will manage the property as a state forest as part of the Northeast Florida Timberlands Florida Forever project. …

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