The FNCC’s first project was convincing the State of Florida to acquire Atsena Otie using funds from Florida Forever land acquisition program. Florida Forever is an on-going program that was originally authorized by the Florida Constitution in 1973.
Representing the FNCC, Rob Crane was very active and persistent in his quest to have the island in public ownership and open to public use . The island has great historic meaning to Cedar Key and all of Florida. Numerous articles and books have documented this legacy. This writer remembers meeting Rob at the dedication of the Kirkpatrick laboratory in Cedar Key. I was then a member of the governing board of the Suwannee River Water Management District (SRWMD). Along with fellow member, Sue Colson, of Cedar Key we proposed that the district acquire Atsena Otie as an important part of its water conservation program and particularly protecting Gulf waters from development runoff. Such protection was very important to the then emerging clam farming industry. The SRWMD staff agreed with us and with local support from Cedar Key the district board authorized the purchase of the island in 1997. The island is managed and maintained by the US Fish and Wildlife Service, Lower Suwannee and Cedar Keys Refuges pursuant to a memorandum of understanding between the SRWMD and the refuge. Many visitors today enjoy this unique and beautiful place with its trails, beaches, historic cemetery and recreational opportunities.
Another important event along the way was the opening of the Cedar Key Railroad Trestle Nature Trail. In 2003, Ronnie Taylor, Bill DeLaino and partners of Cedar Key Development Inc. offered a conservation easement along the Cross Florida Railroad trestle south of Grove Street in Kiss-me-quick. The original plan for the trail encompassed the entire trestle from Grove Street to Cedar Key City Park. However, this hit a snag in the path of Florida’s Office of Greenways and Trails funding for acquisition. The office of Greenways and Trails required a pedestrian bridge over the channel between the south trestle and the north trestle which historically was connected by a railroad bridge. The proposed pedestrian bridge stirred significant objections from channel users, thus the state would not fund the project. Funding was denied, but the donors offered a conservation easement for a shorter trail from Grove Street. The trail was then developed with the generous cooperation and help from the Late Mac McCann and many local volunteers, including FNCC board members. They built the entry kiosk and Liz Ehrbar provided the beautiful information panel within the kiosk. This last Spring FNCC with assistance from the city public works crew installed a kiosk at the end of the trail. The city of Cedar Key generously helps in maintaining the trail and locking the gate at night. It is truly a private and public project. XXImageXX
In 2000, the Richard Adams Family Trust offered Cemetery Point to the city of Cedar Key. This land is about 3.5 acres located on the east point of land connected to the Cedar Key Cemetery. It, north, east and south is surrounded by # 3 channel waters. The FNCC took up the task of preparing the applications and subsequent negotiations with the Florida Department of Community Affairs and its division, the Florida Community’s Trust (FCT). Florida Forever funds were available for a 100% grant for the purchase of this important point of land and its surrounding waters. With the help of the city attorney, David Coffey and his then associate John McPherson and members of the FNCC board, Dr. Lovett Williams, Dr. Buzz Hollings, Rob Crane and this writer and help from Rob Matson of the SRWMD the applications were completed and negotiations with FCT completed. By January 2 of 2003 the FCT delivered the deeds to the city of Cedar Key. Today this park is enjoyed by many local folks and visitors to Cedar Key.
More recently, there have been two significant gifts to FNCC. The first in 2003 composed of 450 acres in Section 29, a gift from Mr. and Mrs. Ronnie Taylor. This is property which lies east of Kiss-me-quick across to Scale Key and west across to Cemetery Point. It does not include any of Cedar Key’s original platted lands, but does include many oyster bars and small islands. The property is managed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife service as part of Cedar Keys Refuge. A second gift was made by the Jones Trust. This gift included the remaining land and water of Cedar Key Shores original plat. These lands and water are held in perpetuity for public use, preservation and conservation. At this time the FNCC is working with The Conservation Fund of Gainesville, Fl. in preparing the application to the FCT for the acquisition of Chambers Island in Levy County. This process is virtually at a standstill as of this writing; primarily for the lack of state funding.