The preservation of Telford Spring is an example of conservation in action. The property, which feeds into the Suwannee River, was acquired by Alachua Conservation Trust in partnership with the Suwannee River Water Management District (SRWMD) and Florida Department of Environmental Protection (FDEP).
At approximately 94 acres in the 100-year floodplain, the land is also adjacent to other SRWMD land. This second magnitude spring is an important water source for the Suwannee River, nestled along the river and accessible by boat, and frequented by cave divers.
“With Florida being one of the fastest growing states, land conservation remains important so people can appreciate, protect and enjoy the resources in their own backyard,” says Tom Kay, Executive Director of Alachua Conservation Trust. “Natural spaces bring people outdoors, and our work to preserve resources moves forward as our state continues to grow.”
In late 2020, the Alachua Conservation Trust learned that the property was going on market. It had been owned by the Henderson Family since 1958, and they had been good stewards of the land, keeping it in pristine ecological condition. Protecting the land through a public purchase was made possible in coordination between the SRWMD, the FDEP, Alachua Conservation Trust, and the private landowner.
“By preserving these public lands, we are showcasing ‘Old Florida’ with its century-old oaks, pine and hardwoods,” Kris Eskelin, Senior Project Manager with the SRWMD. “The natural systems and the floodplain community will be protected from development and future impacts to the spring will be minimized.”
Telford Spring – A Piece of the Puzzle
The land purchase safeguards aquifer recharge, conserves drinking water supply, protects native species, and provides recreational access.
“If you think of the conservation area as a jigsaw puzzle, it was like one of the missing pieces,” said Kay. “What set this particular piece of property apart was that it sits on more than one mile of Suwannee River frontage. It includes large trees and serves as a natural buffer for water entering the river. It also borders Peacock Springs Conservation Area, which was already owned by SRWMD, and is near Wes Skiles Peacock Springs State Park which is popular with cave divers.”
Protecting the land also helps keep septic tanks away from a second magnitude spring, which has a water flow of up to 100 cubic feet per second. It is more preventative than anything, said Kay, preserving the integrity of the entire system. It also benefits wildlife, like turtles and otters, giving them direct access to crawl up on the shore.
“One of species you see near Telford is the Suwannee alligator snapping turtle, which is in a crisis state for its numbers,” Kay said. “I remember when I was younger we saw them all over the place – the numbers have dropped dramatically.”
Telford Spring – Preservation through Partnership
After approval of the Governing Board and the Lands Committee, the acquisition project began with the SRWMD submitting a request to purchase the property to the FDEP Springs grant funding program. Alachua Conservation Trust acquired the land in December 2021 from the private landowner while the grant was being processed in order to preserve the property, with the intent to transfer ownership to the SRWMD. In 2022, the land was transferred to the District, who now owns the property.
“Telford Spring has long been a local hidden treasure,” said Hugh Thomas, Executive Director of the Suwannee River Water Management District. “Now, through valuable partnerships, the public can appreciate its natural wonder into the future. Thanks to the efforts of the landowner, Alachua Conservation Trust, and the State of Florida, we will be able to protect this natural system from future development and limit future impacts to this beautiful spring.”
Telford Spring, and the land around it, serves as prime examples of what Alachua Conservation Trust is working diligently to conserve for current and future generations.
“We felt it was important to help the SRWMD purchase this area for public use,” added Kay. “If we had not moved on this, it could have been acquired by someone else and we would not have had the chance to preserve it. We will continue to work in this role where people can reach out to us and let us know about these opportunities so we can serve when time is of the essence.”
Maintenance of the land will be handled by Alachua Conservation Trust and will include controlling invasive species. The tract is currently closed but will open for recreation to the public once SRWMD has finalized and has its conservation plan for the property in place.
For more information on this and other Suwannee River Water Management projects, visit www.MySuwanneeRiver.com.