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Conservation 20/20 produces tangible results

By Staff | Sep 4, 2019

Taxpayers who support Lee County’s 20/20 Conservation program – and that, literally, is most of us- are seeing some substantial bang for our buck again this year.

One Tuesday, the Lee County Board of County Commissioners voted to purchase three parcels totaling about 225 acres for the voter-endorsed program that acquires environmentally sensitive lands for conservation and preservation.

Tuesday’s action approved purchase agreements to buy land near Cape Coral as well as acreage on Sanibel.

Those purchases are:

– About 125 acres within the Yucca Pens area in northwest Lee County near Cape Coral at a purchase price of $325,000, plus closing costs.

– Another 32 acres, also located within the Yucca Pens area.

The sites do not have legal access to a public road and so “acquisition is contingent on obtaining a Special Use Permit from the State of Florida for access across state-owned lands,” the county states in a release highlighting details of the purchase agreements.

– 68 acres at the intersection of Sanibel-Captiva and Wulfert Roads on Sanibel adjacent to the boundaries of the J.N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge and other preservation areas consisting of more than 7,800 acres, total.

The purchase price is $9.5 million with $6.5 million to come from Lee County’s Conservation 20/20 program and $3 million to be funded by the “Ding” Darling Wildlife Society Inc.

On April 6, commissioners had voted to purchase a pair of parcels totaling more than 60 acres, adding to existing preserves in Alva and Bonita Springs.

The purchases include 20.8 acres near Goggin Road that is surrounded on three sides by the 1,155-acre Alva Scrub Preserve and about 40 acres within the Corkscrew Regional Ecosystem Watershed north of Bonita Beach Road and along the Lee/Collier county line. Costs are $186,930 plus closing costs for the first parcel; $276,000, plus closing costs, for the second with the CREW Land and Water Trust making a donation of $2,000 at closing.

Meanwhile, on July 8, the county completed efforts to complete its $1.17 million acquisition of 92 acres on Pine Island, which increased the size of the Conservation 20/20 Buttonwood Preserve to nearly 360 acres.

Other acquisitions are in the works, including the purchase of nearly 625 acres along Joel Boulevard in Lehigh Acres, and other north county sites.

We thank our county commissioners for moving forward and we re-emphasize our support for the taxpayer-funded program approved not once, but twice, by voters.

Since we Lee Countians first agreed to tax ourselves in 1996, the 20/20 Conservation program has preserved about 29,700 acres among 47 preserves.

The intention?

To “protect drinking water, reduce flood risk, protect native wildlife and plant communities, and provide spaces to enjoy nature-based recreation,” according to Lee County’s website.

The preserves, scattered throughout Lee County, include multiple sites in Cape Coral, North Fort Myers, Pine Island, Sanibel and Captiva, Fort Myers Beach, and outside Lehigh Acres.

It’s a good program.

It has produced tangible results.

That is bang for the buck, indeed.

– North Fort Myers Neighbor editorial