Rapid Ecological Project Assessment
Matrix Score: 7.40 of 9.44
Size: 4,394 acres
Number of parcels: 81
Number of owners: 43
Number of Buildings: 32
Location / Description:
The 4,394-acre Mill Creek (MLL)
Project is located north of the City of
The Alachua County Ecological Inventory Project (KBN Study), ranked the Mill Creek Project 9th of 47 projects evaluated in the county, and categorized it as above average, KBN 1996. The purpose of the KBN Study was to identify, inventory, map, describe, and evaluate the most significant natural biological communities, both upland and wetland, that remain in private ownership in Alachua County and make recommendations for protecting these natural resources (KBN 1996).
KBN Study summarized the Mill Creek project by stating that, “This is mostly
slope forest associated with the Mill Creek drainage system, which is scattered
in a large dendritic pattern. These forests are mostly magnificent mature
forests of oak (Quercus spp.), hickory (Carya spp.), basswood (Tilia
caroliana), maple (Acer spp.), beech (Fagus grandifolia) and
southern magnolia (Magnolia grandiflora) in excellent condition,
although some areas are younger second growth forests in good condition. They
contain the southern-most population of American beech trees in the
Protecting Water Resources:
Approximately 76% of MLL Site lies
within the perforated aquifer zone.
Sediments underlying the perforated zone may contain substantial
thickness of clays, but are perforated by numerous karst features that allow
direct hydrologic access to the aquifer, (Macesich 1988). The remaining 24% of the site is located in
the confined aquifer zone of
The St. Johns River Water
Management District’s (SJRWMD) Aquifer Recharge Map for
According to the USGS Water Resources Investigation Report 88-4057 the MLL project falls within a high aquifer recharge area where greater than 10 inches of water is recharged to the Floridan Aquifer System per year (Aucott 1988).
Approximately 28% of the MLL site is wetlands, contains hydric soils, or falls within the FEMA 100 or 500 year flood hazard zone.
[MLL] is underlain by thick clay deposits that preclude percolation of water
directly to the Floridan Aquifer. As a
result, there is excellent creek formation.
The part of the site at the highway intersection is flat, and is on the
divide between the Mill Creek drainage system (of which Townsend Branch is a
tributary) which drains into Mill Creek Sink near I-75 and US 441, and
Parener’s Branch and two other creeks that drain into the
Protecting Natural Communities and Landscapes:
The above list of natural communities is from the KBN Study (KBN 1996). The ecological quality of the natural communities ranges from fair to excellent, KBN 1996.
The Mill Creek Nature Preserve
(MCNP), the first ACF acquisition, is the central feature of this site. The MLL project, if acquired, would enlarge
the size of the MCNP and connect it to the
The MLL project does not lie within
the Florida Ecological Greenways Network (FEGN). The Florida Ecological Greenways Network is a
decision support model to help identify the best opportunities to protect
ecological connectivity statewide. The
Twelve percent of the Mill Creek Project area is composed of wading bird Strategic Habitat Conservation Areas. Strategic Habitat Conservation Areas were developed by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC). They are private lands containing habitats critical to the continued survival of populations of inadequately protected plants and animals (Cox et al. 2000). These lands are essential to providing some of state’s rarest animals, plants, and natural communities with the land base necessary to sustain populations into the future (Cox et al.1994).
Approximately 93% of the site is in the Florida Natural Areas Inventory (FNAI) Priority 5 Habitat Conservation Priorities. FNAI’s Habitat Conservation Priorities prioritize places on the landscape that would protect both the greatest number of rare species and those species with the greatest conservation need (Florida Natural Areas Inventory, June 2001).
About 31% of the project is
delineated as upland hammock, an Under-represented Natural Community. Under-represented
Natural Communities are those
natural community types that were inadequately represented on conservation
Protecting Plant and Animal Species:
Common Name Endemic/ Large Fed/State FCREPA/FNAI Observed
Home-Range Status Designation
Eastern Tiger Salamander -/- -/- SU/S3 SM
Eastern Diamondback Rattlesnake -/- -/- -/S3 SM
Little Blue Heron -/- -/SSC SSC/S4 SM
X= Endemic, L=species with large home ranges according to the Closing the Gaps in Florida’s Wildlife Habitat System, S= observed by Alachua Co. EPD staff and/or an LCB subcommittee member, SM= documented on the Species Models maps created by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, F= Focal species used for the most detailed analyses in the Closing the Gaps in Florida’s Wildlife Habitat Conservation System, Florida Game and Fresh Water Fish Commission, 1994, N= Florida Natural Areas Inventory Element Occurrence, P= potential for species based on habitat types, K=documented in the Alachua County Ecological Inventory Project.
Listed plants identified on the MLL site are cinnamon fern, royal fern, greenfly orchid and pond spice (KBN 1996).
According to the KBN Study there are a few mimosa trees and Chinaberry trees on the edges of some forests (KBN 1996). ACF Staff found seedling Chinese tallow trees and two incipient populations of Japanese climbing fern on the MCNP.
Approximately 27% of the site is within Regional Biodiversity Hotspots. The purpose of the Regional Biodiversity Hot Spots maps, developed by FWC, is to “convey more detailed information on the known locations of as many components of biological diversity as possible, regardless of whether or not they fall within proposed Strategic Habitat Conservation Areas, to help meet the need for conservation information at regional and local levels” (Cox et al. 1994).
The nearest bald eagle nest is approximately five miles from the MLL site according to the 2001 bald eagle survey data from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.
Achieving Social and Human Values:
Forty six percent of the MLL site is a Priority 2, 3 or 4 Natural Resource-based Recreation Area (Knight, et al. 2000). The Natural Resource-based Recreation map was developed by FNAI in collaboration with DEP, FWC and DOF. The recreation potential of a site depends on available road access, presence of a water body or beach, proximity to urban areas, and size of the site. “These criteria were applied to Potential Natural Areas delineated by FNAI using aerial photography and revised using the 1995 Water Management District land cover data. Sites were ranked by recreation potential.” (Knight, et al. 2000).
The MLL Project is part of the
Emerald Necklace Land Conservation Initiative - a publicly accessible,
connected, and protected network of trails, greenways, open space, and
waterfronts surrounding the
The project would enhance size of the existing Mill Creek Nature Preserve and provide additional opportunities for environmental education and natural resource compatible recreation in the northern part of the county.
“The area is mostly in good condition, but has a lot of edge and many owners. Its size and shape make management somewhat difficult. This area needs only protection from impacts by humans and by invasive exotic plants.” (KBN 1996).
There are some pine flatwood areas that will require prescribed burning. Effective protection of a corridor along Parener’s Branch would require restoration of the riparian buffer.
Economic/ Acquisition Issues:
There are 81 parcels, 43 ownerships and 32 buildings listed in the Alachua County Property Appraiser’s (ACPA) database for the 4,394-acre MLL Project. The ACPA’s 2002 Just Value or land value for the entire project is $6,784,800 or $1,544/ acre. The ACPA’s total value (Just, Miscellaneous and Building) for the project area is $8,771,100 or $1,996/ acre. These figures are for comparative purposes between nominated properties, and are not necessarily an accurate reflection of the true cost of the property if acquired by the Alachua County Forever Program.
The MLL project is located in the
unincorporated area of
The parcels described below are the keystone parcels for the MLL project.
The Isaacson (02845-001-000) parcel contains a portion of the headwater for Townsend Branch and a portion of what has been referred to as the MCNP Beaver Pond. Staff recommends acquisition of, or a conservation easement on, the Beaver Pond portion of the site because of its hydrological and ecological importance to MCNP.
The preservation and enhancement of
a riparian buffer along Paraner’s Branch would help ensure that MCNP does not
become isolated from the
The remaining recommended keystone
parcels are immediately adjacent to Mill Creek Nature Preserve and include the
following ownerships: Alachua Land Corporation (02829-001-000), Canon
(02823-003-040), O’Steen (02823-003-038), James Trustee & James
(02829-001-000), Mean & Means & Means (02877-002-000), and
There is one archaeological site listed on the Florida Master Site File maintained by the Florida Division of Historical Resources within the project area, and 16 others within a one mile buffer.
Aucott, W. 1988. Water Resources Investigation Report 88-4057. USGS.
Cox, J., R. Kautz, M. MacLaughlin, and T. Gilbert.
1994. Closing the Gaps in
Cox, J. and R. Kautz. 2000. Habitat Conservation Needs of
Rare and Imperiled Wildlife in
Hoctor, T.S., J. Teisinger, M.G. Carr., P.C, Zwick. 2002.
Identification of Critical Linkages Within the
Knight, G., A. Knight, and J. Oetting. 2000.
KBN, A Golder Associates Company. 1996.
Macesich, M. 1988.
Geologic Interpretation of the Aquifer Pollution Potential in