The City of Dunedin opened the first phase of the Gladys E. Douglas Preserve with a ribbon cutting ceremony at the end of February. Hundreds of residents came out to celebrate the opening of the Preserve along with City and County officials, and local donors. The Preserve, located at the northeast corner of Virginia Avenue and Keene Road, is approximately 44-acres of environmentally sensitive lands, with an 80-acre adjoining lake and wetlands. The main entrance is located at 1900 Virginia Ave, Dunedin FL.
The site was the home of philanthropist Gladys Elaine Douglas. “Some of her life’s greatest joy came from listening to the birds fly over the pine scrub and looking out over the lake bordering the home where she lived for 50 years,” wrote City of Dunedin officials on the preserve’s site.
Gladys E Douglas Preserve is a Dunedin treasure
“It was her soul,” said widower Bob Hackworth Sr., 91, who still lives on the homestead on the east side of the property. Gladys Douglas passed away in July 2019 at the age of 95.
This untouched, undeveloped parcel of land was almost lost to a private developer. The City of Dunedin and the community wanted to keep it as a preserve and green space for citizens to be able to enjoy it in its natural state – forever. In 2021, the City, County, and citizens from the community came together to raise the $10 million purchase price. Of the $10 million, $4.5 million was raised from more than 1,100 private donators to forever preserve the land as open green space. The community and local government came together to save some of the last green space in Pinellas County that future generations will be able to experience and enjoy.
Two pedestrian entrances are located off the sidewalk along Keene Road. Bicycle racks are available at each entrance to park your bike. Golf carts, motorized vehicles, bicycles and scooters are only permitted on designated roads and parking areas; they are not permitted on the trails.
The first phase of the Preserve, which is now open to the public, includes a half-mile of walking/nature trails that wind through the conservation area. Along the trails, visitors will find trail markers, maps, and interpretive signs which include a description of the area and some of the plant life and wildlife that may be found there. A field fence was installed along some of the walking paths to help protect the conservation area and important native plants, including the last-known remaining Rosemary Bald in Pinellas County and the pale reindeer moss that grows among it.
143 native plant species abound in the preserve
The residential area and access to Jerry Lake remain closed to the public at this time while this area continues to be under development. The second phase, expected to open in 2025, will include public access to Jerry Lake, a kayak launch, fishing pier, restrooms, a picnic pavilion, a wildlife observation platform, and a nature museum.
The property is filled with 143 native plant species, 11 of which are endangered, threatened or exploited. “This is a preserve, so there’s not going to be a lot of active recreation activities,” said Dunedin Parks & Recreation Director Vince Gizzi. “This is what people wanted. We wanted to make sure we save the land, saved it from development and keep it in its natural state.”
Visit the preserve’s website to learn more about the plant species, trails, and upcoming phases.
What to read next:
- Gasparilla International Film Festival lineup revealed
- Busch Gardens Food & Wine Festival returns
- Groundbreaking ceremony held for massive Gas Worx Development
- Indoor pickleball facility opening in Ybor City
- Jack in the Box opening in Florida