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Florida closes land deal to preserve Pumpkin Hill Creek

Pumpkin Hill.png
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.

The state has closed on the purchase of 241 acres along Pumpkin Hill Creek in Jacksonville, protecting its rare species from development and increasing recreational opportunities on the First Coast.

The Black Hammock Island site contains archeological evidence of human history dating back 4,000 years, the state Department of Environmental Protection said Monday. 

Gov. Ron DeSantis and the state Cabinet approved the deal with the Trust for Public Land in March, after a Cabinet staff report warned of a high threat of development in the area.

The deal protects upland to the Nassau River-St. Johns River Marshes Aquatic Preserve, the Cabinet report said. The property, between the beaches and Downtown, is situated along the east and west sides of Sawpit Road on Black Hammock Island.

"It has been a challenge to balance the threat of urban development with the natural and cultural resources," the Cabinet report said. "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 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 report states. Manatees frequent both the St. Johns and Nassau rivers and move into tidal creeks, such as the adjacent Hill Creek and Clapboard Creek.

Plus, environmentalists say, the acreage plays a key role in the state’s ability to withstand extreme weather events associated with climate change.

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

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

Cyd Hoskinson began working at WJCT on Valentine’s Day 2011.