TARPON SPRINGS – A philanthropist’s fundraising campaign to save the West Klosterman Preserve has been expanded. Retired educator Sally McConnell of St. Petersburg will increase her total donation match from $25,000 to $35,000 and extend the deadline from the end of September to October 31.
The beneficiary, WK Preservation Group Inc (WKPG), is a 501 C3 nonprofit organization formed to save the 14-acre forested parcel from development. It is located on West Klosterman Road west of Carlton Road in Tarpon Springs. Since McConnell’s Double Your Donation campaign was launched in early September, it has raised a matched total of more than $24,000.
“I said, it’s going so well, let’s keep the momentum going and raise it another $10,000,” said McConnell. “This land is too precious to lose.”
WKPG needs to raise a total of $3 million to purchase the land from the Pinellas County School Board. The parcel is home to several endangered, threatened and special-concern species, including gopher tortoises, Florida rosemary and giant air plants. It is located on a narrow, shaded, two-lane stretch of road. A multifamily development there would add hundreds of vehicle trips per day to West Klosterman and Carlton roads, as well as already-congested US Alt. 19.
On August 15, the Pinellas County Commission unanimously approved a resolution directing the county administrator to negotiate the purchase of the West Klosterman Preserve from its current owner, Pinellas County Schools, in partnership with WKPG. The county has agreed to commit $1.5 million of Penny for Pinellas funds toward the purchase of the land.
WK Preservation Group must now match the county commitment with $1.5 million from private citizens, grants, corporate donations and philanthropic organizations. WKPG has already raised more than $755,000. The McConnell match is part of an aggressive Close the Gap fundraising campaign to reach the remainder.
After acquisition, the land will be managed as a preserve in perpetuity alongside the county-owned, 76-acre Mariner Point Management Area (MPMA).
WKPG was formed in early 2020 after nearby residents learned the land was put out to bid by the school district to developers to create single or multifamily residences. Recognizing the ecological importance of the land and the dwindling supply of virgin forest amid a development boom, the group asked the school board to give it time to raise the money and purchase the property for preservation.
Two legislative efforts to save the property fell through in 2022, and the school board has since given the group more time to raise the funds.
For information on saving the West Klosterman Preserve, visit www.wkpreserve.com or email email@example.com.