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Manatee County purchases 64 acres of undeveloped riverfront property

The Conservation Foundation of the Gulf Coast has permanently preserved 64 acres of land in Manatee County. The Crooked River Ranch is one of the last large, privately owned parcels on the Manatee River.

Manatee County now owns 64 acres of undeveloped riverfront land.

The county purchased the land for $11.2 million on Feb. 12. The money was raised through a 2020 referendum to buy conservation land. This was the first property purchased by the county through the program.

The Crooked River Ranch is the last large, privately owned parcel of land on the Manatee River. It is located halfway between I-75 and Ft. Hamer Road in Parrish.

Christine Purvis Johnson is president of the Conservation Foundation of the Gulf Coast.

Her organization worked with the owners to make the purchase happen.

"There's a lot of development going on around it," Johnson said. "And 64 acres on Manatee River, (which) is predominantly undisturbed, is very rare in Manatee County."

Johnson said the preserve is a huge win for conservationists.

“I am very optimistic that this will begin the floodgate of land conservation in Manatee County," she said. "Manatee County is one of the most rapidly growing and populating counties not only in the state, but also in the country.”

She said only 14% of the county's land is preserved — compared to about 80% in Collier County and 33% in Sarasota County.

“There’s a lot of work to be done in Manatee County,” Johnson said.

Manatee leaders have plans to allow recreation at the site but would maintain the natural shoreline. The county plans to put in a small parking lot, trails for birders and hikers and a kayak launch.

Johnson said the land will also provide habitat to native species like bald eagles.

The group will hold a ribbon-cutting ceremony along with Manatee County Commissioners on March 1 at 1 p.m.