Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Purchase Preserves Peninsula Land Buy Derails Development

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Purchase Preserves Peninsula Land Buy Derails Development

Article excerpt

ATLANTIC BEACH -- Officials have two weeks to draw up a management plan for a 101-acre peninsula on the Intracoastal Waterway that's the second waterfront tract recently purchased by the government for preservation and public access.

The site, a maritime forest known as the Centex land, was saved by a $2.7 million Jacksonville Preservation Project Monday -- just before bulldozers were to start mowing down trees for a 170-home development.

Saving the peninsula protects the Intracoastal Waterway and provides access to Dutton Island, the other recently purchased parcel that has plans for walking trails, fishing and canoe access. The peninsula is connected to the 40-acre island by a dike road.

"We view it as a preserve with a lowercase p," said Susan Wiles, chief of staff for Jacksonville Mayor John Delaney. "This is primarily viewed as a buffer."

Atlantic Beach Mayor Suzanne Shaughnessy, who lobbied to preserve the tract, said it's a great example of the area's natural beauty.

"It's for future generations," she said. "It's so they can see what it looked like before we all got here."

The two cities are developing a management plan for the Centex land that will be mailed off with an application for a $1.35 million state grant. The plan, outlining what role each city will play in the tract's maintenance, should be ready by May 24. The next step would be approval by the Atlantic Beach City Commission to meet the grant deadline, said interim City Manager David Thompson.

Atlantic Beach could end up buying the land from Jacksonville or annexing it under the options now being considered. The city has agreed to contribute 10 percent of the purchase price.

The city has already budgeted money to have a park ranger oversee Dutton Island and has permits for three canoe launches at the island.

The tentative preservation agreement still has to be approved by the Jacksonville City Council and the Atlantic Beach City Commission. The City Commission will receive information on the agreement Monday.

The Centex land lies to the north of Dutton Road on the border between Jacksonville and Atlantic Beach. …

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