Protecting The Preserves

These signs indicate just a few of the many important aspects of the Emerson Point Preserve. Photo by Susan M. Songster Weaver

Over the years, I have listened to people complain about land being designated as preserves and coming off the tax rolls. They feel they are being hurt financially because now they must shoulder more of the tax burden. When land is deemed tax exempt, those tax revenues disappear, but the bills associated with the running our governments and schools do not.

Even though I can understand their point of view, I can also see the other side. Once our unspoiled land is developed, it is lost forever. We need to protect our preserves for our children and grandchildren.

Just down the road from my winter home in Palmetto, Florida, is a place called Emerson Point. It is a perfect example of a “nearly lost” preserve. Emerson Point is a 365-acre piece of prime real estate on the tip of Snead Island. The Manatee River borders Snead to the south, and Terra Ceia Bay borders it to the north.

The tip of the island juts out into the waters where Tampa Bay and Sarasota Bay flow together. The view is spectacular!

There is evidence of human inhabitants on the Point going back 4,500 years. A Native American temple mound, believed to be 1,200 years old, was found there. It is the largest of its kind in the Tampa Bay area. Eventually, those early inhabitants moved on, and the land was not re-populated until the 1920s when a family by the name of Horton came to the area.

They bought the land and operated a vegetable farm. Soon, the family realized the environmental and historical importance of their acquisition. As time passed, the Hortons and their heirs tried to preserve the majority of the Point, refusing large amounts of money from would-be developers and taking a lesser sum from public sources. Locals rested easily thinking the Point would remain pristine forever.

All was well until July 2, 1981, when a story written by a green-horn journalist named Thomas Tryon was printed in the Sarasota Herald-Tribune newspaper. Entitled, “Near the DeSoto Memorial, Historic Site May Fall to Progress,” Tryon reported on a set of plans uncovered by Richard Hite for an eight-story condo right on the tip of Emerson Point.

Hite, the then-superintendent of DeSoto National Memorial in Bradenton, Florida, revealed to the public documents filed with and preliminarily approved by the Manatee County government for the condo project. Well, the scat hit the fan.

Long story short, after a decade of work by the county and the state, the entire 365 acres was acquired. The legal battles associated with the Point took longer to settle, and one lawsuit ended up in the Florida Supreme Court.

On April 14, 2013, Tryon wrote another article for the Herald-Tribune entitled “Preserving Emerson Point” when an educational field study station was named in honor of Freeman and Mable Horton, former owners of the property. He begins the article with “Emerson Point is more than just another pretty place. It is a historic site, an environmental treasure, a recreational gem.” And well deserving of being protected. To learn more about this wonderful preserve, visit www.mymanatee.org.

We are lucky in Chautauqua County with the abundance of public lands at our disposal. The Chautauqua Watershed Conservancy has worked tirelessly to protect and preserve more than 1,000 acres of land that is critical to the health and welfare of our forests, lakes and streams along with our county and state governments. And these lands are ours to enjoy, so get out and use them!

Time is getting short for me in Florida, and I will soon be heading home – a home I love and cherish and which is never too far from my thoughts. Hoping to see you all soon on the water and trails!

Susan M. Songster Weaver is retired teacher, nature lover and longtime CWC volunteer and supporter. The Chautauqua Watershed Conservancy is a local not-for-profit organization dedicated to preserving and enhancing the water quality, scenic beauty and ecological health of the lakes, streams, wetlands and watersheds of the Chautauqua region.

For more information, call 664-2166 or visit www.chautauquawatershed.org or www.facebook.com/chautauquawatershed.

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