In 1971, private developers were proposing to build a large trailer park on several islands in Lemon Bay (northeast of Stump Pass) and to construct a bridge from Manasota Key to the islands.
Manasota Key and Englewood community leaders, concerned about the environmental impacts, banded together to find a way to limit the development. Lemon Bay Conservancy was formed to support that effort and to protect local environmental resources in the years ahead. A few highlights of LBC’s work through the decades are shown below.
A year after its founding, LBC made its first acquisition of Buttonwood and Rookery Islands, two of the islands that had been targeted for development. (The islands were held under the ownership of the Nature Conservancy for many years, and returned to LBC control in 2004.)
Throughout the 1970’s, LBC completed numerous reports on sensitive environmental habitats, highlighting concerns over raw sewage disposal into Lemon Bay and Charlotte harbor and the resulting damage. LBC pressed the state to preserve these wetlands and end the sewage disposal.
By 1979, LBC had attained its tax free status enabling it to increase its funding opportunities.
During the 1980’s, LBC made public education regarding the loss of mangrove habitat its primary goal after 3 acres of sea grass were killed in Stump Pass due to unregulated dredging. LBC also opposed a 31 acre residential development adjacent to Stump Pass and the project was ultimately denied by Sarasota County.
Due in large measure to the urging of LBC, Sarasota County purchased many acres of land which are essential to preserving the health of the waters and fish and wildlife surrounding our communities. The county purchased 23 acres on Manasota Key which boarders Lemon Bay just north of Blind Pass. The property provides access to both gulf and bay waters. Today the land is part of Blind Pass Park.
LBC worked hand in hand with Sarasota County commissioners to begin the process for designating county bays as “Outstanding Florida Waters”.
LBC proposed a resolution to Sarasota County, which was adopted, that no permits be granted for commercial or residential development until after a full environmental impact study had been completed and released to the general public for their understanding and comment.
During the 1990’s, LBC pledged funds to improve Cedar Point Parks nature trails and for a study to create Cedar Point’s wildlife inventory.
LBC also provided funds for an environmental impact effort to monitor water quality which was distributed to state agencies, schools and libraries.
With LBC’s recommendation, Sarasota County purchased the France property and incorporated it into Lemon Bay Park.
In Charlotte County, LBC supported the county’s purchase of land adjacent to Don Pedro Park that was subsequently added to the park boundaries.
In 2000, LBC hosted an environmental networking luncheon at Lemon Bay Park. LBC was one of thirty area environmental organizations to attend. It was the same year in which LBC joined the Land Trust Alliance.
In 2001, the LBC website was created and the first Executive Director was hired.
In 2006, LBC actively supported a Charlotte County Environmentally Sensitive Lands Referendum. Voters approved a .20 mill increase in ad valorem property taxes to support acquisition of lands for conservation.
In 2010, the LBC board of directors, with the help of many individuals and groups throughout the community, raised the necessary funds to purchase the Wildflower Golf Course in Placida. The fundraising effort was helped greatly by a significant donation from the estate of Verna Rodgers. Currently, Wildflower Preserve is being returned to its natural state. (Please refer to the Wildflower Preserve section of the website.) After the purchase, it was discovered that a number of the ponds on the preserve are home to juvenile Tarpon and Snook due to the ponds’ connection with the Charlotte Harbor estuary. LBC is working with the Bonefish & Tarpon Trust to preserve and study those fish habitats through an extensive “tagging” program.
In 2011, Gar & Dean Beckstead donated 11 acres of environmentally sensitive land on Thorton Key to LBC.
In 2014, LBC began partnering with the Southwest Florida Water Management District (SWFWMD) on design work for restoration of natural communities at Wildflower Preserve. Thanks to subsequent major grants from SWFWMD and NOAA, restoration work began in 2016 and is expected to complete in 2019.