New law transfers swamplands doubling as nature preserve to Wellington officials’ control

The legislation aims to bolster public use of the land that filters water runoff and is popular with nesting birds.

More than 400 acres of wetlands are coming under the control of Wellington’s elected officials to bolster the land’s protection, according to a new law Gov. Ron DeSantis signed.

Democratic Rep. Katherine Waldron, in her first Session, proposed the legislation (HB 943) that will combine the 365-acre Marjory Stoneman Douglas Everglades Habitat with the 45-acre Moncada Property that lies on the western edge of the village. The measure also transfers the land from an independent district to one that Wellington Village Council controls.

“It’s going to be over 400 acres so we can combine trails and make it more available to the public while also helping the environment, so it’s a win-win situation,” Waldron said.

The Wellington Environmental Preserve at the Marjory Stoneman Douglas Everglades Habitat, as it is officially known, also serves as a rainwater storage area. A 3.6-mile horse trail circles the expanse and extends to the 65-mile Wellington bridle trail system. It’s maintained by the village’s Equestrian Trails Department.

The village in 2021 purchased the adjacent Moncada Property that added 30 million gallons of offline water storage to the village’s capabilities, village officials said at the time of the purchase.

The expanse, which also has walkways for the two-legged to stroll, is also an amazing spot for birdwatching, Waldron said.

“A lot of people don’t know about it,” Waldron said.

The land’s use is similar to what Palm Beach County has done with Wakodahatchee Wetlands and Green Cay Wetlands, which have public viewing areas atop wetlands that serve as a natural filter for treated wastewater and an ideal nesting place for birds.

These swaths of land had been under the supervision of the Pine Tree Water Control District, an independent special district created in 1971 for flood prevention. The legislation transfers the land from this district to the ACME Improvement District, which the Wellington Village Council directly controls.

The Pine Tree Water Control District has feuded with the village in the past about whether the district or the village is responsible for road maintenance there, according to the Palm Beach Post.

Anne Geggis

Anne Geggis is a South Florida journalist who began her career in Vermont and has worked at the Sun-Sentinel, the Daytona Beach News-Journal and the Gainesville Sun covering government issues, health and education. She was a member of the Sun-Sentinel team that won the 2019 Pulitzer Prize for coverage of the Parkland high school shooting. You can reach her on Twitter @AnneBoca or by emailing [email protected].


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