Rapid Ecological Project Assessment
Matrix Score: 8.96 of 9.44
Size: 13,722 acres
Number of Parcels 364
Number of Owners 218
Number of Buildings 210
Location / Description:
The 13,722 acre Santa Fe River
(SFR) Project is a linear corridor along the
The SFR project is a combination of
two projects from the Alachua County
Ecological Inventory Project (KBN Study);
The KBN Study summarized the
The Hornsby Springs project was summarized by the following paragraph, “This site has a first magnitude, crystal clear, artesian spring and a clear spring run of nearly one mile in length, two segments of the Santa Fe River (one about ¼ mile and the other about ½ mile in length), some magnificent, mature upland mixed forest (mesic hammock), floodplain forest, swamp forest, an unusual patch of scrub, and a number of sinkholes and sinkhole ponds, including at least two that are open to the waters of the Floridan aquifer (blue holes). This is one of the most spectacular natural areas in the County. However, it is not without some human impacts. The upland next to the spring is developed into a major camp ground with several large buildings and many smaller ones, the spring itself has been developed into a recreation area with docks and board walks, and there are areas of improved pasture on some of the uplands”, KBN 1996.
Protecting Water Resources:
The SFR has geologic and hydrologic
conditions that would easily enable contamination of the Floridan aquifer that
has value as drinking water source. The
site consists of the River itself, most of the uplands and floodplain in
private ownership along the
According to both the St. Johns
River Water Management District’s Aquifer Recharge Map of Alachua County and
Aucott, 1988, the level of groundwater recharge varies over the course of the
River. However, neither of the above
mentioned sources agree on the level of recharge or discharge along the River. Further study is necessary to determine the
level of groundwater recharge in the vicinity of the Santa Fe River. It is safe to say that water from the
The KBN study described the River
as follows, “The upper part of the
Eight miles down stream where the
A dozen or so more miles down
stream at elevation 80 feet at
The next seven miles down stream go
through a narrow floodplain area until the
About seven additional miles
downstream at an elevation of about 40 feet Olustee Creek joins the river. From
here for the next two miles to I-75 and the start of O’Leno State Park, the
river is intermingling freely with the Floridan Aquifer, and is deep, broad and
slow moving. Apple snails (Pomacea paludosa) are in evidence for
the first time, indicating the higher calcium levels in the water. Even here, the water is dark, and the
character of the river is more like that of a blackwater river than a typical
This [the Hornsby Springs Area] is an active geologic area with sinkholes, a major artesian spring, a major river, and a large cutoff river meander. It is an area where the river and the Floridan Aquifer are in contact with each other. The primary interaction is the discharge of water from the aquifer into the river, but there are also “suck holes” in this general stretch of the river, so water can flow in both directions.”, KBN 1996.
Approximately 51% of the SFR
project is wetlands, contains hydric soils, or falls within the FEMA 100 or 500
year flood hazard zone. The SFR project
Protecting Natural Communities and Landscapes:
1st Magnitude Spring
High Impact Development
The above list of natural communities is from the KBN Report, KBN 1996. The ecological quality of the natural communities is good to very good.
The SFR Project provides critical
connections within and outside of
Sites and conservation lands directly
connected to the
Approximately 75% of the project
site is within the Florida Ecological Greenways Network (FEGN). About 92% is in the priority 5
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 SFR project was designed by the authors of the KBN Study to be a viable ecosystem from a landscape ecology perspective and a complete and viable wildlife corridor. While ACF staff expanded the length and in some cases the width of the corridor they have maintained the intent of the project.
Approximately 4% of the SFR falls within a Wading Bird Strategic Habitat Conservation 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.
Approximately 30% of the site is in the Florida Natural Areas Inventory (FNAI) 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 5% of the SFR project is
delineated 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
Protecting plant and Animal Species:
Common Name Endemic/ Large Fed/State FCREPA/FNAI Noted Observed
Home-Range Status Designation
Canebrake Rattlesnake P
Eastern Diamondback Rattlesnake -/- -/- -/S3 SM,N P
Bachman’s Sparrow -/- -/- -/S3 O
Hairy Woodpecker -/- -/- SSC/S3 O
Limpkin -/- -/SSC SSC/S3 F,K,O
Little Blue Heron -/- -/SSC SSC/S4 SM,K,O
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, O=Oleno State Park, Bird Check List.
Information in the “Observed”
column was provided by local experts.
David Auth, Ph.D. provided the information on amphibians and
reptiles. This data was based on a
series of maps made by Dr. Auth using location of capture of specimens in
museums of the United States dating back to before 1900, and to a lesser
extent, to visual sightings by Dr. Auth and other professional biologists. “P”=Present, indicates at least one museum
record or visual sighting of the species in the project area. “C”=Close,
indicates a museum record or visual sighting within one mile of the project
border. “No”=Not Present and Not Close,
indicates all map records for the species lie outside the one mile limit. “*”= Rare in County, While not on any list,
these species have been determined to be rare in
plants recorded in the KBN study are greenfly orchids, royal fern, cinnamon
fern and pink azalea. Staff found the
state endangered spiked crested coralroot and the endemic big flowered pawpaw
Exotic plants found on the SFR site include camphor tree, mimosa, bahia grass and alligator weed, KBN 1996. Staff noted both cogon and Johnson grass in the project area and water lettuce, hydrilla and water hyacinth in the River.
The FFWCC 2001 data shows one bald eagle nest within one mile of the SFR Project site and a second within 2.5 miles.
Approximately 40% 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 75% of the SFR is a Priority 1-4 Natural Resource-based Recreation Area, Knight, et al. 2000, and about 75% is within the Florida Ecological Greenways Network. The Natural Resource-based Recreation map was developed by FNAI in collaboration with DEP, FFWCC 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 SFR 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 SFR site is in excellent condition and would be relatively easy to maintain and manage due to good access, good connectivity, and relatively small amount of prescribed burning that is needed, KBN 1996.
Economic/ Acquisition Issues:
There are 364 parcels, 218 ownerships and 210 buildings listed in the Alachua County Property Appraisers (ACPA) data base for the 13,722 acre SFR Project. The ACPA’s 2002 Just Value or land value for the entire project is $19,330,500 or $1,431/ acre. The ACPA’s total value (Just, Miscellaneous and Building) for the project area is $31,424,000 or $2,290/ 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 zoning and future land use is agriculture on approximately 98% of the SFR project. The remainder of the area is in conservation/preservation, recreation or residential. Approximately 190 acres of the SFR project lie within the City of High Springs; this entire area is designated residential.
Approximately 3,719 acres of the SFR project are on existing acquisition lists; 3,070 acres are on the Suwannee River Water Management Districts 5 year Florida Forever Plan and 649 acres are on the State Recreation and Parks Optimum Park Boundary. Both the State Parks and the SRWMD are potential partners.
Keystone parcels in the SFR project include all parcels on the State Parks optimum boundary, the parcels included in the SRWMD’s five year plan, all parcels adjacent or nearly adjacent to existing conservation areas and the Robinson Sinks area. This is essentially the entire project area.
There are 45 archeological sites within the perimeter of the SFR project site as listed on the Florida Master Site Files by the Division of Historical Resources.
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