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As deadline approaches, group needs more time to save Tarpon Springs wilderness

To preserve the land, a group needs to raise about $2.7 million by Friday.
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Posted at 7:37 AM, Jun 28, 2022
and last updated 2022-06-28 07:45:14-04

It’s a hard reality for Kay Carter to accept. Time is running out to save 14 acres of wilderness off West Klosterman Road just south of Tarpon Springs.

“It is a very special tract of land,” Carter said. “When we first moved in, I didn’t really realize how special it was until we went into it and saw all the variety of fauna and flora — and all the plants and animals.”

Carter is part of the WK Preservation Group, a group of neighbors trying to save the land and those plants and animals, but it’s complicated.

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The site is owned by Pinellas County Schools, which last year announced its intent to sell the property. Neighbors fear developers want to buy the land to build condos, so they’re racing to raise $3.2 million to save it from potential bulldozers.

“We can save this property today, but if we destroy it today, we can never get it back,” said Carter

Months ago, the state legislature budgeted money to preserve the land, but in early June, when Governor Ron DeSantis announced his list of vetoes from the state budget, the funding to save the property on West Klosterman Road was on the list. According to DeSantis’ veto letter, the cuts will help prepare the state for a possible recession.

“It was just like having the rug pulled out from under you,” Carter said. “I felt it in the pit of my stomach. It was like it’s hard to believe that that actually happened.”

Now, she and other neighbors are looking elsewhere for help. But time is running out. According to a deal struck with the school board in June 2021, the deadline to raise the $3.2 million is July 1, 2022. Days away from that deadline, the fundraiser is still $2.7 million short.

“We are the underdog in the elimination tournament today, and we’re still trying to come from behind and win this by getting all of the donations and all of the support required to raise the money and save the preserve,” said Tex Carter, who’s the president of the WK Preservation Group.

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He hopes the school board will work with his group to allow it more time to raise funds.

In the meantime, the situation is looking bleaker by the day.

“We’re contacting every donor that we know that might be sympathetic to environmental causes and might have the wherewithal to go ahead and make a large contribution,” he said.

Learn more about the fundraiser here.

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