HOBE SOUND, Fla. — As he walks along a patch of land, Matthew Sexton will admit it is not the most picturesque, but it's an important one.
This 20-acre tract along Bridge Road east of Interstate 95 in Hobe Sound was just purchased by The Conservation Fund, a national nonprofit, for $1.2 million.
The money was raised solely through local, private donations. It's part of a plan to create an ecological corridor to improve water flow and enhance wildlife protection.
"So, this piece becomes one of four potential connections from north of Bridge Road south into Jonathan Dickinson State Park and the Loxahatchee River," Sexton said.
The Conservation Fund is partnering with the Loxa-Lucie Headwaters Initiative to buy certain lands when they become available.
"There's a lot of development pressure in this area, so we're working really hard to buy what we can from willing sellers, while we have the opportunity," Sexton said.
This is the second major purchase by the initiative, following a 2-mile long, 138-acre stretch along the north side of Bridge Road in 2021, part of what's called the Atlantic Ridge Ecosystem.
Bigger parcels come with much bigger price tags.
"The challenge is some of these 2,000-acre parcels are over $80 million," Greg Braun, with the Guardians of Martin County, said.
Another goal is what some might call proof of performance. The hope is that by successfully raising money locally to buy smaller parcels, these groups could gain the attention of state leaders who buy larger parcels as part of programs, like Florida Forever.
"We're competing with properties up in the Panhandle that are one-tenth the cost per acre than what we're doing here," Braun said.
There is some talk in Martin County about putting a 1/2 cent sales tax proposal on the 2024 ballot for land preservation.
In the meantime, the Loxa-Lucie Headwaters Initiative is willing to work with any willing seller.
To learn about the organization, click here.