“The expanse of wild lands between Central and South Florida was given a second chance for conservation when, in the heart of it, the Destiny development was reincarnated as DeLuca Preserve. This landscape picture here is from the neighboring of Three Lake Wildlife Management Area.
Anthony Pugliese III closed in 2005 on a $137 million purchase of 27,000 acres he called Destiny.
The property at Yeehaw Junction in south Osceola County is surrounded by large preserves and ranches. Destiny would be the first invasion of houses and businesses amid a landscape that connects the best environments of South and Central Florida.
‘It was going to be like a can opener, prying its way for more development into one of the wildest frontiers left in the state of Florida,’ said Carlton Ward Jr., a conservation photographer.
Like many Florida dreams, Destiny collapsed into a heap of recriminations and legal troubles. But its failure opened the door to transformation of the 27,000 acres into DeLuca Preserve.
Pugliese was then a veteran South Florida developer from Delray Beach. His partner was Fred DeLuca, co-founder of Subway restaurants, who was cited by Forbes magazine then as being worth $1.5 billion and the world’s 512th-richest person…
The tract they acquired had been a quarter of the 100,000-acre ranch assembled in the 1930s by Latimer ‘Latt’ Maxcy, who died in the 1970s as a titan among Florida ranchers.
Latt Maxcy Corp. believed the 27,000-acre sale was the region’s largest land deal since Walt Disney bought his kingdom. ‘At this time,’ the corporation said when the deal closed, no details had been ‘released as to the buyer’s plans for the property.’
That would come a year later when Pugliese and DeLuca unveiled their ambitions, including features to attract a quarter-million residents.
They designed the community for canals, waterborne taxis powered by electricity, health clinics for the boomer generation, organic restaurants, a biomedical research center and a biomass energy plant.
Pugliese said the location, the Yeehaw Junction of three major highways, was an ‘aligning of the stars…’
But the proposed development was viewed as an abomination by the Florida Department of Community Affairs. DCA was the state’s vaunted watchdog for growth and development regulations.
There was a reason the per-acre price of the would-be city was relatively cheap at less than $5,000. The land had no development permissions and was far from government services.
DCA sparred with Destiny at every juncture. Then came more resistance to the project.
The housing bubble burst and the Great Recession began in 2007. Proposed developments across Florida bled out…
Destiny’s visionary, Pugliese, was sentenced in 2015 to six months in jail for defrauding DeLuca, who had died of cancer a few months earlier and whose estate took ownership of the land.
‘Yeehaw Junction is rural, almost wilderness and no place for urban development,’ said Thomas Pelham, DCA secretary and vocal foe of Destiny when it was in play.
A University of Florida sign for DeLuca Preserve stands near Yeehaw Junction in south Osceola County and 70 miles south of Orlando…
At the least, many environmentalists figured, Destiny’s death bought time to keep one of Florida’s last frontiers alive.
Photo: Ricardo Ramirez Buxeda, Orlando Sentinel
‘I don’t know if I was ecstatic as much as ‘thank God,’’ said Julie Morris [Florida program manager for the National Wildlife Refuge Association and director of the Florida Conservation Group], who grew up on ranch and natural spaces and has worked for government and nonprofit conservation groups.
‘I drive by it all the time and all I could think about for years was, if this goes for development, I think I used the phrase that we might as well pack up and go home,’ Morris said.”
— Kevin Spear, Orlando Sentinel via WUSF 89.7 Public Media
Read more details on new Conservation Science, view maps and understand the people behind the ranch lands and wildlife corridor movements who helped protect and preserve Florida’s scenic beauty.
“The Marie Selby Botanical Gardens soon will offer visitors a brand-new, ‘Old Florida’ way to experience both of its bayfront campuses, according to a news release.
Starting in January, Selby Gardens will launch Selby Gardens by Boat, a boat tour that includes a narrated, round-trip cruise between its Downtown Sarasota campus and its Historic Spanish Point campus, access to both sites for self-guided touring, and lunch at the Historic Spanish Point campus…
‘Selby Gardens’ two sanctuaries are so significant and beloved in large part thanks to their bayfront locations,’ Jennifer Rominiecki, president and CEO of Marie Selby Botanical Gardens, said. ‘The water is central to the history and appeal of our two campuses, so it only makes sense to connect them by boat. This tour is going to offer an immersion into native nature, our regional history and the ecology of the area…’
Highlighting the full-day experience is roughly three hours of leisurely cruising with educational narration from Sarasota Bay to Little Sarasota Bay and back.
‘It’s 10 miles of beauty — a kind of aquatic garden, if you will,’ said John McCarthy, Selby Gardens’ vice president for the Historic Spanish Point campus. ‘Then you’ll arrive at our Historic Spanish Point campus the way people did 100 years ago — by boat’…”
“Thousands of lights across a 3/4-mile walk are on display to draw young and old alike to celebrate the holiday season. Live entertainment, a 65-foot tunnel and a forest of fog and light are a few key attractions. The display runs through Jan. 9, 2022.”
“For over 100 years as South Florida’s coastline was developed, acres upon acres of mangroves were destroyed in the process.
In recent years we’ve begun to understand just how vital mangroves are to protecting our shores and cleaning up our waterways.
Two Palm Beach County brothers recognized that and launched a company with the goal of restoring the world’s lost mangroves.
They’re doing it by selling hats and shirts, changing the world by planting one mangrove at a time.
On the day Local 10 News met up with the brothers, as the sun rose over the historic lighthouse on the Jupiter Inlet, a team of dedicated volunteers began to plant the first of 1,000 baby mangroves on an eroding shore where these ancient trees once dominated the coastline.
‘We are putting back what was once here and we are using natural elements to stabilize eroding shorelines,’ said Peter Dewitt, program manager for the Bureau of Land Management of the Jupiter Inlet outstanding natural area…
‘These mangroves are our future. They’re the future stability of our economy. They’re protecting our ecosystems, protecting our shorelines and protecting our community for the future,’ said Mang co-founder Keith Rossin.
That’s why 30-year-old twin brothers Keith and Kyle Rossin are on an urgent mission to plant as many mangroves as they can.
So together they created ‘Mang,’ a high performance outdoor apparel brand with a commitment to plant one mangrove for every product they sell.
‘Buy one, plant one,’ Kyle Rossin said. ‘It all started with our passion to protect the environment.’
The seed was planted six years ago inside their mother’s garage that today is still an overflow space for inventory…
Meanwhile in mom’s backyard, a mangrove nursery began to flourish.
Kyle Rossin said they have roughly 20,000 mangroves.
‘The nursery cycles through about 10,000 a year, so each year we run an annual propagule collection campaign,’ he explained.
This past weekend, the Mang brothers planted 2,200 red mangroves in Grand Bahama.
In December, they’ll be planting mangroves in Costa Rica just as they have here in Florida, Madagascar, Mozambique, the Philippines and Honduras.”
“The Stoneybrook Golf and Country Club in Sarasota will soon be home to a microforest in an effort to combat climate change.
Members of the Suncoast Urban Reforesters (SURF) were out on Wednesday prepping for their plans to plant more than 1,000 trees on the golf course. They say miniature forests are beneficial for the environment since they are fast-growing and capture carbon from the air.
The effort is part of a larger movement that’s swept the world over the past year. Micro forests have recently been springing up across Europe and here in the U.S. However, it has its roots in one Japanese botanist’s 50-year-old idea.
In the 1970s, botanist Akira Miyawaki planted thousands of these forests in Japan, Malaysia and other parts of the world. The idea being that planting the same species of trees that grow naturally in an area can create a diverse forest community.
Scientists have found that these small forests can not only grow faster but are more biodiverse compared to traditional planting methods. They also found the forests can store 40 times more carbon than any one species of plant, helping aid in the global effort to reduce carbon in the air…”
“The impending winter means something a little different for Floridians.
No need to bundle up indoors with hot cocoa and a cozy blanket. No, as the humidity wanes and the scorching summer temperatures give way to 70 degree highs, now is the time we head outdoors.
One of the best ways to spend time in the sun is by kayaking or canoeing into the wilderness. Central Florida is home to some of the country’s finest springs, and the Indian River Lagoon is the most biodiverse estuary in North America.
Here’s a guide to nine of the best places to go kayaking in Volusia County.
Cracker Creek – The slow-moving water of western Spruce Creek cuts through a gorgeous blackwater cypress swamp with palm trees and ample ferns lending the water a tropical charm.
It’s located on 20 acres historically owned by the caretaker of James Gamble’s winter retreat, according to the Daytona Beach Museum of Arts & Sciences. Gamble worked for his father’s company, Proctor & Gamble, for decades and was best known for devising the formula for Ivory soap. Some historical buildings remain standing on the property.
De Leon Springs – The two oldest canoes ever found in the Western Hemisphere were discovered in this spring and 6,000 years later, De Leon Springs State Park continues to provide access to 22,000 acres of serene lakes, creeks and marshes in Lake Woodruff National Wildlife Refuge…
The cool, clear waters provide excellent opportunities for fishing and birdwatching, and run a constant 68 degrees. You might spot otters, alligators, manatees, osprey, bald eagles, sandhill cranes and — if you’re lucky, a black bear out for a swim…
Tomoka River State Park – The Tomoka River, which extends 13 miles upstream (south) from Tomoka State Park, is part of Florida’s 4,000-mile network of designated paddling trails.
A manatee refuge and excellent site for birdwatching, the views vary from lush, narrow canopies to wide, grassy marshes that empty into the wide Halifax River. The land was was once occupied by the indigenous Timucua tribe, from which the name Tomoka was derived…
Hontoon Island State Park – Hontoon Island is a natural freshwater island that is surrounded by the St. Johns River, Hontoon Dead River and Snake Creek. It’s nestled in between Lake Beresford and Blue Spring…
The island can only be reached by boat and features 8 miles of trails that wind through swamps, marshes, pine flatwoods and oak hammocks. The Mayaca natives were believed to inhabit the island some 12,000 years ago and a shell midden remains on the shore of Hontoon Dead River today…
Gemini Springs – Gemini Springs Park is named for its crystal-clear twin springs, where an estimated 6.5 million gallons of pristine fresh water bubbles up every day…
Ormond Beach’s Central Park – This city park contains five interconnected lakes surrounded by forest and gardens in the heart of Ormond Beach. It’s an excellent birdwatching spot, and encompasses 149 acres…
Highbridge Park on the Ormond Loop – Highbridge Park is a county park that sits on the banks of Halifax River in the northernmost reaches of Volusia County.
Navigate up to 11 miles along Bulow Creek, part of Florida’s 4,000-mile network of designated paddling trails and witness the transition from wide tidal marsh to a tree and cabbage palm-lined paradise…
Blue Spring State Park – Blue Spring contains refreshingly cool, crystal-clear fresh water and is best known as a winter refuge for manatees. Hundreds of sea cows huddle in the spring during cold snaps, as the temperature remains 72 degrees year-round.
Kayaks and canoes can’t enter the spring run, but may be paddled on the St. Johns River, which is also home to alligators, fish and a spectacular array of birds…
Mosquito Lagoon – The mangrove mazes of the Mosquito Lagoon are vibrant places to explore, home to dolphins, manatees and coastal birds. The Mosquito Lagoon constitutes the uppermost reaches of the Indian River Lagoon, believed to the most biodiverse estuary in North America…”
— Mary Helen Moore, The Daytona Beach News-Journal