Hillsborough County is acquiring 84 acres of what it calls the Bahia Beach coastal restoration area to help complete a nature preserve at the Little Manatee River.
The county has been attempting to acquire the land since the mid-2000s and now will use RESTORE Act dollars to complete two separate buys via its Jan K. Platt Environmental Lands Acquisition and Protection Program.
The land, sitting between the river and Shell Point Road, is the last remaining large undeveloped property in the area along the Little Manatee River. It can provide public access to the river and completes a landscape corridor of coastal preservation lands along Tampa Bay stretching from Apollo Beach south to the Hillsborough-Manatee County line, the county said.
In separate, unanimous votes on Wednesday, commissioners agreed to pay $3.1 million for 73.7 acres owned by South Bay CDD Holdings Inc., and $463,000 for just less than 11 acres owned by the South Bay Community Development District.
Nearly 90 percent of the purchase costs, plus added expenses for fencing, habitat restoration and removing exotic plants, will be reimbursed by a grant from the RESTORE Act, the pot of money for remediation from the BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill 11 years ago.
“This is the missing puzzle piece needed to connect a wildlife corridor we have been putting together over the years,” said Commissioner Mariella Smith who, as a civic activist, nominated the property for preservation “eons ago.”
The corridor runs from runs the mouth of the Little Manatee River north toward the E.G. Simmons Conservation Park in Ruskin, as well as toward Little Cockroach Bay to the south.