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Like Kayaking The Loxahatchee River? Public Asked To Weigh In On Future Of State Lands

Tricia Woolfenden

Several ecologically-significant tracts of public land in Palm Beach County will go under the microscope this month as a state agency continues its multi-region assessment of state-owned lands throughout South Florida. 

The South Florida Water Management District (SFWMD) is in the process of looking at "approximately 750,000 acres of fee-owned" state-managed conservation lands in Central and South Florida. Property that is under consideration could potentially be designated as surplus, which would leave it open to public sale or trade.

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SFWMD is taking public comment on land in the East Coast Assessment Region, which includes acreage in Loxahatchee Slough. The Loxahatchee River/Cypress Creek region -- encompassing Riverbend Park -- also is under consideration. The area is a popular destination for public kayaking and canoeing, as well as wildlife viewing, biking, and hiking. Also on the list is a small section in the DuPuis Management Area, another popular recreation destination.   

Earlier phases of the SFWMD assessment project looked at tracts in the Upper Lakes and Kissimmee/Okeechobee regions. The Everglades Assessment Region, which covers much of Palm Beach, Broward, and Miami-Dade counties, will go under consideration later this year.

SFWMD officials said the project is not a "land surplusing process," but rather "a self-evaluation tool." Assessment of a public tract does not automatically place it in jeopardy of being sold publicly or traded away. Even so, conservation groups like Audubon Florida are urging the public to weigh in on the lands using the SFWMD online form. Public comment will be accepted through Monday, April 22.   

Additionally, SFWMD staff will answer questions about the project and accept comments from 10 a.m. to noon on Friday, April 19, at SFWMD headquarters, 3301 Gun Club Rd. in West Palm Beach.    

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