TARPON SPRINGS, Florida — It looks almost too good to be true to Kay Carter. Her WK Preservation Group was able to secure the necessary financing for the preservation of an undeveloped tract of wilderness near Tarpon Springs as a result of a protracted battle, the receipt of thousands of donations, and collaboration with state and local authorities.
The 13.5-acre piece of property, which can be found on West Klosterman Road on the southeastern edge of Tarpon Springs, is home to a wide variety of flora and fauna, including both plant and animal species. Those who advocate for the land’s protection claim that it is ecologically and environmentally significant in a county that is losing more and more open space as a result of new construction.
Carter stated, “The more I study, the more I realize how vital this is to future generations,” and he said this phrase multiple times. “If we don’t (save this land now), and I mean now, we won’t be able to accomplish it in the future,” said the man. “Now” refers to the present moment.
However, the fight for preservation was not an easy one.
Pinellas County Schools is the owner of the land in question, and they made public their intention to put it up for sale a year ago. The locals were so concerned that the land would be sold to developers who planned to build condominiums on it that they rushed to gather $3.2 million in order to purchase it before it was destroyed by construction equipment.
“People need a place to live, and that’s really important, but there are certain properties that are unique and that have so much of what is the natural environment, and it needs to be saved,” said Carter. “There are certain properties that are unique and that have so much of what is the natural environment.”
After a number of months of unsuccessful fundraising attempts on the part of the preservation group, the state government finally took action and included funding in the budget for the preservation of the area.
However, when Governor Ron DeSantis revealed his list of vetoes from the state budget at the beginning of June, the financing to save the property on West Klosterman Road was included on the list of items he vetoed. The cuts, as stated in the veto letter written by Governor DeSantis, will assist in preparing the state for the possibility of a recession.
When asked about the experience at the time, Carter described it as “having the rug yanked out from under you.” “I had a sick feeling in the bottom of my stomach. It was almost as if they were saying, “It’s hard to believe that truly happened.”
Now, after what Carter and the other members of the preservation organization describe as a “miraculous” last-ditch effort, they are rejoicing.
She expressed her amazement at the accomplishment by saying, “I simply have kind of been pinching myself to think that we actually were able to accomplish it.”
They were successful in obtaining cash from what is known as a “Local Support Grant,” which is a separate stream of state money.
On Friday, a legislative committee reached a consensus to award “local assistance funds” totaling $175 million to 238 different projects located throughout the state. On the list of potential expenditures was a one-time donation in the amount of $2.5 million intended for the purchase and long-term preservation of the West Klosterman site.
Rep. Chris Latvala (R-Pinellas) included a statement in his application for grant financing indicating that there was “strong community opinion” in favor of preserving the area.
The request for the grant was quite different from the budget item that Governor DeSantis vetoed back in June.
In his proposal, Latvala makes it clear that he expects Pinellas County to make good on the promise to buy the land from the school system with the grant money.
The grant sum of $2.5 million is significantly lower than the amount that was initially asked from the state. The WK Preservation Group, on the other hand, is going to make up the gap by using the donations that it has received since since it started its campaign to save the site in 2021.
“We have just made it,” stated Carter, who went on to say that each donation made a difference in the outcome. “I mean, each and every dollar did, because I mean that without each and every one of them, we wouldn’t have that half a million dollars,” she said. We are literally on the cusp.
According to Carter, before the area is given to Pinellas County, it will first be set aside for the purpose of providing environmental protection.
According to Carter, there are currently no plans to grant the general public access to the thickly wooded location, and this situation will not alter in the foreseeable future. She stated that the county would need to investigate whether or not nature paths might be added to the preserve at a later time without having a negative impact on the surrounding ecosystem.
In the meanwhile, she stated that the WK Preservation Group would continue its efforts to raise funds in the anticipation of saving additional properties in the future.