Reconnecting Sandhill Fragments- Restoration efforts of the Kincaid Loop Longleaf Pine Restoration Partnership and Management of Municipal Lands
Historically, a swath of deep sandy soils stretched across eastern Alachua County with associated sandhill and mixed upland ecosystems. In the early 1990's, 80 acres of Boulware Springs Park in the City of Gainesville, which had formerly been a grazed pineland pasture, was slated to be developed into soccer fields. After locating 23 gopher tortoise burrows and discovering a swath of intact sandhill groundcover on the parcel, staff recommended that it be set aside as protected land. After many years of individual efforts and acquisitions, concerned landowners and public lands managers have come together to protect and restore imperiled pinelands to a more natural state which supports a high biodiversity of plants and wildlife, including many rare endemic plants. Differing land uses, topography and fragmentation have led to a range of conditions in each parcel, necessitating a variety of restoration strategies. Supporting each other by sharing resources, experience, and information, the City of Gainesville, Alachua County and the Flamingo Hammock neighborhood have been able to work simultaneously to restore and connect small parcels of upland pine habitat, contributing to the larger mosaic of natural lands which abut the Paynes Prairie basin. Grace Howell will discuss this project as well as other land management activities in other municipal natural areas.
Grace Howell is a Habitat Naturalist with the City of Gainesville's Natural Resource Management team, which manages 29 nature parks totaling nearly 3000 acres. She has a degree in Natural Resource Conservation from the University of Florida and is a certified prescribed burn manager. Previously she worked as an environmental educator at Morningside Nature Center for five years. A native of Tallahassee, Grace's passionate interests in botany, fire ecology, and upland restoration stem from 25 years spent exploring and observing the wonders of North Florida's natural areas.