palm bluff preserve osteen
PHOTO COURTESY VOLUSIA COUNTY UNDEVELOPED, AND WILL REMAIN SO — These photos typify the natural beauty that occupies the land being acquired to expand the popular Palm Bluff Preserve near Osteen.

Three siblings will be splitting $3.1 million for selling 1,276 acres of property near Osteen — or the conservation rights to about a third of it — to Volusia County and the state.

The siblings are all residents of Seminole County, according to paperwork for the transaction: Lynda R. Schroeder, whose mailing address is a P.O. box in Sanford, and Debra S. Russell-Bowman and Jeffrey T. Russell, who both have addresses in Geneva, an unincorporated community in the northeastern part of the county.

Volusia Forever, the county’s voter-approved land acquisition program, has teamed up with the St. Johns River Water Management District to preserve huge swaths of the county’s natural landscape and wildlife corridors. One of the more popular preserves managed by the water management district is the 3,321-acre Palm Bluff Preserve that provides wooded vistas and trails for the public to hike, ride horses and bicycles, camp out and commune with nature.

The Volusia County Council April 5 approved a $3.1 million cost-sharing agreement between Volusia Forever and the district to purchase 854 acres of property adjacent to Palm Bluff Preserve and acquire a conservation easement to another 422 acres of adjacent land. The properties contain an ecologically sensitive mix of forest and wetlands that are important for preservation, habitat protection, recreational use and groundwater recharge.

The deal involves three different parcels and represents the first time in about a decade that the Volusia Forever program has acquired conservation property.

HOW THEY FIT IN — The three parcels of land being acquired by Volusia Forever and the St. Johns River Water Management District are on the eastern side of the existing Palm Bluff Preserve and are outlined in yellow. The northernmost (top) parcel’s conservation easement only is being bought, but the other two parcels are being purchased outright. The land is north of Osteen; a stretch of State Road 415 forms the preserve’s northwestern border.

Under the deal approved by the County Council, Volusia Forever and the water management district will jointly buy the 854 acres for $2.4 million and add it to the preserve, and pay another $701,662 for the 422-acre conservation easement.

With a conservation easement, a property doesn’t change hands. However, the owner agrees to a set of rules and then manages the property to preserve the easement in its natural state.

In this case, the easement will connect up with a much larger wildlife corridor that runs north to south through the center of the county to serve as a connected and protected habitat and passageway for endangered and threatened animal species.

These purchases will expand the land protected as part of the Volusia Conservation Corridor to more than 40,000 acres.

Volusia Forever’s share of the deal will come from revenue generated by a tax that funds the Forever program. The joint participation agreement is now scheduled to go before the water management district’s governing board on May 10.

The Volusia Forever program initially was approved by Volusia County voters in 2000, and by 2012, the bulk of its acquisition funds were exhausted. However, Volusia Forever and a sister program, Volusia ECHO, were so popular that county residents voted overwhelmingly in 2020 to extend them for another 20 years.


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