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Conservationists seek to protect Braden River wetlands from development

MANATEE COUNTY — With nearly $700,000 in pledges as of Friday, a nonprofit that specializes in the acquisition of conservation land is hopeful it can raise at least $1 million of the $3 million needed to establish the much-debated Braden River Preserve.

On Tuesday, the Manatee County Commission remained undecided about establishing a special tax district in the Braden Woods and River Club neighborhoods to finance the purchase of more than 32 acres for which developer Pat Neal and his business partner sons have approval to build a gated subdivision.

The commission postponed that decision to March 20.

Since that commission meeting, the Conservation Foundation of the Gulf Coast has received nearly $700,000 in pledges from area residents wanting to assist efforts in acquiring the property on behalf of the county.

The Floyd C. Johnson and Flo Singer Johnson Foundation is “leading the charge” with a $500,000 challenge grant to raise matching donations, said Suzanne Gregory, the foundation’s director of programs and marketing.