Alexander Island, also known as Alexander Pointe

It’s official now: DeBary owns a prime piece of real estate on the St. Johns River.

Noting the deal to purchase Alexander Island was “three years in the making,” DeBary Mayor Karen Chasez Feb. 1 signed the closing documents and the deed to transfer the 170 acres in the bend of the river to public ownership and recreational use.

“We are excited and ready to start planning the property,” DeBary Parks and Recreation Director Jason Schaitz said. “These plans should be complete by the summer.”

The city has contracted with Kimley-Horn, a well-known engineering firm, for a feasibility study on how the property may be developed for those wanting to spend leisure time outdoors in a bit of Old Florida.

DeBary purchased the land, situated in the very turn of the St. Johns River from west to north, for $3.5 million. The city tried to secure help in saving the environmentally sensitive tract from development by applying for help from the state under the Florida Forever program, but state officials passed over the opportunity to aid in saving the property. 

Owned by the Recicar Trust, Alexander Island was for sale in Florida’s hot realty market. Though much of the property is low terrain, there are some 17.5 acres of uplands that could become upscale homesites for those wanting a view of the river and access to launch a boat. City leaders felt the need and the pressure to preserve the land’s natural state as the perfect place for a park and habitat for wildlife such as rare birds, tortoises, bears and boars.

After failing to secure Florida Forever dollars for Alexander Island, DeBary officials turned to Volusia County and assistance from the Volusia Forever program. Leaders of the city and the county negotiated a draft interlocal agreement, whereby DeBary would pay $1.3 million and the county would contribute about $2.2 million from Volusia Forever to buy the property and create a conservation easement. 

Under the deal for the Volusia Forever grant, the city would own the land and the county would manage it. However, the agreement also contained provisions the city would not accept, notably giving the county the power to regulate construction of amenities on the site, such as restrooms, pavilions and docks. 

Moreover, in the event of a violation of the conservation easement by the city, the inability to “cure the violation” would authorize the county to “enact any of the enforcement actions, as it chooses,” including “the right to recover 100 % of the [county’s] contribution towards the purchase of the property plus interest.” 

Yet another enforcement action would be for the county “to invoke its fee transfer rights,” including requiring DeBary to give Volusia County “all right, title and interest in the Property if the terms of the easement are violated by” the city.”

The thought of losing what they paid for was too much

“Our vision for this property is to develop it into a passive park. The passive park, with 2 miles of riverfront berm and beach, will be very popular and will attract visitors from all over Central Florida,” DeBary City Manager Carmen Rosamonda wrote in a memorandum to the City Council. 

“We envision to invest over the next decade $5-10 million park improvements and maintenance utilizing DeBary tax money and obtained grant funding,” he continued. “In short order, DeBary will become the majority investor in this property and the County will become the minority investor. If there is a violation not resolved within 30 days or as stated in the Notice of Violation, and the County [takes enforcement action], the City will lose all of its investments into the property.”

Upon hearing the concerns voiced by Rosamonda and City Attorney Kurt Ardaman, the City Council balked at the county’s offer and decided to purchase the property with city funds. Part of the price, the $1.3 million, came from the city’s share of the funds it received under the American Rescue Plan Act, a stimulus bill signed by President Joe Biden in 2021. The council subsequently decided to become the sole buyer and owner of Alexander Island, and, following a 90-day “due-diligence” period, closed the sale and took possession of the valued land.

As well as serving as a park, Alexander Island — also known as Alexander Point — will be the site of a research and education center operated by the Aquatic Preserve Alliance, a private nonprofit environmental organization.

Though its leaders turned down participation from the county under the Volusia Forever program, Rosamonda said DeBary may apply for grants under the Volusia ECHO program. ECHO is an acronym for environmental, cultural, historic and outdoor recreation. 

Similar to Volusia Forever, Volusia ECHO is a voter-approved program that provides grant funding for the acquisition and improvement of properties that may be classified under one or more of the above categories. 

The Volusia ECHO and Volusia Forever programs are each funded by a special countywide property tax of 1/5 of a mill (20 cents per $1,000 of taxable value). 

Rosamonda said DeBary will probably apply for “an exceptional grant” under ECHO, meaning a grant of at least $1.5 million.

He also said city leaders and DeBary’s people may now look ahead to what they want Alexander Island to become. Rosamonda added the city will arrange charrettes with council members and residents to share their suggestions.

“There will be a number of different opportunities for input,” he said.

Rosamonda noted, too, the Kimley-Horn study of possible future public development and use of the land will probably be completed this summer. The city has paid $139,500 for the study.

“A lot of people are excited about this, and they have ideas, as well,” City Council Member Patricia Stevenson said.

Now that the property is publicly owned, Rosamonda said the public will be invited to come and see it for themselves.

“We’re planning an open house on-site,” he promised, adding the event will probably be on a Saturday in late March or early April.


  1. Looking forward to seeing the property at the open house. This could be a wonderful attraction for echo tourism especially with the Sunrail station nearby- attracting people from Seminole and Orange.


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