Rapid Ecological Project Assessment
Matrix Score: 5.80 of 9.44
Size: 92 acres
Number of parcels: 1
Number of owners: 1
Number of Buildings: 0
The 92 acre Renaissance Park (REN) Project is located in Southeast Gainesville, north of SE 22nd Avenue, east of Williston Road and west of SE 15th Street. The City of Gainesville’s Boulware Springs Park and the north end of the Florida Division of Recreation and Parks Gainesville Hawthorn Rail Trail are approximately 1000 feet from the REN.
A brief site assessment by Alachua County Forever staff revealed that the REN site consists of flatwoods and forested wetlands. The site serves as a headwaters area for one of the branches of Calf Pond Creek and there are various ditches running through the project area. Invasive exotic plant control and prescribed burning in a highly urbanized area are the primary management issues.
Protecting Water Resources:
The REN project is located in the perforated aquifer zone of Alachua County. This is an area underlain by clays of the Hawthorn Group perforated by numerous karst features that allow direct access to the Floridan Aquifer, (personal communication with Robin Hallbourg, Professional Geologist, Water Quality Program, Alachua County Environmental Protection Department).
According to the St. Johns River Water Management District’s (SJRWMD) Aquifer Recharge Map for Alachua County, approximately 100% of the REN project exists in a high aquifer recharge area where 12 inches or more of water is recharged to the aquifer on a yearly basis.
According to the USGS Water Resources Investigation Report 88-4057, the REN project is located in an area where greater than ten inches of water is recharged to the Floridan Aquifer System per year (Aucott 1988).
Approximately 92% of the REN project area is wetlands, has hydric soils, or falls within the FEMA 100 or 500 year flood hazard zone, Map 2.
The REN project area serves as the headwaters for one of the branches of Calf Pond Creek, Personal communication with Joy McBane, Senior Environmental Specialist, Water Quality Program, Alachua County Environmental Protection Department, Map 2.
The REN project falls within the Paynes Prairie Sub-basin of the Orange Creek Basin. As part of its 2003 Legislative Agenda, Alachua County is requesting that the entire Orange Creek Basin be included in the state’s Surface Water Improvement and Management Program. This area includes Paynes Prairie, Newnans Lake, Lake Lochloosa, Orange Lake, and the impaired urban streams and lakes in the City of Gainesville. At this time Newnans, Lochloosa and Orange Lakes have shown increased levels of degradation. The Chlorophyll A concentration in Newnans and Lochloosa Lakes exceeds levels reported for Lake Apopka prior to restoration. Lake Lochloosa, Paynes Prairie and Orange Lake are designated as “Outstanding Florida Water” in Florida Statues, Chapter 62-302.700 Special Protection, Outstanding Florida Water, Outstanding National Resource Waters.
Protecting Natural Communities and Landscapes:
The above list of natural communities is from a brief site visit conducted by Alachua County staff and aerial photograph interpretation. The ecological quality of the natural communities ranges from fair to good.
The REN project is a relatively small, isolated site in the middle of a residential area. However, it is less than a quarter mile from Boulware Springs and about a half mile from Paynes Prairie. There are relatively large wooded lots in the area and it is likely that wildlife utilize the area.
The Basin Swamp is in good condition, in spite of a moderate invasive plant infestation that includes Japanese climbing fern and air potato. The flatwoods are fire excluded, but could be restored if fire were reintroduced into the system. Owing to the high fuel load and the surrounding homes, the reintroduction of an ecologically appropriate fire regime would be difficult but not impossible.
None of the REN project is 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. It was developed by the University of Florida for the Florida Department of Environmental Protection. GIS data on land use and significant ecological areas were integrated in a process that identified a statewide Ecological Greenways Network containing all of the largest areas of ecological and natural resource significance and the landscape linkages necessary to link these areas together in one functional statewide network (Hoctor et al. 2002).
There are no Strategic Habitat Conservation Areas within the project site. 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 98% of the site falls within the Florida Natural Areas Inventory (FNAI) priority four or five 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).
FNAI has delineated 75% of the project area as pine flatwoods and upland hardwood forest Under-represented Natural Communities. Under-represented Natural Communities are those natural community types that were inadequately represented on conservation lands in Florida. A natural community is considered to be inadequately represented if less than 15% of the original extent of that community occurs on existing conservation lands. Under-represented natural communities include, seepage slope, upland hardwood forest, pine rockland, tropical hardwood hammock, sandhill, scrub, upland glades, and pine flatwoods. These data were developed by the Office of Environmental Services, Florida Department of Environmental Protection and FNAI (FNAI, December 2001).
Protecting Plant and Animal Species:
Common Name Endemic/ Large Fed/State FCREPA/FNAI Observed
Home-Range Status Designation
Eastern Diamondback Rattlesnake -/- -/- -/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.
The above data lists the Florida black bear as a possible inhabitant of the REN site. While bear could feasibly make it up into the project area, they are unlikely to utilize the area as habitat on a regular basis due to the size of the property and extent of residential development in the general area. If a black bear was found on the project site, it would most likely be relocated to more suitable habitat.
Staff noted the commercially exploited cinnamon fern and royal fern during the site visit.
The project nominators provided several species lists with the application that are included in Attachment 1.
Invasive exotic plants observed on the site include Japanese climbing fern, air potato, and camphor tree. The invasive plants were chiefly around the perimeter of the parcel, but will be a constant problem due to the urban nature of the site.
The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission data does not show any bald eagle nests on the project site. However, there are two nests within two miles of the project site.
Less than 1% of the site falls within the 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).
Achieving Social and Human Values:
Approximately 97% of the REN project is within a priority two or three Natural Resource-based Recreation Area (Knight, et al. 2000). The Natural Resource-based Recreation map was developed by FNAI in collaboration with FWC, the Florida Department of Environmental Resources 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 REN Project area is not within the Emerald Necklace Land Conservation Initiative – a publicly accessible, connected, and protected network of trails, greenways, open space, and waterfronts surrounding the Gainesville urban area.
The REN project is an easily accessible urban green space that is only 1,000 feet from the north end of the Gainesville Hawthorn Rail Trail. The railroad bed that the Gainesville Hawthorn Rail Trail is built upon runs along the western edge of the REN site. Recreational bikers were observed using this connection to the Gainesville Hawthorn Rail Trail during the site visit.
The REN site would provide urban green space and complement the environmental education and resource compatible recreation opportunities available at Boulware Springs and Paynes Prairie State Park.
Invasive plant control and prescribed burning will be required to maintain the site. Prescribed burning in this area would be difficult to implement because of the high fuel load, density of residential development, and adjacent roads. Invasive plants will continue to be problematic because of the urban nature of the area and the level of disturbance on the project site.
Economic & Acquisition
There is one parcel and one owner in the 92 acre Renaissance Park Project. The Alachua County Property Appraiser (ACPA) does not show any buildings or improvements in their parcel data. The ACPA’s 2002 Just Value or land value for the entire project is $60,300 or $657/ 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 REN project site falls within the City of Gainesville. It is zoned Residential Single Family, and has a Future Land Use designation of Single Family, up to eight units per acre. While the site is located in an urban area of Gainesville and has zoning and future land use designations that allow development, it has not been subdivided and development pressure is not high in this area. Additionally any development of the site would be limited by the extent of the wetlands.
There are no archaeological sites within the REN project area listed on the Florida Master Site File maintained by the Division of Historical Resources. However, there are six listed sites within one mile of the REN site.
Aucott, W. 1988. Water Resources Investigation Report 88-4057. USGS.
Cox, J., R. Kautz, M. MacLaughlin, and T. Gilbert. 1994. Closing the Gaps in Florida’s Wildlife Habitat Conservation System, Office of Environmental Services, Florida Game and Fresh Water Fish Commission, Tallahassee, Florida.
Cox, J. and R. Kautz. 2000. Habitat Conservation Needs of Rare and Imperiled Wildlife in Florida. Office of Environmental Services, Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, Tallahassee, Florida.
Florida Natural Areas Inventory. June 2001. Florida Forever Conservation Needs Assessment Technical Report
Hoctor, T.S., J. Teisinger, M.G. Carr., P.C, Zwick.
2002. Identification of Critical Linkages Within the
Florida Ecological Greenways Network. Final Report. Office of Greenways and Trails, Florida Department of Environmental
Knight, G., A. Knight, and J. Oetting. 2000. Florida Forever Conservation Needs Assessment Summary Report to the Florida Forever Advisory council. Florida Natural Areas Inventory.
KBN, A Golder Associates Company. 1996. Alachua County Ecological Inventory Project. Prepared for Alachua County Department of Growth Management, Gainesville, Florida.
Macesich, M. 1988. Geologic Interpretation of the Aquifer Pollution Potential in Alachua County, Florida, Open File Report – 21. Florida Geologic Survey, Tallahassee, Florida.
Florida Natural Areas Inventory. December 2001. Florida Forever Conservation Needs Assessment Version 1.1 Supplement to the technical Report June 2001. Tallahassee, Florida.