Environmental Program Grows In Osceola

Osceola County, Fl. – Osceola County commissioners recently approved a measure to place specific sites on a “target list” for the Environmental Lands Conservation Program created by the county.   This week, a new piece of property has been added to the list as a result of a county purchase.

The County Commission has agreed to pay $3.1 million for a 343-acre parcel of land located between three prior existing state land-management areas.   The land, a part of the Lonesome Swamp Ranch, is around a 5% chunk of some 7,000 acres.  It’s an area that is located near Canoe Creek Road and the Florida Turnpike.  Still undeveloped, the land is the most recent edition to the ELCP.

“The Lonesome Ranch Property will be the third property purchased by Osceola County under the recommendation of the Land Conservation Advisory Board,” said coordinator Randy Matthews.  “It’s very rewarding for us to have done so much so quickly, and we continue to work for the citizens of Osceola County by searching out and recommending the purchase of other lands to protect.”

The Environmental Lands Conservation Program was created to purchase and set aside lands with a voter-endorsed funds.  So far, the county has spent about $12 million of the $15 million in this year’s budget for the program.

In November 2004, voters authorized the county a property tax to obtain and maintain land through the program.  The project, called S.A.V.E. Osceola, is estimated at $60 million.  Funds come  in the form of a property tax of 25 cents per $1000 of taxable property over a 20-year period.  These funds enable the program to issue bonds for the purchase of land for water resource protection, wildlife habitat, public green space and resource-based (passive) recreation.  Once purchase of a site is approved and finalized, the county expects to have the parcel ready for public use within six months to a year.

“We intend to work with other property owners and build on this purchase,” said Matthews.  “We want to create a wildlife corridor that connects the state’s preserves and wildlife management areas at Bull Creek, Lake Cypress and Three Lakes.”

Other parcels already on the list include almost 1,950 acres of land from the Kenansville area, plus smaller parcels from Shingle Creek.  However, the biggest single grab so far is some 6,700 acres of Venture 4 land just south of the Big Bend Swamp area.  All told, around 8,700 acres total so far will join the Environmental Lands Conservation Program.

According to Osceola County officials, the community can nominate certain areas to be considered.  Citizens can easily find this form online at www.osceola.org. If you’d like more information about the program, contact program coordinator Randy Matthews at conservation@osecola.org or at 407-962-1314.