The North Florida Land Trust (NFLT) announced on Tuesday that it has completed the sale of more than 2,500 acres of marshland along the Nassau River to the National Park Service (NPS).
The purchase was finalized by the close of business on Monday. This marshland is within the Timucuan Ecological and Historic Preserve boundary and will become part of the preserve. NFLT bought the bulk of the land included in this purchase from the estate of Theodore Carey for $750,000 in 2015 with this sale ultimately in mind. The rest of the parcels purchased by NPS were donated to NFLT in 2013 by the family of Noble Enge, Jr. NPS bought both properties for $750,000.
“When we purchased the Carey property in 2015, it was important to us because this was the largest piece of unprotected land in the Timucuan Ecological and Historic Preserve and preserving it had many economic and environmental benefits,” said Jim McCarthy, the president of NFLT. “At the time, it was the largest single land purchase in our history. We are glad we were able to preserve it and the Enge property and are thrilled that this land is now a part of our national parks system.”
“Timucuan Preserve is pleased to acquire, through the assistance of the North Florida Land Trust, approximately 2,500 acres of critical coastal salt marsh habitat that supports important shrimp, oysters, crabs and fish communities. The estuary within these parcels also provides essential foraging areas for other upland and aquatic species including threatened and endangered species. By becoming part of the Timucuan Ecological and Historic Preserve, these parcels under Federal protection will continue to provide important ecological functions and recreational opportunities to the citizens of North Florida and the larger visiting public,” said NPS Superintendent Chris Hughes.
The Carey property is located along an 11-mile stretch from Interstate 95 to the Nassau Sound and had been previously known as the Nassau River Marshes Preserve. The approximately 2,130 acres bought by NPS are located in Duval County and include all the marshes off the northern end of Black Hammock Island surrounding the Eagle Bend Island community north of Yellow Bluff Road in Jacksonville and more than 800 acres of marsh along I-95. It largely consists of marshland and protects the oyster reefs, saltwater and brackish cordgrass, and black needle rush marshes that spread out for miles along the river’s edge. These marsh habitats form a critical nursery for most of the commercial and recreational sports fish as well as foraging grounds for the shore and wading birds. NFLT will continue to own and manage the parcels located in Nassau County.
The Enge parcels included in this purchase are nearly 392 acres in Duval County near the Nassau County border. It is salt marsh property partially within the Nassau River-St. Johns River Marshes Aquatic Preserve and abuts the Nassau River in some areas. Enge’s family donated the property in Noble Enge’s name to NFLT in 2013 to keep it protected forever and permitted the sale to NPS in the future.
Before the completion of this sale, NFLT owned approximately 11 percent of the land within the Timucuan Ecological and Historic Preserve that included the Nassau River Marshes Preserve, and land on and adjacent to Big Talbot Island. NFLT will retain those lands around Big Talbot Island as it works to restore several manmade islands along the Intracoastal Waterway near Big Talbot Island.