by Melissa Elliott, Save Loblolly Woods
On Aug. 27, Nathan Collier withdrew the bid he presented to the Gainesville City Commission in May to purchase 5.17 acres of Loblolly Park. Collier led the idea of the purchase of city park land with privacy concerns, as the proposed parcel runs the length of his home’s eight-foot fence.
The city commission agreed to move ahead with the sale, and declared the land as surplus, but limited it to less than five acres to ensure that the parcel would not be developed.
At the time, there wasn’t a lot of public information being released, apart from Collier and his representatives. For one local resident, it became crucial to increase community awareness.
The Save Loblolly Woods group began in early June with one Facebook page. Within the space of a month, that page garnered over 500 fans and became a hotbed for local activists who wanted to help.
The original aim of the page was to provide a forum in which concerned locals could learn about more about the proposed sale. Not surprisingly, a small working group began to form.
The online group soon connected with homeowners in the neighborhood who would be directly affected by the sale. Meetings took place, a logo was designed, and flyers went up around the town. Members of the group met with city commissioners numerous times, and had multiple editorials published in The Gainesville Sun, as well as articles and interviews in The Iguana and The Alligator.
The group also started a website, placed “Save Loblolly Woods” signs in affected neighborhoods, and began making in-depth public records requests. By the end of August, the Facebook Page had over 780 fans, including two city commissioners and many other prominent community members.
On Aug. 25, Save Loblolly Woods held a “hike-in” on the Loblolly parcel. Over 70 residents and environmentalists came out to hear Dr. Michael Andreu speak of the natural history of the parcel and why that part of Loblolly is so biologically unique.
Though Collier did withdraw his latest bid, it’s on city record that he’s been attempting the purchase since 2008.
Members of the group will be making a presentation to the city commission on Sept. 5 to place all 160 acres of Loblolly Woods Nature Park on Gainesville’s Registry of Protected Public Places.