Click here for the story of this grassroots effort on page 12 in Florida Currents, May 2021.
Through a creative public-private partnership, Conservation Foundation of the Gulf Coast worked with Manatee County, Friends of Keep Woods, and numerous residents throughout the community to conserve this land, now known as the Floyd C. Johnson & Flo Singer Johnson Preserve at Braden River. This was possible because the landowners, Pat and John Neal of Neal Communities and Neal Land Ventures, were willing to give the community the opportunity to buy the 32.38 acres slated for development.
Empowered by the challenge grant of $500,000 from the Floyd C. Johnson & Flo Singer Johnson Foundation, and supported by early community gifts including that of the Manatee Fish & Game Association, Conservation Foundation raised significant funds in a matter of weeks. On March 20, the Manatee County Commission voted to accept Conservation Foundation's gift of more than $1 million from the community, and use tax dollars to fund the balance of the $3 million appraised value.
By the May 2018 closing, Conservation Foundation raised more than $1,029,645 which was given to Manatee County to contribute toward the purchase. Conservation Foundation continued to collect donations through September 30, 2018, to help defray the public cost.
Conservation Foundation donated the adjoining 11.44 acres which were bequeathed by the late Carlton Bergstresser, making the preserve a total of 43.82 acres permanently protected.
Conservation Foundation holds and will enforce a perpetual conservation easement (permanent deed restrictions) that will ensure that the property remains a low-impact preserve, open to the public to enjoy pristine nature while walking, hiking or birdwatching.
This oasis of nature is home to an amazing diversity of plants and animals not normally seen in similar suburban areas. It is a piece of ‘Old Florida” with mature live oaks, tall longleaf pines, important wetlands that store water preventing flooding, and imperiled swallowtail kites and gopher tortoises. The land’s riverfront and floodplain forests are part of a corridor linking natural habitat along the Braden River and the Braden River is a source of drinking water for the City of Bradenton.
Manatee County is the 10th fastest growing county in the nation. Since 2001 the Water Management District has recommended that every piece of natural land remaining along the Braden River should be conserved to protect our valuable drinking water and protect the diverse habitats and species which are the natural systems we humans depend upon. When Manatee County residents were recently asked what the most important facilities they wanted to see, nature trails were #1 with small neighborhood parks #2. This is consistent with studies conducted throughout the country about the importance of open space. Again and again, people say they want to get outside and enjoy nature!
Conservation Foundation of the Gulf Coast, this region’s nationally accredited land conservancy, worked with Manatee County, Friends of Keep Woods, and numerous residents throughout the community to conserve this land. This was possible through a public/private partnership whereby the community raised funds to help buy the land and Manatee County funded the balance. The Johnson Preserve at Braden River is owned and managed by Manatee County. Conservation Foundation donated the adjoining 11.44 acres to the preserve, making the preserve a total of 43.82 acres. Conservation Foundation holds and enforces a perpetual conservation easement (permanent deed restrictions) that will ensure that the property remains a low-impact preserve, open to the public to enjoy pristine nature while walking, hiking or birdwatching.