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Crowdsource Funding Aims To Preserve Dunedin Property

douglas property2.png
City of Dunedin
Environmentalists are trying to preserve the 44-acre Gladys Douglas Preserve in Dunedin

A group of preservationists are putting out a public appeal to help save the Gladys Douglas-Hackworth property - the largest piece of green space in Pinellas County remaining to be purchased or preserved.

A group of people looking to preserve a rare slice of natural Florida in the state's most densely-populated county are starting a crowdsource funding project to help purchase the property.

Before Gladys Douglas-Hackworth died last year, she said she wanted to sell her 44 acres of undeveloped land in Dunedin to local governments for preservation. But the appraisal topped $11 million, which proved to be too much for the city or Pinellas County. A developer took over the land, but agreed to a period of 90 days for an offer to come through.

Pulte Homes has given a deadline of January 16 to put up an offer to purchase the property.

Nichole Matheus is a ecologist representing the Preserve the Douglas/Hackworth Property Facebook group, which has around 1,600 members. They've got 10,500 signatures on a petition to the county - and perhaps more importantly, they're raising money. So far, they've raised around $6,500, which is only a start to the $2 million they're targeting.

"The county was very interested that we actually opened up crowdsource funding, and we're looking for large foundation-level donations to assist with the purchase," she said. "Because they do have a consensus, I've been told, that they would like to see the preservation of this property, but they need a little help to get the funding past the final goal line."

They're hoping for more donations during Giving Tuesday on December 1st. Her group has also reached out to the state, and are trying to reach out to the estate owners to see if they'll accept an offer below market value.

The city of Dunedin has pledged $2 million, and the county is waiting for an appraisal the first week of December to decide how much they're willing to put forth. The appraised value could range between $8 million and $11 million. But Pinellas County has only $15 million to spend over 10 years for land acquisition.

Matheus says preserving the land would provide a lot of benefits that people aren't aware of.

"It's just one of those last pieces of paradise that are remaining." - Nichole Matheus

"It's more than just preserving the land itself. The land actually does provides what's called environmental services to everyone," she said. "So it improves water quality, it improves air quality, it's provides a refuge for all the water in the the county to go to in our watershed."

Matheus said this is the largest piece of green space in Pinellas County remaining to be purchased or preserved. And that is adjacent to a 50-acre lake and a 44-acre area called Rosemary Scrub.

"And that is a very specific type of habitat that has been decimated across the county and across the state, and is one of the last remaining pieces in the county," she said. "And within this specific habitat, there are hundreds of endemic species that aren't found anywhere else in the world, and especially the threatened gopher tortoise that is an endemic to scrub pines or pine uplands."

"And, you know, it's just one of those last pieces of paradise that are remaining."

douglas property.jpg
City of Dunedin
An aerial map showing the 44-acre Gladys Douglas property with the adjacent 55-acre Jerry Lake.

Steve Newborn is a WUSF reporter and producer at WUSF covering environmental issues and politics in the Tampa Bay area.
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