Alachua County
Wild Spaces & Public Places

Photo c. Kim Davidson

Saving Special Places • Building Better Communities

1000 Friends of Florida Endorses Alachua County’s Wild Spaces & Public Places

October 13, 2022

Florida’s leading nonprofit advocate of sustainable communities, 1000 Friends of Florida, urges general election voters in Alachua County to invest in their environment and quality of life by voting YES on their November 8th ballot to extend and expand the county’s popular and successful Wild Spaces & Public Places program.  A 10-year penny sales tax proposal on the county ballot, if approved by voters, would replace the existing half cent, and dedicate half the proceeds to acquire and improve environmentally sensitive land, and to create, improve and maintain parks, trails and recreational facilities. The other half of the sales tax would go to road maintenance and resurfacing, affordable housing, bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure and other public facilities.

In 2016, Alachua County voters approved an eight-year half-penny sales tax for Wild Spaces & Public Places to continue the county’s land conservation program, Alachua County Forever, and improve parks. Since its inception in 2000, Alachua County Forever has protected more than 34,000 acres in the county through purchases of land or development rights from willing sellers. More than 13,000 acres of that land has been protected just in the past six years, since voters last gave their ap

Conservation land in Alachua County provides a wide range of benefits to the public, including cleaner water, wildlife habitat, carbon sequestration and outdoor recreation. Some 70 percent of land protected under Alachua County Forever is accessible to the public. But with the county’s population increasing, more land must be conserved to reduce the harmful environmental impacts of development and meet the growing demand for safe places to enjoy the outdoors.

Photo c. Kim Davidson

Protecting land is good for the economy. It spares taxpayers the cost of extending and providing public services to remote, environmentally sensitive areas that are ill-suited for development. It promotes ecotourism. It increases nearby property values. It attracts matching funds from other public and private partners; Alachua County’s investment of $75 million in land conservation has leveraged almost $43 million in additional investment from partners. And with a sales tax, visitors help underwrite the county’s investment. Wild Spaces & Public Places is overseen by a board of citizens who track and report on the program’s expenditures to ensure its accountability to taxpayers.   All expenditures are public records, and the County conducts annual independent audits of how funds are spent.

In recent years, the Florida Legislature and the U.S. Congress have made sizable investments in land conservation. However, competition is fierce among Florida communities for those dollars. Local governments that raise their own funds for conservation are in the best position to leverage matching state or federal dollars. They also have the resources to continue protecting land regardless of politics in Tallahassee and Washington. Recognizing this reality, communities across Florida have created local land conservation programs, often through voter approval. It’s important for Alachua to keep pace.

1000 Friends’ strong support for Alachua County’s ballot measure is based on our decades of promoting conservation and responsible growth throughout Florida. When critical natural lands are protected from development, more growth is directed toward already developed areas with the infrastructure to support it. This smarter approach not only reduces the impact of development on fragile land, water and wildlife; it also cushions the blow to taxpayers, who don’t get stuck with the bill for stretching public services to distant areas.

We urge Alachua citizens to continue their critical investment in the county’s future by voting YES for the November 8th ballot measure to extend and expand the Wild Places & Public Spaces program.