F&N Article 3: The Target Areas
In our first two articles we discussed why Martin County is a such a special place and how acquiring and preserving land in our County can protect the things that make it so special. We also reviewed the County’s history of acquiring land and how it has been very successful at receiving matching State and Federal funds.
Now we’d like to explain why the four areas that we’re focused on play such an important role in protecting our water and providing many recreational opportunities. If we don’t save this land now, it will be gone forever.
The “Blue-Ways” Area
The 400 acres in this “Blue-ways” area consists of numerous smaller undeveloped parcels of land with access to local waterways, beaches and shorelines. Many of these properties are within our urban areas and are at the highest risk of development. You might often drive right by some of them in your daily travels. These “Blue-ways” support habitat for rare and endangered species and provide natural buffers and coastal resiliency during storms. Importantly, if preserved, these lands would create public access for Martin County residents to enjoy water-related recreational activities.
Indian River Lagoon Watershed
This 27,000-acre area is one of the targeted areas within CERP (Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan) because of the critical role it plays in protecting the health of our aquifers and waterways. It provides shallow water storage to prevent stormwater runoff from flowing into the St. Lucie River. Much of the land, through the vegetation within its wetlands, filters and cleanses the water, removing chemicals that can cause harmful green algae and other blooms. Land already acquired within this watershed include the C44 Basin Reservoir, Allapattah and adjoining restored wetlands that now serve as Stormwater Treatment Areas (STAs). While the Reservoir is still under operational testing, the STA has been successfully holding and cleaning water for years. Together, they will store and treat over 50,000 acre-feet of contaminated water runoff and releases from Lake Okeechobee before it reaches the St. Lucie Estuary. Preserving the rest of this targeted area is critical to restoring a natural balance in our waterways.
The Loxa-Lucie area encompasses both the headwaters of the Wild and Scenic Loxahatchee River, as well as the South Fork of the St. Lucie River. Loxa-Lucie is a mosaic of high-quality pine forests and wetland plant communities that are essential homelands for many birds, insect, and wild creatures. Acquiring the 3,300 acres of lands remaining within this 9,800-acre tract will move us closer to creating a trail connection between Stuart and Tequesta as well as creating a critically important wildlife/recreation corridor connection between Jonathan Dickinson and Atlantic Ride State Parks.
A sizeable area of 8,500 acres at the headwaters of the Loxahatchee River contain some of the highest quality wetlands in Martin County, is an important wildlife corridor and provides many recreational opportunities as well as being a major trail destination. This region is on the precipice of losing its natural attributes forever from off-road vehicles and poaching.
Why does that matter?
For many reasons. Acquiring as much of the land within these remaining 45,000 acres as possible will remove the risk it will be developed and instead will help to :
- Preserve our unique character and quality of life
- Clean and restore our rivers and waterways
- Safeguard sources of drinking water
- Preserve valuable natural upland and wetland habitat and create wildlife corridors
- Provide more recreational opportunities
The citizens of Martin County have a long and proud history of supporting the acquisition of environmentally sensitive lands. The four targeted areas all have the potential of receiving grant funding to assist in acquisition. Local funding , greatly improves an applicants chance for receiving grant funding. Local funding leveraged by partnering with State and Federal agencies not only makes our dollar go further, it also provides another layer of protection ensuring the land remains in conservation. Land acquired for conservation with matching grant funding cannot be simply altered or sold based on political will of the future, it must be held to the terms of the grant.
There are significant matching funds available but they are limited and the clock is ticking. Unless we get in-line for them, we will lose out on this opportunity.
Martin County Forever is gathering support to place a referendum for a 10-year half-cent sales tax increase on the November 2024 Martin County ballot. As we’ve embarked on outreach efforts, we’ve been pleasantly surprised by the widespread support we’ve received for the project from Environmental groups, business leaders and Martin County citizens alike. The income generated by this small sales tax increase will be segregated and overseen by a panel of citizens who will advise Martin County on land acquisition. Martin County Forever needs the Martin County Board of Commissioners to agree to the referendum.
If you’d like to schedule a presentation to your group or association, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
We’ll be launching our website soon at www.martincountyforever.com.