Work is now underway to incorporate a newer piece of Wellington’s largest environmental preserve into the overall site, creating a cohesive stormwater treatment and wildlife area across more than 400 acres on the edge of the Everglades.
Crews started working June 5 to clear the many invasive, exotic species of plants that have covered the 45-acre property Wellington plans to incorporate into the larger 365-acre Wellington Environmental Preserve at the Marjory Stoneman Douglas Habitat, also called Section 24, on Flying Cow Road on the west side of the village, staff confirmed this week.
Wellington’s council members approved construction at the site at their April 11 meeting, and work to clear the exotic species should be completed in the next few weeks, staff said.
I wrote about this project back in February. Wellington bought the 45 acres, known as the Moncada property because of the name of its previous owner, in November 2021, records show.
Wellington had its eye on the land for years. The square parcel sat nearly completely surrounded by Section 24, which is directly to the north, south and west. To the east is Flying Cow Road. It was almost like Section 24 was giving the Moncada property a big hug as it waited for it to become part of the overall preserve.
Grants help cover costs
Wellington has received three grants to help pay for the project:
About $3.4 million of the $4.5 million price of the land, or about 75% of the cost, was covered by a grant through the Florida Communities Trust Grant Program.
A $1.7 million grant from the Resilient Florida Grant Program, through the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, will help pay for construction at the site. Wellington has to match that grant with another $1.7 million.
Another $400,000 through the Florida Department of Environmental Protection Recreational Trails Program will help build trails, shade structures, and directional and interpretive trail signs in line with what exists in the rest of the preserve. Wellington has to match this grant with $275,000.
Once completed, the goal is for the 45 acres to blend seamlessly into the rest of the environmental preserve, Village Engineer Jonathan Reinsvold told me in February.
The project will continue into at least 2026, Wellington staff said.
The addition of the 45 acres to the larger environmental preserve means about 10% more capacity for rainwater storage and treatment, Reinsvold said in February.
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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