CLEARWATER — The city closed last week on the purchase of 111 acres of wetlands and submerged lands surrounding the now-defunct Clearwater Christian College.
The $1.36 million purchase includes all college-owned property, excluding the campus northeast of the intersection of Gulf-to-Bay and Bayshore boulevards.
City officials acquired the property for environmental restoration purposes — for improving water quality, circulation and restoring fish populations and health of the mangroves.
A 2011 settlement agreement between the college and three neighbors prevents any harmful development of the wetlands and requires the land to "remain in its existing natural condition forever." But if the city had not made the purchase, a future buyer of the campus, which is off the west end of the Courtney Campbell Causeway, could have ignored the wetlands and not conducted much-needed restoration, Clearwater Environmental Manager Ed Chesney told the Tampa Bay Times in April.
City officials hope to eventually open the wetland area to the public for bird watching, kayaking and other low-impact activities.
The 25-acre campus is still for sale after foreclosure proceedings began in July.