Wellington Environmental Preserve needs your vote.
The 400-acre stormwater treatment and wildlife area on Wellington’s western border is one of three finalists for the American Planning Association Florida Chapter’s 10th annual Great Places in Florida Award, Wellington announced in a news release.
The theme of this year’s award is “Great Resilient Places,” making Wellington’s preserve the perfect candidate for the award, Village Manager Jim Barnes said at Tuesday night’s council meeting. Voting is open now through Sept. 29, with the winner announced Oct. 2, the American Planning Association Florida Chapter said.
The other two contenders are The Bay in Sarasota and downtown St. Augustine.
“The Award celebrates outstanding places that enrich the lives of their residents and visitors,” Wellington said in its news release. “The Environmental Preserve’s nomination underscores its vital role in our community and its contribution to creating a sustainable and resilient environment.”
Work underway to expand preserve
The news of Wellington’s position as a finalist for the award comes as the village undertakes a multimillion-dollar project to expand the preserve.
For years, the Wellington Environmental Preserve at the Marjory Stoneman Douglas Habitat, also called Section 24, at 3491 Flying Cow Ranch Road was 365 acres and shaped like a C, curving around a 45-acre private property on the preserve’s east side.
That was until November 2021, when Wellington bought the site, known as the Moncada property, which made the preserve a 400-acre rectangle.
On June 5, crews started working to clear invasive and exotic species from the new addition to the preserve. They then started working to prepare the site to be incorporated into the rest of the property.
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.
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