Before a volunteer crew joined forces Saturday morning to clear up a plot of land dubbed “Little Awesome Preserve,” it was plagued by metallic cans, automotive components, classic coke bottles and a deer cranium.
Fourteen folks, together with households, UF college students, former college and Alachua County residents involved with native conservation efforts gathered close to a small fence opening alongside County Road 138 about 40 minutes from downtown Gainesville.
The volunteers labored collectively from 9 a.m. to midday to clear up particles from the 195-acre preserve, which will quickly be opened to the public. The land was purchased in July after out-bidding an actual property improvement group based mostly out of Jacksonville.
Alachua Conservation Trust officers had been made conscious of the land sale a couple of week earlier than it went up for public sale by way of newspaper ads and calls from involved residents wanting to see it protected, in accordance to Heather Obara, the affiliate director for the Alachua Conservation Trust.
“Normally when that happens you usually can’t move fast enough to get the money that you need to do it,” Obara mentioned. “But this piece of property was so stunning we had to figure it out. It’s such an important piece of protecting this river and the features that are on it are so important that we had to do something. We just couldn’t let it go.”
The cleanup occasion, which was hosted by the Alachua Conservation Trust, was a chance to comb by way of and acquire trash that was left after the land was used as dumping grounds and a looking house in addition to get folks to see the preserve earlier than it’s formally unveiled to the normal public, Obara mentioned.
“That gets people excited, they’ve never been on the property before so this is a chance to see it before anybody else gets to see it,” Obara mentioned. “And also to fall in love with it hopefully, and want to protect it.”
For volunteers like Ruth McIlhenny, who introduced her two sons, Noah and Nathan Gorme, and mom, Joanne McIlhenny, to the cleanup occasion, conservation efforts are vital.
McIlhenny and her household have participated in different cleanup occasions similar to cleansing up the seaside in Cedar Key. She mentioned they all the time attempt to clear up trash each time they arrive throughout it and to go away no hint of it themselves, a set of ethics the Gorme brothers realized from their time as boy scouts.
Ruth McIlhenny mentioned she was taught to love nature and to be in awe of it from her mother and father. Her mom, Joanne, is proud to see those self same values shared by her grandchildren.
“It’s becoming their world,” she mentioned, “and they really have to take care of it.”
By the finish of the cleanup occasion, volunteers had gathered roughly 20 further massive baggage of trash and a mound of metallic automotive components.
James Lasley, a former Alachua Conservation Trust volunteer and avid Prairie Creek hiker, was motivated by an identical thought. He mentioned he’s annoyed by the quantity of unhappy environmental information that his daughter Julia, 29, and her era are bombarded with. Lasley, who attended the occasion by himself, was glad to be surrounded by like-minded, environmentally acutely aware folks throughout the occasion.
“Hopefully this will multiply all over the world someday,” he mentioned.
Ecology of ‘Little Awesome’
Within the practically 200 acres of house are a variety of pure options which can be of ecological significance to North Central Florida. Its namesake is a siphon, which is a naturally occurring function that permits water to move underground, referred to as Little Awesome, also called “Little Awesome Suck,” which takes after Big Awesome, a special siphon that lies simply past the property bounds. The land can be house to a fissure that locals have affectionately named “Myrtle’s Crack,” in addition to a number of small springs together with Camp Spring that are all parts of an intricate cave system beloved by many North Florida divers.
The land that includes the Preserve was purchased in 6 totally different tracts, every a little bit greater than 30 acres. In whole, the Alachua Conservation Trust paid $1.9 million for the property with assist from a bridge mortgage that got here from The Conservation Fund, a nationwide group that helps finance environmental conservation efforts throughout the nation. The Conservation Fund beforehand helped the Alachua Conservation Trust with funding for Orange Lake Overlook in Marion County, a preserve that will be open in 2021, and a undertaking at Santa Fe River preserve, in accordance to Tom Kay, the government director for the Alachua Conservation Trust.
Kay mentioned that turning the 195 acres into protected land is a vital a part of sustaining this a part of North Florida’s water programs. He mentioned that a big portion of the land is positioned in a 100-year flood zone, in any other case often known as a particular flood hazard space, a title given by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). So, defending the space, and stopping constructing improvement, is a matter of public security as a result of it ensures that when flooding does happen, the space will perform the manner it naturally does as an alternative of disrupting folks’s properties and companies, in accordance to Kay.
Kay additionally sees financial advantages to turning the land right into a preserve. He says that by stopping improvement and the implementation of septic tanks or agricultural infrastructure, the floor degree water sources related to the Floridan aquifer, together with siphons like Little Awesome that recharge, or replenish groundwater, will not be disrupted or contaminated, subsequently defending consuming water.
Another focal point for preserving land alongside the Santa Fe River is to increase ecotourism, which Kay says is an growing a part of the native economic system in areas like High Springs and Fort White.
About 62% of the river, on one facet or the different, is at present designated as protected land. The Alachua Conservation Trust goals to purchase a further 75,000 acres in the Santa Fe River Basin to designate as protected land by 2045.
Kay mentioned he and his staff try to open up lands they purchase to the public inside a yr or a yr and a half from after they had been bought so Little Awesome Preserve is predicted to be accessible to the normal public by the finish of 2022.
Once open, the preserve will function minimal infrastructure however embody parking areas, climbing trails, benches for folks to sit and presumably a kayak and canoe launch, Kay mentioned. There are additionally areas of the preserve that will make for potential swimming areas relying on the water ranges.