Alachua County Forever held their grand opening of Barr Hammock Preserve on February 2, 2013 at 9:30AM. In all 200-250 people (including at least 13 members of Sierra) gathered on this cold clear morning to hear the remarks of County Manager Richard Drummond, County Commissioner Mike Byerly, EPD Director Chris Bird, and Alachua County Forever Program Manager Ramesh Buch. Commissioner Byerly remarked that this purchase was an excellent deal for the citizens of Alachua County. Chris Bird remarked that the prairie provides an excellent filter for the water as it returns to the aquifer. After these short speeches, we toured the property by hiking along the rim of the marsh. Some chose a motorized hay ride. Members of our group enjoyed birding. Tom Morris even pointed out coyote scat and an otter trail.
The entire preserve is a 5,719 acre tract of land, which includes Ledwith Prairie, Levy Prairie, and the Barr Hammock land bridge between them. The $4 million 3251-acre Levy Prairie was paid for by a North American Wetlands Conservation Act (NAWCA) grant, a generous donation by the Whitehurst Family, and a State of Florida Communities Trust grant. No local money was used in the purchase. The prairie was a marsh, which was drained in the 1960’s for agricultural production and sod farming. The prairie now provides excellent habitat for sandhill cranes, bald eagles, herons, wood storks, and and gators.