MANATEE — Officials on Thursday concluded a deal to add 150 acres to the popular Robinson Preserve.
The Mosaic Company Foundation donated about $3.2 million to the Conservation Foundation of the Gulf Coast Inc., which bought the land and then conveyed it to the county. The Mosaic Foundation, which is affiliated with the fertilizer company, will also have its name on an educational center planned for the expansion area.
The new area will bring Robinson Preserve, located in Northwest Bradenton on the shores of Tampa Bay, to 637 areas.
“We are ecstatic the Robinson Preserve expansion transaction is closed,” said Robinson, a member of the family and an attorney who worked on the deal. “My family is extremely proud of the Robinson Preserve, and look forward to its expansion, and permanent conservation of this beautiful property.”
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Charlie Hunsicker, county natural resources director, said, "It's been a banner day for Manatee County's efforts to extend protection to our coastal environments, and open up new opportunities for passive pursuit of recreation out at Robinson Preserve."
With Moasic's donation came naming rights. An educational center on the property will be named: "The Mosaic Center for Nature Exploration, Science & Technology."
Asked if the phosphate-company affiliated donor bothered him, Hunsicker replied, "It doesn't bother me that the foundation was the principal contributor for acquisition of this property, for their mission as a foundation worldwide in part is protecting critical water resources, and certainly we in the community agree that lower Tampa Bay and the Manatee River are critical water resources to be supported by our stewardship at Robinson Preserve."
The arrangement already has the blessing of the Manatee County Commission, which recently OK’d legal documents to make the acquisition possible, Robinson said.
The land, which once was destined to become a subdivision of luxury homes and a golf course, is slated to be restored to its previous incarnation as a coastal habitat, county officials have said previously.
The expansion area features 61 acres of pine flatlands; 35 acres of coastal hammock; 13 acres of new salt marsh; 11 acres of new freshwater marsh,;and 5 acres of open water, they said.
About $542,000 in capital funds will be used to build the education center on the expansion site, county officials have said.
The land for the expansion sits just south of the current 487-acre preserve. Both the original land used for the preserve and the land used in the expansion will carry the name "Robinson Preserve."
The preserve already attracts more than 300,000 visitors a year.