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Cost of open space in Pinellas: priceless

Pinellas County will buy several pieces of property along Willard Street to add 4.4 acres to Wall Springs Park. In April, county commissioners voted to buy 12 parcels for $1.2-million.

JIM DAMASKE | Times

Pinellas County will buy several pieces of property along Willard Street to add 4.4 acres to Wall Springs Park. In April, county commissioners voted to buy 12 parcels for $1.2-million.

Like most local governments in Florida, Pinellas County is grappling with a budget that has fewer dollars showing up in the revenue column than in recent years. There is talk about cutting services, consolidating operations and laying off county employees.

Nevertheless, county officials recently decided not to pass up the opportunity to buy land to grow the size of Wall Springs Park in Palm Harbor. With the cost of property down, and the need for open space in crowded Pinellas never going away, the county's decision to buy the land was the right one.

The 4.4 acres are on the north side of the park, between Alt. U.S. 19 and the Wai Lani Girl Scout camp. The county will spend $1.2-million for the property.

This is not pristine land. In fact, five homes are located on the 12 tracts that make up the acreage. However, much of the land is thickly wooded and includes enormous live oak trees. The county will tear down the homes and reclaim the land for park purposes.

The county could not have obtained the land without the cooperation of the owners, all members of the Brinson family. Eleven acres of Brinson property are already part of Wall Springs Park. A representative of the Brinsons said developers were interested in the pieces the county bought, but the family wanted to sell its property to the county for parkland instead.

Original Pinellas landowners like the Brinsons, the McMullens, the Taylors and others have made it possible for local governments to acquire land for the beautiful parks and preserves that dot Pinellas County. They could have sold their land to developers and enjoyed a bigger boost to their bank accounts, but instead the land went to the public, sometimes as a gift, other times at reasonable market rates.

The value of those preserved lands to the people who live in Pinellas, the most densely populated county in the state, cannot be overestimated.

Cost of open space in Pinellas: priceless 05/07/08 [Last modified: Thursday, May 8, 2008 5:08pm]

    

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