One of our favorite bridges to drive is the J Turner Butler Bridge which separates Jacksonville Beach and Ponte Vedra Beach. At the top of the bridge, you have a fabulous expansive view of the Intracoastal Waterway, the marsh and islands scattered throughout the Waterway. We often wonder what the future holds for this beautiful natural landscape.
In the next 40 years, the population of Florida is expected to double. Balancing conservation efforts with residential and commercial development is a fine line, particularly as we feel the effects in Northeast Florida from this surge in population. Lisa Barton, our team lead and North Florida Land Trust board member, met with Rianna Elliot and Lee Anderson, from the North Florida Land Trust (NFLT) to learn more about the efforts to conserve North Florida’s natural habitats for all generations to enjoy.
Rianna Elliot is the Director of Land Stewardship at the North Florida Land Trust. Rianna’s responsibility is to ensure that the lands the NFLT acquires are protected and managed the way they should be. The NFLT believes that by protecting our area’s natural farms, forests, and other habitats, traditions can be maintained, lives enhanced, and expanding communities sustained.
The NFLT decides what lands need to be preserved by understanding their relationship to the watershed, historical, environmental, and/or agricultural importance. One of the most recent conservation efforts the NFLT acquired is the River Branch Islands Preserve (formerly known as the Small Islands) on the southeast side of the J.T. Butler Bridge over the Intracoastal Waterway.
This 300 acres of land is important to save because it is in such a significant area. The River Branch Islands Preserve is comprised of numerous small islands with wetland marshes along a prime area of interest for development along the Intracoastal Waterway. It's home to many animals indigenous to Florida, and acts as a buffer for storm surges during hurricanes. These wetlands act as a barrier between the waterway and residential development when large tides caused by hurricanes come in.
These islands could have been under commercial or residential development, but the landowner came to the NFLT a few years ago as he understood the critical importance of being able to preserve the land. So now, when you’re headed eastbound over the Butler Bridge in Jacksonville Beach, you’re able to see this beautiful undeveloped land and enjoy all of the benefits it provides to the local environmental ecosystem.
Preservation is of the utmost importance to both Rianna and Lee. Lee, a Jacksonville native and Director of Philanthropic Services for the NFLT, admires that Jacksonville has one of the largest parks systems and loves being able to get out in nature and unwind in the natural Florida environment. Rianna’s family has been here since the 1800’s. She often walks one of the farms her family has had for generations and “sees what Florida used to be.” Rianna believes that if we marry conservation and residential development, that the people moving to Florida for the first time will be able to continue to experience “what we have always known.”
Interested in learning more about the work of the North Florida Land Trust? Reach out through their website NFLT.org. There are many, many opportunities to support the ongoing work of preserving the natural environment of our area.
For any questions about Northeast Florida real estate, or conservation efforts like the River Island Branch Preserve, give The Lisa Barton Team a call at (904) 465-9139 or reach out through our website.