PINELLAS COUNTY, Fla. — Hundreds of people in Dunedin and Clearwater are fighting to protect what they call the “last piece of paradise” in Pinellas County.
A group called “Preserve the Douglas Hackworth property #SaveTheGDP” has spent weeks waiving signs right at the intersection of Virginia Avenue and Keene Road to raise awareness about the need to protect land that they say is special and now at risk of being bulldozed over.
“It’s Old Florida and it’s quiet and it’s tranquil and it’s just special,” Bob Hackworth explained.
Hackworth’s stepmom, Gladys Douglas Hackworth, had a goal for the 44 acres of land she owned just 2 miles from downtown Dunedin and 2 miles from Countryside Mall.
“She had offers on this place for the last 20 years home builders have been knocking on the door because it literally was the last good parcel for a big housing development and she always turned it down and said, ‘I want it preserved,’” he added.
When Gladys died in July, her estate reached out to Dunedin and Pinellas County leaders to purchase the land. But without a municipal offer, a developer drew up a contract to buy the property and turn it into more than 130 condos.
“It’s heartbreaking,” James Scott of the Suncoast Sierra Club added.
Now, hundreds of people are coming together to beg the city of Dunedin and Pinellas County leaders to come up with millions of dollars to buy the parcel, which surrounds the 54-acre Jerry Lake, and turn it into a park if the developers offer falls through.
“There will never be an opportunity again to create a green space this large in Pinellas County’s history because of how built out we are. So this is an amazing opportunity,” Scott said, adding that it’s one of the only places with rosemary bald scrub and is the largest undeveloped, available parcel in the county.
Dunedin Mayor Julie Ward Bujalski says they’re hopeful that the land can be saved and county and city leaders are now meeting weekly to draft a back up offer.
“To have open green space for future generations, what could be more important than that?” she elaborated.
Dunedin residents say it’s crucial to preserve what little land Pinellas County has left and they’ll keep fighting to preserve the piece of paradise.
“We have tons of endangered species that are housed there. The animals have nowhere else to go,” Kai Rubach, who grew up near the property, explained. “It makes me sad but it’s good to know that there is still hope.”
October 17 is a key date for those fighting to preserve the property. That’s when the due diligence period will end for the developer, Pulte Homes, and they will decide if they plan to move forward with the project or back out.