Lee County citizens and the Board of County Commissioners have supported acquisition of conservation lands for over 30 years. The first project was the Six Mile Cypress Slough Preserve. Bill Hammond and his “Monday Group” class took on the challenge of convincing the county commissioners and the public to buy the slough. The commissioners approved a resolution to hold a referendum in 1976, which passed overwhelmingly. The referendum asked the voters to agree to an additional .25 mil property tax. This project was completed with assistance by the South Florida Water Management District (SFWMD) through the Save Our Rivers Program at a cost of approximately $7 million dollars. The last acquisition was in 2001 with approximately 2,200 acres protected.
The next effort was the Corkscrew Regional Ecosystem which the county provided $9 million dollars over 3 years from an additional .25 mil property tax. There was no referendum on this project which lasted from the early 1990s until 2001 .Lee County purchased approximately 9,000 acres, most of which was sold to SFWMD to allow Lee County to continue purchasing property within the project.
Lee County also had a Capital Improvement Project, the Sensitive Lands Inventory and Protection Program, which provided $500,000 per year for several years. Approximately 1,000 acres including Hickey’s Creek Mitigation Park, St. James Creek Preserve and the Bocilla Preserve were purchased through this program, which lasted from 1990-1994.
In summary, prior to Conservation 20/20, Lee County spent approximately $15 million to protect approximately 11, 500 acres of conservation lands. Grants from the Florida Communities Trust, Greenways and Trails and Save Our Rivers Programs provided approximately $4 million towards purchase of these lands.
Conservation 20/20 has continued to purchase lands adjacent to preserves acquired by these earlier programs.
For more information about these Preserves please use the links below.