The Southwest Florida Water Management District’s (District) Governing Board approved the purchase of the Southworth Tract, a 589-acre parcel of land located within the Weekiwachee Preserve.
This important property purchase will allow the District to substantially complete the Weekiwachee Preserve Project by connecting seven District-owned parcels. This acquisition meets all four of the District’s Areas of Responsibility, which are water supply, water quality, flood control and natural systems. In addition, the project is consistent with the Governor’s direction for protecting Florida’s springs, waterbodies and natural systems.
“This is a significant acquisition that will not only conserve 589 acres of land in the Weeki Wachee Springshed but will also help protect and maintain good water quality across the nearshore coastal waters of the Springs Coast, which is home to one of the largest seagrass habitats in the world,” said Brian Armstrong, the District’s executive director.
“This property purchase is part of the long-term, overall conservation picture of Florida,” said John Mitten, District Governing Board member. “The opportunity to link this property with the others we already manage fits the strategy and is the missing piece in the puzzle.”
In 1991, the District’s Governing Board approved a plan to acquire and preserve approximately 24,445 acres along the coastal region of Hernando County, designated as the Weekiwachee Preserve Project. To date almost 13,000 acres have been acquired by the District within the project. The project was initiated to specifically protect estuarine marshes and lowlands; preserve and/or restore natural ecosystems and their functions; maintain and/or improve water quality; improve water conveyance; protect habitats and associated wildlife resources; prevent encroachment onto the floodplain; and preserve the aesthetic value of the lands within the project.
The Southworth Tract acquisition supports the District’s mission to protect water resources and minimize flood risks as well as provides the following benefits:
- Completes the conservation and protection of the IndianCreek watershed, which is an important local source of fresh water to the coastal estuary.
- The majority of the property falls within a springs protection area.
- Provides enhanced protection of natural systems, including a spring, tidal creeks, and forested wetlands in the area.
- Supports protection and maintenance of water quality across the nearshore coastal waters, which includes one of the largest seagrass habitats in the world.
The Southworth Tract is located within the Florida Wildlife Corridor identified within the Nature Coast Critical Linkages. The purchase supports the Florida Wildlife Corridor Act, which was passed by the Florida Legislature last session and signed by the Governor in July. This acquisition helps protect portions of the Florida Wildlife Corridor in southwestern Hernando County and provides important wildlife habitat.
“This is a great purchase of a highly significant coastal wildlife corridor property,” stated Charles Lee, Director of Advocacy ofAudubon Florida. “Because of its location just west of US 19 in a rapidly developing area of Hernando County, this tract was destined for development had the District not acted quickly. It is a great relief to know it will now be preserved.”
The parcel is being purchased for approximately $4.6 million with funds from the Florida Forever Trust Fund. Acquisition of the Southworth Tract is consistent with the District’s Florida Forever Workplan, and the property has been identified in the workplan for acquisition since 1997.
The Southworth Tract is located on the south side of Osowaw Boulevard at its intersection with Shoal Line Boulevard in Hernando County.