Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Groups Square off over Guana; Area Already Rejected for New School Site

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Groups Square off over Guana; Area Already Rejected for New School Site

Article excerpt

Byline: Drew Dixon

Environmental groups reaffirmed their opposition to building in the Guana preserve last week, but a parents group forged ahead with its high-profile campaign to build a Ponte Vedra Beach high school on the state conservation land.

The Northeast Florida chapter of the Sierra Club was joined by other groups such as the Audubon Society, Florida Wildlife Federation and Defenders of Wildlife in a collective statement Thursday.

"The Sierra Club has a long history of promoting acquisition of conservation lands and defending them from unsuitable uses," Sierra Chairman Tom Larson wrote in a statement. "We have repeatedly stated that parceling out our Guana conservation lands for other uses is unacceptable."

Florida Wildlife Federation Director Manley Fuller said his organization would challenge plans to build a school on the Guana site.

"[The] Florida Wildlife Federation will vigorously oppose and legally challenge any effort to transfer public lands away from Guana Wildlife Management Area for building schools or any other governmental purpose. Areas like Guana are increasingly critical for the people of Florida for conservation of resources and recreation," Fuller said.

Environmental conservation leaders are rallying to keep all Guana land a preserve because of a renewed effort to build the high school on the protected land. The parents group, the Ponte Vedra High School Coalition, and its supporters want the school built near the new Publix shopping center at Mickler and Palm Valley roads.

Gate Petroleum owner Herb Peyton has offered a land swap to the Florida Department of Environmental Protection. The coalition is circulating a glossy pamphlet touting the Guana land as "a treasured gift . . . being offered to our children as a place to grow."

The coalition also has established an Internet site, www.pvhsc.com, complete with a mission statement, links to Florida land protection laws and an online petition of support.

Peyton's offer is to give the state 50 acres of his nearby Outpost land in return for the same amount of Guana preserve land for a new high school.

Marc Bugbey, founder of the coalition, said the joint opposition by the environmental groups is unsettling. …

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