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County receives grant for Douglas Preserve

Veronica Brezina

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The Gladys Douglas-Hackworth property, with 44 acres of environmentally valuable land and the 50 acre Jerry Lake. Photo: Preserve the Douglas Hackworth property #SaveTheGDP Facebook group.

Pinellas County has received a $1.5 million grant to help offset the costs of aiding Dunedin in purchasing the Gladys E. Douglas Preserve. 

The city’s purchase of the property last year was a major milestone as Dunedin planned on connecting the land to an adjoining 55-acre lake, currently owned by the Southwest Florida Water Management District, to create a nearly 100-acre public park.

The property, at the intersection of Keene Road and Virginia Avenue, is the largest single open space in Pinellas County. It was part of the estate of the late Gladys Douglas-Hackworth. Although she reportedly wanted to see it preserved, it was under contract to a developer in 2020. The developer, Pulte Homes, dropped out of the deal amid density restrictions and public pressure for conservation.

When the city was trying to take ownership of the property, the county stepped in and contributed $3.5 million towards the $10 million purchase of the 44-acre preserve. The contributed funds were available through the county’s Penny for Pinellas surtax fund.   

The City of Dunedin and Pinellas County committed a total of $5.5 million toward the purchase.

A public fundraising initiative, coordinated by the Pinellas Community Foundation, was launched to raise the remaining $4.5 million needed. Local artist and author Rebecca Weiss Sjouwerman and her husband, Stu Sjouwerman, founder and CEO of KnowBe4, a Clearwater cybersecurity training firm, made a significant donation to protect the land.  

On Tuesday, Pinellas County Commissioners will review a $1.5 million grant the county received from the Florida Legislature. The appropriation is in addition to the $1.2 million the county is eligible to receive through the previously approved Florida Communities Trust grant award, which would total $2.7 million in funding. 

There’s a gap of $800,000; however, that could be covered through the Penny IV Environmental and Park Lands Acquisition Program.

The county’s funds are utilized to offset the cost of approximately 14.84 pre-acquired acres of the entire land with the intent to protect significant species found in the area and to enhance the property with passive recreational opportunities for residents and visitors, according to county documents. 

The 14.84 acres were appraised at $1.67 million, and the county holds a less-than-fee interest in the property through a conservation easement. 

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