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Florida considers deal to preserve Pumpkin Hill Creek acreage

Pumpkin Hill Creek Preserve protects one of the largest continuous upland areas that remain in Duval County.
Sean Lahav
University Of North Florida Environmental Center
Pumpkin Hill Creek Preserve State Park protects one of the largest continuous upland areas that remain in Duval County.

Gov. Ron DeSantis and the Florida Cabinet next week are expected to consider spending $5.8 million to preserve an additional 241 acres in the Pumpkin Hill Creek area in Duval County.

The deal is part of nearly $40 million in land deals across Florida that would help keep more than 17,000 acres from future development.

The Duval deal would protect upland to the Nassau River-St. Johns River Marshes Aquatic Preserve, according to the proposal submitted to the Cabinet. The property, between the beaches and Downtown, is situated along the east and west sides of Sawpit Road on Black Hammock Island.

The land provides habitat for several rare species and contains two colonial wading bird rookeries, one of which is used by the federally endangered wood stork, the proposal states. Manatees frequent both the St. Johns and Nassau rivers and move into tidal creeks, such as the adjacent Hill Creek and Clapboard Creek.

"There is a high threat of development in this area, and it has been a challenge to balance the threat of urban development with the natural and cultural resources," the proposal says. "The cultural resource value of this project is high with fourteen known archaeological sites within the project, including the ruins of the 19th century Fitzpatrick Plantation house."

The Trust for Public Land is acquiring the property, along with an additional 104 acres, from the Ogilvie Family Trust, in partnership with the city of Jacksonville. The property has been in the family since the 1840s, the Cabinet documents show.

Four known archaeological sites on the property are potentially eligible for listing in the National Register of Historic Places, containing an archaeological record dating back at least 4,000 years, the documents state.

The land lies near an area known as 7 Creeks Recreation Area, which also contains Pumpkin Hill Creek Preserve State Park, one of the largest continuous upland areas that remain in Duval County. The Division of Recreation and Parks would manage the land as part of the state park.

State staff members have recommended that the deal, along with nine others, be approved during the Cabinet meeting Tuesday. DeSantis, Attorney General Ashley Moody, Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried and state Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis will meet for the first time since September.

Information from the News Service of Florida was used in this report.

Randy comes to Jacksonville from the South Florida Sun Sentinel, where, as metro editor, he led investigative coverage of the Parkland school shooting that won the 2019 Pulitzer Prize for public service. He has spent more than 40 years in reporting and editing positions in Illinois, Iowa, Missouri, Ohio and Florida. You can reach Randy at or on Twitter, @rroguski.