Nature Preserve dedicated in Old Homosassa

Dedication of the Troy Sameuel Cumming Nature Preserve in Old Homosassa

In 1998, Homosassa resident Roger Adams bought a piece of property on West Yulee Drive from his long-time friend, Troy Samuel Cumming, with the promise of keeping the land pristine.

On Wednesday, after years of searching for the right people to donate the land to, Adams and his wife, Sally Smith Adams, officially donated the property to the Tampa Bay Conservancy.

The occasion was marked with the dedication of the property as the Troy Samuel Cumming Nature Preserve, and has the blessing of the Southwest Florida Water Management Water District (SWFWMD).

Ceremonies for the dedication of the 6.09-acre parcel were observed by about 50 people in a slice of land very near the Ellie Schiller Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park. Among the dignitaries present for the ceremonies were Park Manager Kimberlee Tennille, Roger and Sally Smith Adams and Dana, Jena and Lori Cummings. Also present were members of the board of the Tampa Bay Conservancy and TBC President Heidi McCree.

“We commend Mr. Adams and Ms. Sally Smith Adams for their generous donation of the property to the Tampa Bay Conservancy and their passion for protecting this healthy hardwood forest and wildlife habitat. We are so pleased that they chose to name the property The Troy Samuel Cumming Nature Preserve, in memory of Mr. Cumming, an outstanding educator and environmentalist,” McCree said.

The TBC describes the property as comprised of healthy bottomland hardwood hammock forest that provides habitat for native wildlife, including fox, deer and numerous bird species. There are also large hickory, southern magnolia, red bay, oaks and cabbage palms, and native birds, including Carolina wrens, pileated woodpeckers, Northern cardinals and barred owls. The Conservancy said that there are notable limestone rocky outcroppings as well, a visual reminder, the TBC said, of Florida’s unique geology.

Tourism works

Speaking to those in attendance, Roger Adams said that Troy Samuel Cumming was his high school Industrial Arts teacher, and the two met again during a classroom reunion in 1998. At the time, the Adamses were living in the U.S. Virgin Islands. Mrs. Adams fell in love with the Citrus County area while visiting a friend of hers here. "She came over to Krump's Landing over there and thought, 'This is the greatest place on the earth,'" Mr. Adams said.

Mr. Adams said Cumming told him the land he had wanted to sell was "too beautiful to list," and that he was concerned that someone who might buy it might also destroy it, and he was reluctant to let that happen. "I told him that if we got it we would not allow anything to happen to it," Adams said.

Adams said he learned of the Tampa Bay Conservancy through some of his relatives south of Gibsonton, when the TBC took over some historical land and restored it. Adams said his family came to Florida in 1910 by steamboat, and came ashore in that area. "So I figured if (the TBC's effort) was good enough for them (his relatives), it was good enough for us."

He said this is the first parcel of land the TBC has in Citrus County. "And as far as I am concerned, this is a seed, and perhaps it will grow."

The property is located near Withlacoochee State Forest and in the vicinity of a project on the "Florida Forever" wish list. Concurrent with protection of the property was the conveyance of a water monitoring easement to SWFWMD. Protection of this property may lead to protection of additional property in the area, with the hope of forming a connection to expand the existing conservation areas.

Monitoring public waters

Speaking to the easement to SWFWMD on Wednesday was Steven E. Blaschka, SWFWMD Real Estate Services Manager in the Land Services Department.

"Bringing land into the people's ownership is always a challenge," Blaschka said. "There is also a larger perspective. If there is legislation that passes that re-enacts "Florida Forever", remember that the program has been shut down heavily, and it takes a long time to start it back up again. Buying land is not an immediate thing, and this (donation) is a good example for anyone who was involved with this that there are requirements we have to follow to bring (this donation) into the people's lands."

SWFWMD water monitoring wells are one of the things that people don't hear much about, Blaschka said. "Actually, the Southwest District probably has the largest monitoring well network in the state - for our 16 counties. He said that monitoring the health of public waters is a necessity to protect all of the people.

"Everyone wants to move to Florida, but the reality is that there is only so much water, and we're using it as fast as it's hitting the ground right now," Blaschka said. "And wells like this enable us to see if there is saltwater intrusion - how far down the fresh water is, the different lenses of fresh water, and which water aquifer we're talking about - if it is the Surficial Aquifer (shallow aquifers typically less than 50 feet) or the Floridan Aquifer."

The SWFWMD's well monitor network is 30 years old, he said, and there is still a lot of work to be done. And he noted that there had been a gap in the network in this area. "Our program relies on the cooperation of property owners to help us do this. You don't budget a whole lot of money to buy wells, and so we ask people if they would be willing to donate a well."

He said it takes wells like the one at the Troy Samuel Cumming Nature Preserve to help the water district accurately understand the hydrological conditions throughout the district. "Otherwise, this could all dry up," Blaschka said. "And it will dry up if we don't take conservation seriously."

About Florida Forever

Florida Forever is Florida’s premier conservation and recreation lands acquisition program, a blueprint for conserving natural resources and renewing Florida’s commitment to conserve the state’s natural and cultural heritage.

Florida Forever replaces Preservation 2000 (P2000), the largest public land acquisition program of its kind in the United States. With approximately 9.9 million acres managed for conservation in Florida, more than 2.5 million acres were purchased under the Florida Forever and P2000 programs.

Since its inception in July 2001 to the present, the Florida Department of Environmental Protections says, the Florida Forever program has acquired more than 707,740 acres of land with $2.89 billion.

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