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Alachua County commission makes initial bid to manage proposed Little Orange Creek Conservation Corridor

The Alachua County Board of Commissioners agreed on Tuesday to submit a chair letter to Florida Forever expressing the county’s initial commitment to manage the properties located in Alachua County in the proposed Little Orange Creek Conservation Corridor.

The proposed Little Orange Creek Conservation Corridor connects the Little Orange Creek Nature Preserve with the Lochloosa Slough Preserve. Lochloosa Slough Preserve totals about 6,300 acres and is located in Alachua County.

If the Little Orange Creek Conservation Corridor is approved as a Florida Forever Project area, properties in the area will qualify to be acquired by the state with Florida Forever funding.

“We have a good reputation with Florida Forever,” said Mary Alford, Alachua County District 1 commissioner. “They like working with us. We are good, responsible users of our funding. I would expect that would continue.”

The corridor project is still in its early stage, according to Andi Christman, the environmental program manager for the Alachua County Environmental Protection Department, as Florida must agree to buy this land. After that, negotiations would need to take place with the owners of each parcel in the protected land to acquire the properties. Each acquisition needs to go through a real estate transaction.

According to an Alachua County agenda item summary, the project area has 30 parcels in Alachua County for purchase. Six are already on the Alachua County Active Acquisition List while the other 24 have not been nominated to the Alachua County Forever Program.

The Alachua County Forever Program aims to protect important lands to help protect drinking water in the county and to protect wildlife.

According to Christman, it is too early to estimate how much these parcels will cost to acquire.

“Each parcel would be completely different in what its per-acre value might be,” she said. “I would be wrong to speculate on what the total cost of that corridor or any of those parcels would be.”

Because the preserve sits right on the border of Alachua and Putnam counties, Little Orange Creek has many partners and caretakers. According to its website, Alachua Conservation Trust leads the management of the project but also partners with Alachua County Friends of Little Orange Creek, Putnam Land Conservancy, Conservation Florida and the city of Hawthorne.

The goal is to have the state of Florida buy out parcels of land vital to the Little Orange Creek Conservation Corridor as part of the Florida Forever Project.

Florida Forever is a Florida Department of Environmental Protection project to acquire lands to help protect and conserve Florida’s “natural and cultural heritage.”

The Little Orange Creek Preserve and Nature Park sits east of Hawthorne and covers almost 2,900 acres. It’s home to a variety of native Florida species.

“We see deer, wild rabbits, turtles, frogs,” said Randi Cameon, the president of Friends of Little Orange Creek. “It’s also got a habitat for gopher tortoises, which are threatened.”

Creating the Little Orange Creek Corridor would allow Florida’s wildlife to safely move from one protected area to another.

“It provides a greater potential for habitat connectivity going east into Putnam County,” Christman said.

She said the hope is this corridor will connect wildlife to an even larger corridor project: the Ocala to Osceola Wildlife Corridor, or O2O, which is part of the broader Florida Wildlife Corridor. According to the North Florida Land Trust, it is a 100-mile-long corridor that connects the Ocala National Forest with the Osceola National Forest.

“I think it’s a dream come true,” Cameon said. “I think it’s critical because Florida is becoming a big sprawl of development and there’s less and less habitat for the natural world.”

Aileyahu is a reporter for WUFT News who can be reached by calling 352-392-6397 or emailing