COMING SOON: A NEW PLACE TO SEE FLORIDA AS IT ONCE WAS — This artist’s rendering of the property known as Alexander Island, or Alexander Point, shows what DeBary’s leaders and planners intend to provide for visitors from near and far. The 170-acre tract along the St. Johns River will be a premier nature park in a fast-growing area, where urban development takes away places for such passive pursuits as walking, hiking, bicycling, picnicking, fishing and watching wildlife. DeBary purchased the riverfront tract earlier this year for $3.5 million.

If DeBary’s leaders have their way, a major part of their legacy will be a model passive park on a bend of the St. Johns River.

Less than seven months after the City Council approved the $3.5 million purchase of the 170 acres known as Alexander Island, or Alexander Point, the council Aug. 23 adopted a plan to invest more than $10 million in human-made improvements on the land.

“Just looking at it from 10,000 feet — I love it!” City Council Member William Sell said, after hearing a consultant’s report on the possible amenities for Alexander Island.

The report is from Kimley-Horn, a nationally known engineering firm hired by the city to make recommendations on how to make the vacant property more welcoming for fun-seekers and visitors desiring a break from urban life. The city paid $139,550 to Kimley-Horn for the firm’s services in advising DeBary’s leaders on how to make the tract a truly desirable place to be.

By listening to DeBary’s officials and people interested in helping shape the future of Alexander Island, Kimley-Horn’s study determined the most popular pastimes of the would-be patrons are fishing, bicycle riding, canoeing, kayaking, bird-watching, exercise walking and hiking. The consultants spent approximately 1,000 hours listening to suggestions from those willing to share their ideas about what the property should offer to visitors.

The Kimley-Horn study referenced four passive parks in Central Florida that may be comparable to Alexander Island. Those other nature parks are the Lake Harney Wilderness Area in Seminole County, the Black Bear Wilderness Area near Sanford, Tibet-Butler Preserve in Orange County, and Gemini Springs, located just a few miles away in DeBary.

Because of the expressed interest in foot traffic, Alexander Island will likely feature trails, both paved and unpaved, and also boardwalks, picnic tables, pavilions and a playground.

The most vital additions, as noted by city officials, will be in the first phase.

“The restrooms — definitely a priority in that first phase,” Council Member Patricia Stevenson said.

Not least, giving visitors a panoramic view of Alexander Island is something that Mayor Karen Chasez desires.

“Observation points, … the observation deck and tower positioned on the river — it will be one of the most spectacular features,” she said.

“I am anxious to get Phase One done,” Chasez added.

Besides access from Fort Florida Road, the park may also be accessible from the river for those coming by canoe or kayak. City Manager Carmen Rosamonda recommended the city “prevent motorboats from entering the beach area.” He said DeBary will probably need to work with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in adding waterfront improvements.

A water-research facility, operated by the Aquatic Preserve Alliance of Central Florida, may be built on the park parcel.

Still other possibilities include camping, boulder-climbing, BMX biking, and venues for events such as weddings.

The least desired facilities for Alexander Island, according to the Kimley-Horn report, include ropes courses, a dog park, an amphitheater or a stage, splash pads, a bike-repair station and a space for food trucks.

The planned improvements on the Alexander Island property may be done in two phases, and more phases may be added later. The estimated build-out cost of the improvements is approximately $10 million. The city plans to seek grants under Volusia County’s ECHO program to cover as much of that cost as possible. DeBary may apply for ECHO grants in the coming months, in the hope of securing funding in the spring of 2024.

ECHO denotes the county’s program for supporting environmental, cultural, historic and outdoor-recreational projects or acquiring properties that may be classified under one or more of these categories. The Volusia ECHO program was first approved by a majority of the county’s voters in 2000, and it was reauthorized in the 2020 general election. The ECHO program derives its funding from a voter-approved special property tax of 1/5 of a mill, or 20 cents per $1,000 of taxable value.


  1. Thank you Al.
    I wish Volusia County could find some ECHO money to improve the issues at Ed Stone park in DeLand. That traffic and conditions are super dangerous and are only getting worse. ;(


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