Conserving land in St. Johns County to get a bigger wallet

Commissioners to vote on funding for LAMP program

Photos of Fish Island provided by North Florida Land Trust
Photos of Fish Island provided by North Florida Land Trust (Provided by North Florida Land Trust)

ST. JOHNS COUNTY, Fla. – If you have enjoyed the outdoors in St. Johns County, you likely spent time at Vilano Beach Oceanfront Park, Canopy Shores Park, or Fort Mose. Each was purchased with taxpayer money that may not have materialized without a bonus of funding from a special acquisition program.

Saving land from development in St. Johns County will become more attainable this year with new county funds on the way. But a decision will be made Jan. 19 to determine how much money is allocated for land conservation.

In December, Commissioner Henry Dean began the process of bringing back the county’s Land Acquisition Management Program (LAMP) that became defunct in 2008.

The program is designed to preserve sensitive land, wildlife, historic or archeologically significant sites, and protect water sources while providing accessible public recreation resources.

LAMP sets aside a special revenue fund to help St. Johns compete with other counties for matching state and regional land conservation funds, such as Florida Forever.

The amount of dollars in the budget is up for question.

According to St. Johns County Soil & Water Conservation Group 3 representative Nicole Crosby, Dean requested $500,000 in seed money, which was later lowered to $370,000 per year.

Crosby is concerned the reduced funds wouldn’t have much purchasing power spread over five large county districts compared to the initial figure.

Resuming the management program gives an advantage to the county. With local funding it can leverage taxpayer dollars to be matched with state money or federal money to acquire conservation lands quicker.

The meeting will take place at 9 a.m. Jan. 19 in St. Augustine.

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