Update on Lee County 20/20 Purchase on Pine Island

On June 18, the Lee County Board of County Commissioners voted unanimously to purchase a 58-acre parcel of land in St. James City through the 20/20 Conservation program. GPICA President Scott Wilkinson and Director Debbie Memoli spoke during the meeting to advocate for the purchase of the property.The land is located next to the Winn Dixie and behind and around the bank and then along Stringfellow Road. It connects and provides public access to the hundreds of acres of land known as Buttonwoods Preserve that is already under conservation through 20/20. The property consists of upland pine woods and has enormous conservation land value.  Moreover, coupled with Buttonwoods Preserve, it could provide hiking trails all the way from Stringfellow to Pine Island Creek  and  kayaking from there may also be possible.  It is a wonderful asset for Pine Island and we thank the Commissioners for acquiring it.

The GPICA will be making a $250 contribution to the County for the land’s purchase as a demonstration of our support.

However, the purchase does come with a caveat: The County is proposing to possibly take 15 acres of this parcel and use it as storm debris site.  That area would have to be clear cut, dozed and kept that way, negating any conservation value of that parcel of the land.

When they spoke to the Commission, both Wilkinson and Memoli explained that the GPICA opposes locating a storm debris site on this parcel. We agree that Pine Island does need a storm debris site, but feel that this is an improper use of 20/20 Conservation land. Wilkinson and Memoli also pointed out that other sites with less conservation value could be used a debris site — farmland, for instance, which is very expensive to restore.

Commissioners Mann and Manning have also expressed skepticism that this is a proper use of 20/20 land.

At the BoCC meeting the County Manager made the following assertions:

  1. The proposed storm debris site will not be located directly on Stringfellow Road
  2. The area for the proposed debris site is already disturbed and has few trees on it
  3. The debris site will only be used for horticultural debris and not for construction or demolition debris

The GPICA hopes the debris site will be located elsewhere, but if not we have requested that the County work with the Association and area residents to help minimize the adverse impacts of the debris removal site.

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