CAYO COSTA, Fla. - A new plan to sell some of the most untouched, secluded parts of Southwest Florida has some people concerned. They say it'll spoil some of the beauty of our area and could lead to unnecessary development.
We're talking about parts of Cayo Costa State Park and Charlotte Harbor Preserve. The government says it wants to sell this vacant land to bring in some extra money. They'll use that money to buy other state land with what they call "higher conservation value."
Some of the areas on the list are thought of as "Old Florida," land seemingly untouched by time.
"You're out there. It feels like you're at the end of the earth," Raynauld Bentley said. He's worked on the islands of Sanibel and Captiva for 10 years.
The mangroves and unspoiled beaches are what keep locals like Phil Dyer back to Cayo Costa. "You really feel like you're in the Caribbean and on our own," Dyer said. "It's amazing to be able to walk down the beach and have the beach to yourself. That's a real rarity in Southwest Florida. It's an amazing spot and I hope it stays unspoiled.
But, some of that land could have new owners. The State DEP. is considering selling 14 acres of state conservation land on Cayo Costa and more than 25 acres in the Charlotte Harbor Preserve as part of the State Conservation Land Assessment
The 2013 Legislature provided up to $50 million to the DEP In turn, the DEP must sell up to $50 million worth of land no longer needed for conservation. The money from the sales will go toward buying better land with more critically-needed resources, such as springs protection.
Initially, the proposed list included Gasparilla Island and Picayune Strand State Forest. They've since been cut and so have some proposed parcels in Cayo Costa and Charlotte Harbor.
If put on the market, state, county and city agencies, as well as universities will get first dibs. After that, anyone can place a bid.
"The idea that we would sell some of that is really outrageous to me," Dyer said. "It's something the community owns and should maintain. There's a couple spots here on Captiva that because it's Lee County, have become eye sores and stand out and not in a good way in the community."
"If universities or other state-funded agencies were to look to take it over, as long as they would try to keep something, keep some parts the way it is and maybe keep it open for public use or park use, I think that would be pretty cool," Bentley said.
The land won't be sold until public meetings are held and each parcel has been reviewed by state agencies. You can e-mail your thoughts to the Florida DEP at: ARC_mailinglist@dep.state.fl.us.