Manatee commission OK's deal for expansion of Robinson Preserve

MANATEE -- The Manatee County Commission on Tuesday OK'd an agreement with the Conservation Foundation of the Gulf Coast that will guide the acquisition of additional land for Robinson Preserve.

The board agreed to a change in the original agreement language that would allow granting naming rights to an educational facility that might be eventually located on the additional 150 acres the county wants to add to the preserve.

However, commissioners said they wanted the name of the preserve itself to remain the same.

Environmentalists said they had heard that one party that may be a donor for the project, the phosphate producer Mosaic, might be seeking naming rights. They opposed such a possibility, saying the company's environmental record should preclude it.

The agreement allows the Robinson family to retain 50 acres on which they could build up to 50 units under the current zoning and residential density for the property, according to a county government news release.

The release states: "The parcel, located at the preserve’s southwest corner, is now owned by Robinson Farms Inc. The foundation, a Florida non-profit corporation, will assist in raising funds to purchase the land and will then to convey it to the county for future restoration. The corporation works with landowners, businesses and governments to protect and preserve the beauty and natural integrity of the bays, beaches and barrier islands of the Florida Gulf Coast. "

“Two hundred acres of this land is awaiting a future as a residential development with a full service country club and golf course but we’d like to change that future for 150 acres to become an extension of the current Robinson Preserve and return that land to valuable coastal habitat,” Manatee County Natural Resources Director Charlie Hunsicker said in the release. “We have the opportunity today to acquire land that will have great value for this generation and generations to come.”

Robinson Preserve is a 487-acre natural preserve along the Manatee River and Perico Bayou that attracts more than 300,000 visitors a year.