Rapid Ecological Project Assessment
Matrix Score: 6.98 of 9.44
Size: 1,732 acres
Number of parcels: 13
Number of owners: 11
Number of buildings: 8
The 1,732 acre
Millhopper Flatwoods (MHF) Project is one of two remaining wildlife corridors
that may prevent San Felasco Hammock State Park (SFH) from becoming a habitat
island. The project area extends from the
southeast corner of San Felasco Hammock State Park (SFH) to US 441 across from
the Hague Flatwoods. From
On a smaller scale the project
would preserve the connection between SFH and Blues Creek, San Felasco County
Park and the Devil’s
934 acres of the MHF project area, known as the Weiss tract, is within the City
The Blues Creek Ravine
(06025-000-000, 06025-001-000) and Fox Pond (06032-000-000) parcels were placed
on the Active Acquisition list by the Alachua County Board of
Conservation Trust (ACT), a private non-profit land trust active in
The Fox Pond parcel is on the San Felasco Hammock State Park, Acquisitions and Inholdings List. The Florida Department of Environmental Protection, Division of Recreation and Parks (DEP) representatives wish to purchase Fox Pond with Acquisitions and Inholdings funds, so it can be managed as a part of SFH. They are also actively pursuing the acquisition of the adjacent Winters property.
The MHF project is a combination of two projects from the Alachua County Ecological Inventory Project (KBN Study); Fox Pond and Millhopper Flatwoods, 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. The Fox Pond project was ranked 5th of 47 projects evaluated in the county, and categorized as high, and the Millhopper Flatwoods project was ranked 23rd and categorized as average, KBN, 1996.
The KBN Study summarized the Fox Pond Project by stating, “This is a small area of high quality, mature, mesic hammock forest that has three sinkhole ponds, a seepage creek, and a Spanish mission archeological site. It is also a connector between San Felasco Hammock State Preserve and the wetlands in the Millhopper Flatwoods area to the east”, KBN 1996.
The Millhopper Flatwoods project was described as follows, “This is a diverse area of relatively mature and undisturbed forest within a rapidly urbanizing part of the county. The pine flatwoods is natural second growth forest that has had no site preparation work such as bedding, but has also lacked fire for several decades. The swamps and hammock areas are mostly in good conditions. The area provides much of the headwaters area for Blues Creek, which flows into San Felasco State Preserve”, KBN 1996.
Protecting Water Resources:
Fifty percent of the MHF site is
located in the confined aquifer zone of
According to the St. Johns River Water Management District’s Aquifer
Recharge Map for
Approximately 47% of the MHF project is wetlands, contains hydric soils, or falls within the FEMA 100 or 500 year flood hazard zone.
“This is an area where the Hawthorne Formation is getting thin, but still provides enough of an aquiclude to support a perched water table and stream formation. The area is the headwaters of Blues Creek, which flows through the Fox Pond area and into San Felasco Hammock, where it goes into a swallow hole and into the Floridan Aquifer in the Big Otter Ravine”, KBN 1996. “Fox Pond is made of two adjacent sinkholes, and there are two more ponds, each consisting of one sinkhole. Each of the sinkholes is approximately 5 acres in area at the surface, and is filled to the surface with water. All of the water here enters the Floridan Aquifer. The sinkhole ponds overflow into Blues Creek, which crosses the property”, KBN 1996.
Protecting Natural Communities and Landscapes:
Old Field Pine
Low Density Development
The above list of natural communities is from the KBN Study, KBN, 1996. The quality of the natural communities ranges from fair to excellent, KBN, 1996.
Eighty-seven percent of the project
site is within the Florida Ecological Greenways Network (FEGN) un-named
priority 6 project area. This greenway
connects San Felasco Hammock State Park to the Santa Fe River via Hague
Flatwoods, Murphree Well field Conservation Area and the Northeast
Flatwoods. The Florida Ecological
Greenways Network is a decision support model to help identify the best
opportunities to protect ecological connectivity statewide. It was developed by the
The MHF project is one of two possible
wildlife corridors that could connect San Felasco Hammock State Park to the
There are no Strategic Habitat Conservation Areas within the MHF project area. Strategic Habitat Conservation Areas were developed by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FFWCC). 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.
Ninety-five percent of the site is within 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.
Twenty- eight percent of the MHF project
is delineated by FNAI as either pine flatwoods (18%) or upland hardwood forest
(10%) Under-represented Natural Communities.
Natural Communities are those natural community types that were inadequately
represented on conservation lands in
Protecting Plant and Animal Species:
Common Name Endemic/ Large Fed/State FCREPA/FNAI Observed
Home-Range Status Designation
Eastern Diamondback Rattlesnake -/- -/- -/S3 SM
Little Blue Heron -/- -/SSC SSC/S4 SM,K
Yellow-Crowned Night Heron -/- -/- SSC/S3? 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 found on the property according to the Alachua County Ecological Inventory Project include needle palms, royal fern, cinnamon fern, and greenfly orchid. Staff observed southern lady fern and angularfruit milkvine in addition to the above mentioned species.
Exotic plants found on this property include: Chinese tallow trees, two species of exotic bamboo, water hyacinth, alligator weed, air potato, cogon grass, wisteria and English ivy.
The FFWCC 2001 bald eagle nest data shows no bald eagle nests on the MHF site, and one nest in San Felasco Hammock State Park, approximately 1.5 miles from the project area.
Approximately 73% of the site is within Regional Biodiversity Hotspots. The purpose of the Regional Biodiversity Hot Spots maps, developed by FFWCC, 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.
Achieving Social and Human Values:
About 63% of the MHF site is a Priority 1-5 Natural Resource-based Recreation Area, Knight, et al. 2000, and about 87% is a priority 6 Ecological Greenway. The Natural Resource-based Recreation map was developed by FNAI in collaboration with DEP, FFWCC and the Florida Division of Forestry. 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 MHF 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 MHF project is an easily accessible urban natural area located in a residential area. Its aesthetic appeal and easy access would make it a popular nature based recreation destination that would enhance the complex of natural resource parks in the vicinity.
“The hammock and swamp areas will continue to mature and improve in quality if left alone, provided some of the exotic plants are eradicated. The pine flatwoods areas need a program of prescribed fire if they are to become good wildlife habitat or are going to support the many wildflowers and other herbaceous plants that normally grow in healthy pine flatwoods habitats. It would be difficult to burn here due to the large subdivisions on both the north and south sides and US 441 on the west side of the pine flatwoods area. Therefore, the long term viability of this community is doubtful. Management alternatives to burning, such as chopping or mowing, have been proposed and tried, but they have not been shown to be viable for long term management in the complete absence of fire. The wetlands here have been drained somewhat by recent development activities (as evidenced by new ditches connected to isolated wetlands)”, KBN 1996.
Economic & Acquisition:
There are 13 parcels and 11 ownerships in the 1,732 acre MHF Project. The property appraiser shows 8 buildings on their parcel database. The Alachua County Property Appraisers 2002 Just Value (land value) for the entire project is $7,627,400 or $4,404/ acre. The ACPA’s total value (Just, Miscellaneous and Buildings) for the project area is $9,292,700 or 5,365/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.
Creek Ravine (06025-000-000, 06025-001-000) and Fox Pond (06032-000-000)
parcels were placed on the Active Acquisition list by the Alachua County Board
The Fox Pond parcel is on the San Felasco Hammock State Park, Acquisitions and Inholdings List. The Florida Department of Environmental Resources, Division of Recreation and Parks (DEP) representatives wish to purchase Fox Pond with Acquisitions and Inholdings funds, so they can manage it as a part of SFH. They are also actively pursuing the acquisition of the Winters property. The Winters property connects SFH to the Fox Pond property and should be considered a keystone parcel to allow the county the ability to assist the state with the acquisition of the property, if it becomes necessary.
The Weiss tract should be considered a keystone property because it is the largest undeveloped tract in the project, provides the connection to the Hague Flatwoods, and contains the headwaters for Blues Creek Ravine.
The Keystone parcels are listed below and shown on Map 2:
UF IFAS 524 acres 06005-000-000
Smith ~2.9 acres 06027-032-000
Yeomans 4.84 acres 06029-000-000
Weiss 582 acres 06010-000-000
79 acres 06009-000-000
132 acres 06013-000-000
137 acres 06006-003-000
Winters 16 acres 06001-003-000
percent of the project area is within the City of
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. Florida Forever
Conservation Needs Assessment Summary Report to the Florida Forever Advisory
KBN, A Golder Associates Company. 1996.
Macesich, M. 1988.
Geologic Interpretation of the Aquifer Pollution Potential in