Environment: “Destiny’s death buys time for a Florida frontier and the birth of conservation movements”

Environment: “Destiny’s death buys time for a Florida frontier and the birth of conservation movements”

Photo: Kevin Spear, Orlando Sentinel

“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.

Huge risks

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…

Hibernating giant

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.

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“South Florida brothers team up to restore world’s lost mangroves”

“South Florida brothers team up to restore world’s lost mangroves”

Video: Watch here Local10.com WPLG

“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.”

— Louis Aguirre, Local10.com WPLG

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“A micro forest is being planted in Sarasota to combat climate change – The Suncoast Urban Reforesters will be planting more than 1,000 trees.”

“A micro forest is being planted in Sarasota to combat climate change – The Suncoast Urban Reforesters will be planting more than 1,000 trees.”

Video: 10 Tampa Bay

“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…”

— 10 Tampa Bay

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“$1.1 billion riverfront master plan proposed for downtown Jacksonville”

“$1.1 billion riverfront master plan proposed for downtown Jacksonville”

Photo: Gallery in Jacksonville Daily Record
“Jacksonville developer Steve Atkins says he wants to lead a nearly $1.1 billion redevelopment of mostly city-owned property, including the former Jacksonville Landing, on a stretch of the Downtown Northbank riverfront.

At an invitation-only event June 1 at the Florida Theatre, Atkins presented his ‘Riverfront Jacksonville’ redevelopment plan for about 25 acres along the St. Johns River.

Atkins, who is SouthEast Development Group LLC managing director, says he will try to persuade the city and Downtown Investment Authority to pay for $536 million in a public-private partnership to build 1.8 million square feet of space from the former Jacksonville Landing to the former Duval County Courthouse and old City Hall site, rebranded in 2020 by DIA as The Ford on Bay.

City buy-in

As of May 28, DIA staff and Mayor Lenny Curry’s administration have seen all of SouthEast’s master plan work, according to Atkins.

It is unclear if city officials are willing to accept Atkins’ request for about $500 million in tax money.

Atkins said Goldman Sachs and Piper Sandler together committed to financing the estimated $1.1 billion upfront if the city agrees to an incentives package to repay its share over time…

With all but 2.5 acres targeted as publicly owned, Atkins also would have to convince city officials to change or integrate taxpayer-backed development plans active on the riverfront…

The city also awarded nearly $375,000 in stipends to three national firms in March for a competition to design a 4.5-acre public park at the former Landing site with a selection expected in October.

The DIA and city have renamed the site Riverfront Plaza. DIA CEO Lori Boyer said a plan to put the remaining land on the market for private development after park construction is underway.

Atkins said SouthEast’s team recognizes the park competition but did not commit to keeping the design selected by the DIA should the city agree to work with him.

‘I’m hoping that some of the best (park) ideas are things that we might be able to collaborate with folks on in this plan,’ Atkins said…

Next steps

A spokesperson for Atkins said SouthEast said in a May 30 email the company plans to formally approach the DIA in July with a development proposal.”

— Mike Mendenhall, Jacksonville Daily Record
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For a gallery of renderings of Riverfront Jacksonville, click here

“South Florida teen planting the seeds of life with mangrove nonprofit”

“South Florida teen planting the seeds of life with mangrove nonprofit”

Photo: Mangrolife FB
“Jonah Basi may be 16 years old and a junior at St. Thomas Aquinas High School, but he’s got a big vision for what he wants South Florida to look like in the future.

‘I want to see huge green mangroves all along the seawalls that I know are contributing to that cleaner water,’ he says. ‘A blue waterway that’s reflecting the sky and not reflecting the toxins and everything that’s in it. And a waterway that’s not filled with trash.’

And he’s not waiting for anyone else to do it. Basi, who founded the nonprofit MangroLife, is getting his hands dirty and being the change he wants to see in the world.

‘This is the most important fight there is for me,’ he says. ‘This is the topic of my college application essays. This is all I talk about.’

Heartbroken to see the constant garbage and pollution clogging the Fort Lauderdale waterway behind his family’s new home, he decided to do something about it — not just collecting trash, but seeds of life.

Propagules are the seeds produced by red mangroves. Basi finds them floating on the water, and since last fall he’s been planting them, first along the seawall behind his home, then growing them in tanks and replanting the seedlings in pots as they grow.

‘But those ones, instead of keeping them on our property we’ve always had the intention to transplant them,’ he says.

And that’s how MangroLife was born. Baby mangroves, nurtured by Basi in his backyard until they’re big and strong enough to be replanted where they’re needed most — along the shorelines and seawalls, near ailing waters desperate for the good they bring.”

— Louis Aguirre, Local 10 News, Fort Lauderdale
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“The Florida State Parks Foundation wants to plant ANOTHER 100,000 new pine trees”

“The Florida State Parks Foundation wants to plant ANOTHER 100,000 new pine trees”

Photo: Volusia Country

“It worked last year. Why not do it again?”

“Last week, the Florida State Parks Foundation reached its goal of raising $100,000 in one year to plant 100,000 new longleaf pine trees in our state parks. So why not run it back? The foundation announced Thursday that it is launching a new challenge to raise another $100,000 for 100,000 more trees by Earth Day next year.

‘This campaign has really resonated with the public, and so we have extended it for one more year with the goal of planting another 100,000 seedlings by April 2022,’ foundation president Gil Ziffer said in a press release…

The country’s longleaf pine population is now just a fraction of what it once was, because of development, the use of its wood for timber and storms. According to the foundation, the trees help support more than 30 endangered and threatened animal species…”

— Cooper Levey-Baker, Sarasota Magazine

Read entire article in Sarasota Magazine
Long Leaf Pine Preserve

Citizens for a Scenic Florida