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Dunedin, Pinellas County celebrate purchase of Douglas-Hackworth property

Margie Manning



Part of the 44-acre Gladys Douglas-Hackworth property and adjoining Jerry Lake (Photo credit: Facebook)

The city of Dunedin now owns the 44-acre Gladys E. Douglas Preserve.

The city closed on the $10 million purchase and celebrated with a ceremonial deed signing and toast  on the property Thursday afternoon.

Dunedin Mayor Julia Ward Bujalski (seated, center) and other city officials held a ceremonial deed signing for the Gladys Douglas-Hackworth property. (Photo credit: Nicholle Mattheus, Facebook)

The city intends to connect 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, according to the city’s website. 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 last year. The developer dropped out of the deal in October amid density restrictions and public pressure for conservation.

The city of Dunedin and Pinellas County committed a total of $5.5 million to the purchase. A public fundraising initiative, coordinated by the Pinellas Community Foundation, was launched to come up with the remaining $4.5 million needed. Rebecca Weiss Sjouwerman and her husband, tech entrepreneur Stu Sjouwerman, CEO of Clearwater-based KnowBe4 (Nasdaq: KNBE), made a $2 million donation, and there was an additional $2 million gift from an anonymous donor, according to Duggan Cooley, CEO of the foundation.

Related: Meet the couple behind a $2 million donation to preserve the Douglas-Hackworth land in Dunedin

Pulling off the public-private partnership was not easy, said Dave Eggers, chair of the Pinellas County Board of County Commissioners.

“What makes this so unique is that Pinellas county and the state of Florida are very attractive around the country.  People are coming here in record numbers and they are going to continue coming here. We still have to find places for people to live. So all the housing and jobs and land that’s needed for all of that compete with all of this. And we have to have it all. I’m not sure how we are going to do that. We are going to continue looking for opportunities like this to make it happen,” Eggers said, during a celebration Thursday on the site.

Dave Eggers, chair of the Pinellas County Board of County Commissioners, at the podium for a celebration of the purchase of the Gladys Douglas-Hackworth property. (Photo credit: Nicholle Mattheus, Facebook)

Commissioner Karen Seel called the property a “beautiful, magical place” and said it really did take everyone in the community coming together to make the deal happen.

“I have never in my 25 years  of being in elected office seen the synergy of bringing private dollars along with public money and just making this all come together,” Seel said. “If I could sing, I would sing ‘This land is your land.’ Welcome to your land.”

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  1. Avatar

    Phil Graham, Jr

    May 17, 2021at4:08 pm

    This is a major win for the Dunedin community. Hats off to the passionate and generous people who made this happen; can’t think of a better use for the property.

  2. Avatar

    Anthony Vaccaro

    May 16, 2021at4:53 pm

    I have been reading about this for a while…There is special place in heaven for the anonymous donation and special thanks to the cooperate donors as well.

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