Parts of Terra Ceia Preserve State Park dropped from 'surplus' list

skennedy@bradenton.comSeptember 4, 2013 

MANATEE -- Parts of Terra Ceia Preserve State Park have been removed from a preliminary list of more than 5,000 acres Florida officials are considering selling as "surplus" land.

State officials have removed 13.1 acres separated from the main body of the Terra Ceia Preserve that were previously on the list, according to the Florida Department of Environmental Protection website.

Still on the list are 19.4 acres at Lake Manatee State Park, according to the website. The park's entrance sign is on the strip of land along Dam Road in East Manatee that could be sold.

The list generated objections from officials in various counties to a plan to sell off parts of state parks and preserves to finance more valuable new acquisitions.

The roughly 5,300 acres on the initial list comprised less than 0.2 percent of all Board of Trustees-owned land, which is roughly 3 million acres.

Properties that came off the list last week -- 22 sites comprising about 475 acres -- followed the department's title review of sites on the preliminary list, said Patrick Gillespie, FDEP press secretary.

"The Terra Ceia Preserve State Park parcels were removed because further research showed the sites are co-owned with the Southwest Florida Water Management District," he emailed Tuesday. "Review of about a quarter of the remaining sites - including Lake Manatee State Park - is ongoing."

The FDEP plans to announce dates and locations for a series of public meetings after the title review is complete, he said, "so we can locate closest to the majority of properties/acreage."

Manatee Natural Resources Director Charlie Hunsicker noted the county commission has not been asked for comment, adding the Lake Manatee State Park property includes a septic system drain field designed to avoid polluting the county drinking water supply.

"In general, I believe the best course of action in most cases is to keep important properties in the public's trust, and work with our

local state legislative delegation to reinstate full funding for the original Florida Forever Program to maintain its standing as one of the leading public environmental land management programs in the nation," Hunsicker said.

A tract of 2,628 acres,part of the Hilochee Wildlife Management Area in Polk County, remains on the list. It lies in the Green Swamp, the headwaters of four Florida rivers, including the Hillsborough and Withlacoochee, and was purchased to protect the Floridan Aquifer, the Tampa Bay Times reported Tuesday.

Eric Sutton, State Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission assistant executive director, said the Hilochee Wildlife Management Area in Polk County may not stay on the list, the newspaper reported.

Lands still listed include 385.7 acres of Wekiwa Springs State Park in Seminole and Orange counties, according to the website.

Lands in other counties already taken off the list include 163.6 acres in Brevard County, part of the Indian River Lagoon Preserve State Park, and 144.8 acres at Oleta River State Park, in Miami-Dade County.

Sara Kennedy, Herald reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7031. Follow her on Twitter @sarawrites.

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