DUNEDIN — An anonymous couple, referred to as “nature lovers,” have pledged to give $2 million to the city for the purchase of the 43-acre Gladys Douglas-Hackworth property.
Mayor Julie Ward Bujalski, former Dunedin Mayor Bob Hackworth and City Manager Jennifer Bramley made the announcement on a Facebook video Nov. 17.
“Now we are coming to the table with a total of $4 million so far. We are so excited about this," Bujalski said.
Hackworth, stepson of the late Gladys Douglas, said he was excited what the city has done to resurrect the effort to acquire the property.
“Because it really did look dead about two months ago,” he said. “It is amazing what the city has done and what our community has done.”
Citizens have spoken and acted, he said, and now a capital campaign with the Pinellas Community Foundation is underway that was launched with a $2 million pledge from the local couple, Hackworth said.
“On top of that, we have many other donors who are interested in contributing,” Hackworth said. “It's amazing what an engaged group of people can do to kind of resurrect a deal.”
The property is called critically endangered scrub habitat.
“This will be a wonderful legacy for the city of Dunedin to have saved this 100-acre nature preserve,” Hackworth said.
In October, commissioners agreed to help fund efforts to acquire the property, which is at the northeast corner of Virginia Avenue and Keene Road.
Their decision stems from the property no longer being under contract for development with a private entity. A trustee for the estate gave the city and county 90 days to make an offer on the property. The deadline is Jan. 18.
Commissioners agreed to put $2 million on the table toward a cash transaction with the source being the Penny for Pinellas funds that have been made available by city officials.
They also said at the time the remaining funds for the property acquisition will need to be generated in partnership with the county and other entities. A staff report discussed in August included an appraisal of $11.7 million for the property.
City officials say combining the 43 acres with the neighboring Jerry Lake will result in about 100 acres of passive recreation.
Bramley said city officials have been meeting with county staff on a weekly basis to essentially ensure that they are on same page in trying to get the best estimates they can on the value of the property.
They also met with The Southwest Florida Water Management District to acquire passive recreation use on Jerry Lake. The district owns the lake.
"So we are looking at assembling 100 acres of pristine open space for the region, for the future and current residents of Pinellas County and the area as well," Bramley said.
Hackworth called the property "stunning."
"Something that we could all be proud of," he said.
He thanked the community for their efforts that will hopefully make it the acquisition possible.
City officials have put a link on www.dunedingov.com for information on how to donate for the property acquisition through the Pinellas Community Foundation.
Officials are also meeting with Sierra Club representatives to make sure they are fully informed.
"We have heard from folks as far away as California that they would like to help us with this effort. So we are really excited about where we are," Bramley said.