Sprinkle list: UF lands $19M to buy ‘Lee property’ conservation area

Hickory Sink Alachua
‘If acquired, this project would be one of the only large conservation areas in this area of the county.’

The University of Florida (UF) plans to acquire a vast swath of largely undeveloped land near Haile Plantation in Alachua County, which will progress with a $19.425 million last-minute cut of state budget funds.

Senate lawmakers set aside the money in the chamber’s “sprinkle list,” which, as its name suggests, is an assortment of supplemental funding for local and regional initiatives the Legislature complies with as budgeting nears finalization.

The UF-apportioned funds will help cover land purchase within the Hickory Sink Strategic Ecosystem, known locally as the “Lee property.”

It’s half of what Republican Sen. Keith Perry and Rep. Bobby Payne sought in matching appropriations requests this year. The total funding would have covered buying 2,658 acres (4 miles) from the landowner, FCL Timber Land & Cattle LLLP.

Alachua has long examined the prospect of acquiring the property, which today spans 4,068 acres on the county’s west between Gainesville, Newberry and Archer.

“If acquired, this project would be one of the only large conservation areas in this area of the county,” Alachua personnel wrote in a 2005 project assessment that identified several endangered flora and fauna. It’s also an important aquifer recharge area.

The Lee family, who owns the area known as Hickory Sink, have often said they want to preserve as much of their 4,068 acres as possible. Image via Alachua County.

Recently proposed plans have included UF developing 580 acres of the property as a 36-hole golf course to replace the 18-hole Mark Bostic Golf Course the school owns and operates. Residents spoke against the proposal during a County Commission meeting in November.

Neither Perry’s nor Payne’s appropriations request mentioned a golf course. Instead, both said the land UF purchases “will be protected and managed” by the university’s Institute of Food and Agriculture Sciences, which will preserve “agricultural and natural spaces and (provide- educational and community services.”

The House and Senate released their respective “sprinkle lists” Monday for the coming budget, and they combined for a healthy sum: $650 million more, which lawmakers can say they brought home.

As in years prior, the preponderance of sprinkle set-asides this year can be separated into education, infrastructure and a third pot of miscellaneous items.

The sprinkle lists’ release signals that budget negotiations are wrapping and the Legislature will likely end Session on schedule Friday.

Jesse Scheckner

Jesse Scheckner has covered South Florida with a focus on Miami-Dade County since 2012. His work has been recognized by the Hearst Foundation, Society of Professional Journalists, Florida Society of News Editors, Florida MMA Awards and Miami New Times. Email him at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter @JesseScheckner.


Florida Politics is a statewide, new media platform covering campaigns, elections, government, policy, and lobbying in Florida. This platform and all of its content are owned by Extensive Enterprises Media.

Publisher: Peter Schorsch @PeterSchorschFL

Contributors & reporters: Phil Ammann, Drew Dixon, Roseanne Dunkelberger, A.G. Gancarski, Anne Geggis, Ryan Nicol, Jacob Ogles, Cole Pepper, Gray Rohrer, Jesse Scheckner, Christine Sexton, Drew Wilson, and Mike Wright.

Email: [email protected]
Twitter: @PeterSchorschFL
Phone: (727) 642-3162
Address: 204 37th Avenue North #182
St. Petersburg, Florida 33704

Sign up for Sunburn