NATURE — Alexander Island, also known as Alexander Pointe, a 170-acre parcel now owned by the City of DeBary, is pictured.

Now that DeBary owns a choice chunk of waterfront property, what will its leaders do to transform it into a public park?

The River City purchased Alexander Island, a 170-acre parcel at the west-to-north bend in the St. Johns River, for $3.5 million earlier this year with the avowed intention to make it a premier nature park. The City Council is now trying to figure out what public amenities should be placed on the land, without ruining its natural beauty and character. How do you keep the property like the land that time forgot amid spreading urbanization and the likely demands of more nature lovers who want to converge upon it?

“What will make Alexander Island the best passive park in Florida?” Nick Kuhn asked the City Council at its March 29 brainstorming workshop.

Kuhn is a landscape architect employed by KimleyHorn, a well-known engineering firm contracted by the city to help guide the creation of the park. DeBary will pay KimleyHorn $139,500 for its services in planning the development of the Alexander Island nature park.

Ideas from city leaders abounded, and more will be forthcoming as the public takes part in surveys and public meetings on what to offer — and what not to offer — to park patrons.

“I’m thinking like picnicking, fishing,” Vice Mayor Phyllis Butlien said.

City Manager Carmen Rosamonda mentioned another passive pastime for nature lovers.

“Bird-watching is important,” he said.

Restrooms, a boardwalk and trails are likely essentials for the new park, council members agreed.

“The boardwalk is key,” Mayor Karen Chasez said.

The question about who may use the trails comes to the forefront. Council Member William Sell wondered if hikers can coexist with bicyclists?

“I don’t know how to share that trail,” he told his colleagues.

If bicyclists are to be allowed on the trail or trails, will the city allow only conventional bicycles or also the more modern ones? That may be decided later.

“How do the electric bikers and pedal bikers get along?” Sell wanted to know.

Sell also recommended the city ban from the future park one of DeBary’s favorite forms of getting from place to place.

“No golf carts,” he said.

For those who come to walk and see the natural beauty, Rosamonda suggested the placement of water fountains.

In addition, with the City Council’s blessing, the Aquatic Preserve Alliance, a private environmental organization, has said it would like to build a research and educational center on the property. That facility, Chasez said, may be built “in some part of the uplands.”

While picnic pavilions, restrooms and the educational center are to be included in the planning, Chasez also suggested there be few man-made structures.

“We want to limit the amount of square footage under roof,” she said.

“I really would like to keep it more natural,” Sell said.

“It’s beautiful the way it is,” he later added. “I don’t want to commercialize it.”

Will Alexander Island go to the dogs?

“If it is to be dog-friendly or pet-friendly, I do not want to see a dog park there,” Chasez said. “I do not want this to be a destination for dog play dates.”

“My issue is that we will have passive activities,” she added.

What else may the future park offer?

“We want to have some other amenities like kayaks,” Chasez said.

“I do hope we can get the kayaks early on,” Council Member Patricia Stevenson said.

While kayaks or canoes may be available, Chasez voiced “concerns about motorized boat traffic into and out of there.”

If the mayor has her way, people who want open space to fly drones will not be welcome at Alexander Island.

“If you allow drones, you’ll have 100 people out there every weekend … and drones overhead,” Chasez said.

The council has ordered an online survey of interested people who may be inclined to use the park, once it is open.

Kimley-Horn is compiling a report on recommendations for Alexander Island, and that plan is supposed to become available in a few months.

“We’re trying to wrap it up in the late-July time frame,” Kuhn said.

Any amenities added to the property may be paid for with grants that DeBary may seek from the state or from the county. City officials say they will likely apply for grants under Volusia County’s ECHO program.

ECHO is an acronym for the acquisition or development of environmental, cultural, historical or outdoor-recreational assets or projects. The city would offer some matching money to leverage grant funding from the county. The ECHO program’s funding comes from a special voter-approved property tax of 1/5 mill, or 20 cents per $1,000 of taxable value.

DeBary purchased Alexander Island from the Recicar Trust earlier this year. The city paid $3.5 million for the property. The money came from the city’s allocation of approximately $5 million in federal funds provided by the American Rescue Plan Act. The ARPA is a $1.9 trillion stimulus bill signed by President Joe Biden in 2021.


  1. The purchase of this land and the planning that is going on for its future uses is absolutely brilliant and everyone involved should be very proud. We need big bold transformative projects all over Volusia County for the masses. Our local and county governments need to get out of the business of giving our money away to non-profits, thus allowing us to make our own charitable giving decisions, and get back to doing those things we can not do on our own such as building and maintaining parks and trails, building and maintaining roads and sidewalks, building and maintaining our infrastructure, providing efficient and reliable public transportation options, and public safety. There is no reason we can not and should not have a World Class County with World Class amenities. It is amazing what can occur with good governance and a vision for the future.

  2. Put in a Disc Golf Course. Gets people up and out
    Walking, seeing mother nature. And having fun with friends.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here