Jackson County Times

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Wednesday, February 24, 2010

A “Greenway” Across Jackson County

Plan for increased public access and use of Chipola River is moving forward.

By Sid Riley

Back in 2000-2002 a State program titled “Florida Forever” was involved in the state purchase of lands identified by county and municipal officials as worthy of preservation for future public use. This statewide program was designed to preserve Florida’s natural beauty for the use and enjoyment of future generations through purchase and preservation by the State. The lands were identified by local governments through usage plans which were developed locally.

Once these plans were accepted, the lands were then purchased and leased to the local governments for a small annual fee. Locally, the “Chipola River Greenways Trail” was the name of the City’s plan, and “Chipola Greenway” was the Jackson County plan. Both involved the Chipola River and adjoining properties. As part of these plans and subsequent lease agreements, the local governments agreed to plan and implement needed projects to increase public usage of these lands.

There were subsequently several parcels of land purchased as components of these two “Greenway Plans”. These included:

● Blue Springs Park, which was purchased from Florida Public Utilities. (County Lease/Management)

● East Shore Park, which consists of a parcel of land on the East shore of the Mill Pond, adjacent to Indian Springs. This is planned for development as a nature trail park, but is undeveloped at this time. (County Lease/Management)

● Citizens Lodge Park, which was purchased and has been converted into a widely used public park facility. (County Lease/Management)

● Butler Properties, located East of Noland Street to Chipola River, near end of Kelson Avenue. (City Lease/Management)

● Florida Public Utilities/ Surgnier Properties which encompass the east and west shores of the Chipola River in the area behind Riverside School. (City and County Lease/Management)

● Southtrust Properties, located near river intersection with Highway 90 at bridge.

● Hinson Property, acreage around Hinson home and Chipola River, south of highway 90. (City Lease/Management)

In 2003 the City of Marianna was awarded a 1.5 million dollar grant from the Florida Office of Greenways and Trails for the purpose of buying 183 acres along the Chipola River for the greenways trail. With those funds the Butler Properties and the Southtrust Properties were purchased. All of the available funding was not used. The large Hinson tract and the Florida Public Utilities Property had been purchased in 1998, and the Surgnier Property one year later in 1999. These were all then leased by the State to the City of Marianna.

Plans are being developed to link all of these properties into public use lands with walking nature trails, bike trails, increased canoe access, pavilions, and limited parking/road access improvements. The intent is to make this portion of the Chipola more accessible for public use and enjoyment, and to preserve these lands in an undeveloped condition for future generations to use and enjoy.

The City of Marianna recently received a $15,000 grant which is to be used for fencing at the Hinson parcel. Officials hope to have this small park and river entry point for canoeing open within a few months. This combined City and County effort will eventually result in an eco-tourist attraction for our area as this now protected portion of the beautiful Chipola River becomes better known and more widely utilized by the public.

In conjunction with the design, placement, and features of the various elements of this “Greenway’ development along our precious Chipola, a public meeting is scheduled for this Thursday evening, February 25, at 7:00 at Citizens Lodge. This will be a good opportunity for the public to have input into these plans. Another planning session will occur on March 1, at the County Planning Commission Meeting.

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