Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Donation Puts Lands within City's Reach; an Anonymous Donor's Contribution Will Help with Buckman-Pritchard Trust

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Donation Puts Lands within City's Reach; an Anonymous Donor's Contribution Will Help with Buckman-Pritchard Trust

Article excerpt

Byline: DREW DIXON

ATLANTIC BEACH - Thanks mostly to an anonymous donor, the city has agreed to help acquire a long-sought vast tract of wetlands on its western edge that will greatly expand the area's protected land.

The city will chip in about $185,000 for the 350-acre Buckman-Pritchard Trust, just north of the Atlantic Boulevard bridge and south of the Dutton Island Preserve, officials said Wednesday. The donor will pay most of the rest of the $1 million price.

"I do not know who the donor is," City Manager Jim Hanson said.

Mayor John Meserve agreed, "We don't have a clue" who the donor is.

After years of trying, the donation opened the way for the public to purchase the property from Barbara Williams, the representative and descendant of the Buckman family, the land's longtime owner. Henry Holland Buckman bought the tract in 1925. Jacksonville's Buckman Bridge is named for the family.

There had been efforts to purchase the land for about 10 years. But the property gained public attention in 2005, when four boat squatters trespassed on the Buckman property. City code enforcers chased them off.

The North Florida Land Trust, the Public Trust Legal Institute of Florida and Preservation North Florida have joined the city in seeking the land.

Citizen-organized events and festivals were held to raise awareness about the property in hopes of leading to a public purchase.

"It continues the commitment of Atlantic Beach to add as much as possible to our park lands," Meserve said. "It's pretty doggone important. It about triples the amount of space in acres devoted to low-intensive parks."

The purchase is not complete yet, Meserve said Wednesday, noting it will take another 30 days to settle title issues and finalize the transaction.

Hanson said the commission will hold public hearings and vote on the acquisition.

"The next step for us is to try to get funding for a master plan," Hanson said. "We're going to try to get together a schedule of improvements for public access."

Some of the plans could involve dredging in natural tributaries that course through the Buckman property. …

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