PINELLAS COUNTY, Fla. — More than 14,000 are joining the fight to preserve what they call the “last piece of paradise” in Pinellas County. The Gladys Douglas Hackworth property makes up 44 acres of undeveloped land near Virginia Avenue and Keene Road in Dunedin.
Nichole Mattheus and Michelle Birnbaum, who both live near the property, have spent hours waving signs at the intersection and working to convince others to appeal for the property to be preserved and turned into a park.
“I think it speaks very highly that the community wants this land conserved and that we want greenspace,” Matthues explained.
On Wednesday, Pinellas County and Dunedin leaders announced that $8 million has been raised to preserve the 44 acres surrounding Jerry Lake, which is just 2 miles from Downtown Dunedin and 2 miles from the Countyside Mall. The goal is to raise $2 million more to buy the land from the Hackworth estate and turn it into a park.
The estate is holding firm on a $10 million asking price, despite the property appraising around $5.5 million.
“I know we can do it. I know we can save this beautiful place,” Birnbaum said with emotion.
The land went on the market after Gladys Douglas Hackworth died. Originally, a developer made an offer on the land and planned to build homes on it, but they backed out of the deal in the fall, giving local leaders a second chance.
“I’m ecstatic. I never thought the first day when I came out here all by myself with a sign to waive that we would ever get this close to saving this beautiful property. It’s a miracle,” Birnbaum added.
Local leaders hope to raise the rest of the money through donations. One Clearwater couple even donated $2 million of their own money towards saving the land. Other community members have collectively donated $53,036.
Dunedin and Pinellas County are also working with the estate to extend the original deadline of Jan. 18, 2021, to close on the property.
"We are balancing the community's strong desire to preserve the property with our responsibility to be good stewards of the taxpayers' money, and deeply appreciate the donors who have stepped forward to support these two goals," said Pinellas County Administrator Barry Burton.
If you’d like to learn more about the community fundraising effort, which is being lead by the Pinellas County Community Foundation and the Sierra Club, you can visit pinellascf.org. You can also make a donation by texting Save the GDP to 71441.
If the goal is not met to buy the property, the Pinellas County Community Foundation says all donations will go towards future land preservation in Pinellas County.