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HIllsborough preserves land along bike trail

County gets 5.7 acres, south of Ehrlich Road, for $1 million.

TAMPA — Hillsborough County is buying land in the northwest portion of the county that provides buffers to an existing watershed and to the popular Upper Tampa Bay Trail.

Last week, commissioners unanimously approved acquiring 5.7 acres for $1 million under the Jan.K Platt Environmental Lands Acquisition and Protection Program, known commonly as ELAPP. The land, south of Ehrlich Road and west of the Veterans Expressway, is part of the Rocky Brushy Creek Greenway, a 224-acrea area designated for preservation.

The seller is insurance agent Ronald Hockman of St. Pete Beach and the price is an apparent bargain. Two county appraisals valued the land at just less than $1.13 million and $1.23 million, or 13 to 23 percent higher than the negotiated sale price. The county also is seeking land adjacent to the Hockman property that had been targeted for development of an apartment complex.

Related: Hillsborough buys 543 acres in Keystone for $11.6 million

The land approved for purchase is located in the vegetative corridors along Rocky and Brushy creeks and includes “a wildlife connection to existing ELAPP land adjacent to Rocky Creek and the acquisition achieves protection of a significant stretch of land on both sides of the (Upper Tampa Bay) trail,’’ according to a county memorandum to commissioners.

The county previously acquired approximately 16 acres at Gunn Highway and Manhattan Drive that is within the Rocky Brush Creek Greenway and a portion of that land serves as a trailhead for the Upper Tampa Bay Trail.

“I just want to say I’m thrilled about this acquisition,’’ Commissioner Pat Kemp said last week. “This is the number one park amenity in Hillsborough County — 300,000 people a year use the Upper Tampa Bay Trail.’’