A piece of property long-sought after by Wellington is now in the village’s fold, with work underway to transform it into part of a larger rainwater storage and stormwater treatment area.
Wellington in November 2021 bought the 45-acre property that sat inside the east side of the horseshoe formed around it on the north, west and south by the 365-acre Wellington Environmental Preserve at the Marjory Stoneman Douglas Habitat, also called Section 24, on Flying Cow Road.
To cover the $4.5 million purchase price, Wellington received a grant for 75% of the cost from the Florida Communities Trust Parks and Open Space Florida Forever Program, through the Florida Department of Environmental Protection. Wellington covered the remaining portion, roughly $1.1 million.
Now, Wellington is working with consultants to reimagine the site, called the Moncada property after its previous owner, so it fits seamlessly into the rest of the preserve, said Village Engineer Jonathan Reinsvold.
“The goal at the end of the day is to make it look like it was part of the original property,” he said.
The preserve as it is today seems to hug the Moncada property, which years ago was used for agriculture but more recently has been overgrown by invasive plants. A recent visit from a representative for the DEP’s Florida Communities Trust gave Wellington a chance to share the work being done at the preserve, Reinsvold said.
“We talked with him about how stormwater management works, and how our project ties to that,” he said.
What can you expect to see when visiting the preserve over the next year?
In the next six to nine months, the recently acquired 45 acres will be cleared, Reinsvold said. Construction should begin in about a year, with a budget of $4 million to $6 million, he said.
The newest piece of the Wellington Environmental Preserve will have “very, very similar features” to the existing property, he said. That means open trails, educational signs, trellises and observation areas.
A 5-acre piece of the new site is being set aside for future expansion, with a possible educational center there, though Reinsvold emphasized that is not part of the current design.
The biggest challenge Wellington faces in transforming the property is the abundance of invasive plants, he said. From the perimeter, the 45 acres appear to be nearly full of Brazilian pepper trees, a non-native shrub that can grow aggressively when left untamed.
“Over the last 10 years, the exotics have really taken over,” Reinsvold said.
In preparing the site for construction, Wellington received a review from the South Florida Water Management District that there is a small wetland in the middle of the property, which will need to be mitigated on-site, Reinsvold said.
Once completed, the new 45 acres will serve an important function during storm season, while also adding to Wellington’s recreational offerings.
The addition of the 45 acres to the larger environmental preserve means about 10% more capacity for rainwater storage and treatment, Reinsvold said.
Wellington and the South Florida Water Management District created the Wellington Environmental Preserve to help clean phosphorus from the village’s rainwater, in compliance with the 1994 Everglades Forever Act. Stormwater from the south half of Wellington enters the preserve, is naturally cleaned in the preserves wetlands and marshes, then leaves via canals to enter the Everglades.
The current acreage can handle an average depth of about 3 feet of water, or about 53 Olympic-size swimming pools, Reinsvold said. The additional land gives Wellington another six Olympic-size pools of capacity to work with.
“When this is finished, it’s going to be a beautiful thing,” he said.
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