Sarasota County, Audubon Society and The Conservation Foundation Agree to Protect Quad Parcels

The Giving Coast

BY BRITTANY MATTIE SRQ DAILY WEDNESDAY PHILANTHROPY EDITION WEDNESDAY OCT 14, 2020

The future of four pieces of important land at the intersection of Palmer Boulevard and Apex Road that have come to be known as the “Quads.” If you’ve followed the issues surrounding the Celery Fields over the last several years, then you’re likely aware that Sarasota County claims ownership of the four parcels of land, and thus, decides the ultimate fate of Celery Fields. The “park” has come to be frequented by foot by many runners, picnicers, photographers, nature goers, dog walkers and sunset seekers. Many Sarasota County citizens, and volunteers of The Fresh Initiative, have been fighting to keep it the big green, lush hill as it stands. And thanks to the Conservation Foundation and to Sarasota Audubon, three Quads parcels have come under perpetual easement, and are set to be restored as habitat that will extend and buffer the Celery Fields. 

Though there was much back and forth over the years on how to liquidate the County’s “surplus lands,” developers have put in bids to build a Restaurant Depot and a much-opposed recycling dump. And in August of 2017, County Commissioners unanimously voted down the idea of developing over the environmental attraction. But in the time since that decision, still, much discussion has taken place about the future of the beloved land. Hundreds of man-hours have been invested in cultivating and refining ideas, led by the volunteers of the Fresh Start Initiative. And after intense public input, public hearings, multiple letters and emails, and almost a year of working out the terms with the County, the Quad parcels officially became public lands on Tuesday, October 6. 

Sealing the deal and helping to get it in ink was Conservation Foundation of the Gulf Coast, Sarasota Audubon Nature Center and Sarasota County — all of whom created a three-fold private-public partnership that permanently protects the Quad parcels under a Conservation Easement. The Conservation Foundation will hold the Conservation Easement, while Sarasota Audubon will be in charge of the restoration and management of the Quad. Audubon has set up a special fund strictly for the restoration of these public lands. 

“It was a historic moment when the Quad parcels legally became protected forever,” says Jeanne Dubi of Sarasota Audubon.“This is a win-win-win for all of us. It is a win for the County – their environmental legacy is strengthened and will be protected in perpetuity. It is a win for citizens of Sarasota – with the dedicated grassroots movement, our community came together to advocate for the environmental importance of this land. And above all, it is a win, a big win, for nature – for birds, wildlife, and the fragile web of life that is perched against the backdrop of our busy, dynamic urban environment.”

Both organizations have worked with six different county departments, negotiating the placement of the conservation easements on the northeast, southeast and southwest Quads parcels and the terms of management. The fourth parcel already has a fire station on it and any subsequent building/development on part of the SW parcel will follow conservation easement guidelines.

"It was, in large part, due to the trust that the BCC has in Sarasota Audubon and the Conservation Foundation, that the unanimous vote came about," says Dubi. What began as a community/foundation effort, turned into a private-public partnership. The next steps now, are for Sarasota Audubon and the Conservation Foundation will be working with environmental and hydrology engineers to develop plans for the 25+ acres. All of this depends on the success of the fundraising campaign they are undertaking to cover the substantial costs associated with any future plans.

You can be part of this conservation effort today by donating to Sarasota Audubon. Click on SAS Quad Fund, established for this purpose.
 
 

Photo courtesy of 'Save The Celery Fields' community volunteer group

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