Tuesday April 23, 2019
Before Wheelock Communities developed Starkey Ranch in 2013, the property had a long history of preservation. Originally purchased by Jay B. Starkey and the Cunningham brothers in 1937, the 16,000-acre CS Ranch, cut by the Pithlachascotee and Anclote rivers, hosted cattle and timber and citrus operations.
By 1965, Starkey, disturbed by the level of development happening in Florida, sold off a stretch of land to the Southwest Florida Water Management District to ensure it wouldn’t be developed. The Jay B. Starkey Wilderness Preserve was born, and after Starkey’s death in 1989, heirs sold off more land to the state for preservation.
JayB.Starkey Jr. and his wife,Marsha, continued to live and work on the ranch, keeping the effort alive to protect it from overdevelopment. They built the Greenleaf neighborhood in the 1990s and ran an ecotourism business on the ranch.
In 2013, Wheelock Communities purchased the remaining 2,500 acres from the family and began building a community that will have 800 acres of parks and open space and 20 miles of trails.
Project director Matt Call credits the property’s history of preservation as a special opportunity when planning the community. They worked with the Southwest Florida Water Management District to understand responsible practices in water usage and water quality. They provide reclaimed water to residents for irrigation and worked with irrigation professionals to design and install a water-efficient irrigation system composed of low-volume and micro-irrigation. The landscaping includes drought-tolerant plants that use less water and fewer pesticides.
They also take steps to reduce the impact of development on the land. “We plant a lot more trees than we ever take,”Call said. “One of the cool things we do is, for every acre of wetland we impact, we plant four more to offset that. It’s great to create these up-and-coming wetlands, because it adds more wildlife because there’s more habitat.”
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