Finally, through private and public sources, the picturesque property on Myakka River is permanently protected
There are two sides to every story and three sides to every triangle.
There are even more sides to the perpetual preservation of Triangle Ranch.
The final pieces of a complicated philanthropic and political puzzle fell into place Tuesday with the completion of a series of real estate transactions. As a result, a picturesque property with immense environmental value will be permanently protected — added to an impressive inventory of preserved land in and around Myakka River State Park.
Triangle Ranch, which adjoins the park, encompasses 1,143 acres in Manatee County and provides habitat to more than 120 species of birds and animals, including the endangered Florida panther. Three miles of the Myakka River flow through the land.
Acquisition and preservation of the ranch have long been local priorities for good reasons: By every measure, the property has been recognized for its immense value to the “wild and scenic” Myakka River and an inland ecosystem that stretches from Manatee County south to Charlotte Harbor.
Ensuring protection has been an arduous task, yet the Conservation Foundation of the Gulf Coast and an array of private- and public-sector partners achieved their goals.
The total purchase price, based on appraisals, was slightly more than $5.5 million. The foundation raised $550,000 and the Southwest Florida Water Management District contributed $2 million to acquire a conservation easement that dissolves the development rights of the ranch’s new owner. The district finally agreed — appropriately, albeit reluctantly at first — to fund purchase of the easement with funds from the taxpayer-supported Florida Forever program; the Triangle Ranch ranked high in that program’s intensely competitive acquisition list.
The new owner is philanthropist Elizabeth Moore, who put up $3 million to acquire the property. She will allow conservation experts to restore sawgrass marshes on the property, protect wildlife habitats and promote both water filtration and flood control. Her gift to today’s Floridians and future generations had a high cost, but the value and benefits of her contribution are, and will remain, priceless.
Also deserving credit in this endeavor are members of the pioneering Carlton family, who long owned the tracts that made up the Triangle Ranch. They patiently waited for this complex arrangement to solidify and declined other offers that would have provided a more immediate payoff.
And let’s not forget the taxpayers of Florida. In 2014, 75 percent of voters sent a clear signal to the Legislature and governor in favor of increased spending on acquisition and preservation of environmentally valuable lands. That commitment by members of the public played a significant part in the protection of the Triangle Ranch and its future.
We hope that similar, positive results will eventually involve other key parcels in what has become known as the Myakka Island or Myakka River Corridor.
The Conservation Foundation has an option to purchase Sheps Island, which adjoins the state park in Sarasota County, and is applying for grants to fund acquisition. Sheps Island is notably visible from the main visitor area along the park’s western boundary.
The Orange Hammock Ranch is farther south in Sarasota County and buffers Myakka Island — a total of 110,000 acres, including the state park, that have been preserved and protected under various forms of public and private ownership. Preservation of the Orange Hammock Ranch would complement those other public acquisitions and provide protection of native habitats and species, as well as nearby North Port’s drinking-water supply. The foundation has asked the owner for more time to obtain government funding, which would be money well spent.
Today we celebrate protection of the Triangle Ranch and hope there will be even more sides to this preservation story.