By Cindy Jackson
January 28, 2021
“This is a historic night for Nassau County,” commented Board of County Commission Chair Thomas Ford at the BOCC meeting of January 26, 2021.
Two important resolutions were unanimously passed that will go a long way in helping Nassau County control its own destiny. The first mandates the preparation and maintenance of a Parks Recreation and Open Space Master Plan to guide the development and maintenance of County parks and recreation facilities.
The second resolution approved will create the Nassau County Conservation Lands Acquisition and Management Program or CLAM.
The North Florida Land Trust (NFLT) has been a critical partner in helping the County to develop a conservation plan. Part and parcel of the grand plan was the introduction of a strategic process to “identify, rank, and assess lands for acquisition and management.”
In addition to the NFLT, the Trust for Public Land and other experts in the field, 300 Nassau County residents were also active participants in the process.
In fact, as a result of its work with the NFLT and others, just last year (2020) the Department of Planning and Economic Opportunity was presented with the Northeast Florida Regional Council Award for Excellence in Environmental Stewardship as a result of its work in the development a Conservation Land Acquisition and Management Plan. When the CLAM plan is discussed often mentioned is the fact that Nassau County currently has only 7% of its land preserved while the average for all of Florida counties is 29%.
Said Taco Pope, County Manager, “A few years ago I made the comment that before my time is up in Nassau County, I want to accomplish three things: a land use plan for West Nassau County, a redevelopment plan for State Road 200 and a land acquisition program. This is a monumental step forward for the community.”
It was another longtime County partner, David Barth of Barth and Associates who made the presentation regarding the Parks, Recreation and Open Space Master Plan (PROSMP). His presentation included an analysis of existing conditions, a needs assessment, a long-range vision and a phased implementation strategy.
During his talk, he commented that “Nassau County has gone beyond just boat ramps and ballfields.”
The price tag for what his study envisions for the County – some $138 million over ten years. Regional parks, an indoor recreation center, a centralized aquatics center, more bikeways and hiking trails . . . better stormwater management and a conservation network are just a few items outlined in his report. Finding the right funding mechanisms to generate revenues and minimize costs was also an important component of his discussion.
As to the estimated $140 million (over ten years) needed to realize the plan, said Barth, “you eat an elephant just one bite at a time.”
Said Commissioner Jeff Gray, representing District 3, said, “This is a long, long-range plan.”