It was announced at the Lemon Bay Conservancy “Toast to the Coast” event on Wednesday, Feb. 29 that 9.77 acres of Thornton Key has been donated to the group by local developers Gar and Dean Beckstead.
The announcement was a huge coup for the local environmental group.
Dean Beckstead explained their decision to donate the signficant piece of land on the beautiful barrier island.
“Hidden Lake is a magical place,” he said, as he and his brother accepted the thanks of the Conservancy. “I hope our small donation that protects the lake is the catalyst for other owners on the island to add their properties to the preserve.”
Jim Cooper, Conservancy President, said, “We are overwhelmed with gratitude for the generosity of the Becksteads. They have long been valued supporters of the Conservancy, but this gift is truly extraordinary.”
The donated property consists of a number of buildable residential lots as well as several acres of environmentally sensitive wet lands which border the “Hidden Lake” area of Thornton Key. This pristine body of water is, as its name implies, hidden from view and nearly inaccessible. Islanders and environmentalists that have found “Hidden Lake” are struck by its beauty and the extraordinary flora and fauna it supports. The Beckstead’s gift to the Conservancy ensures that none of the acreage bordering the lake will ever be developed or disturbed. Further, the donation of this property should provide a catalyst and strong motivation for other property owners in that area to donate their sensitive land to the Conservancy.
Garfield and Dean Beckstead, and their wives Sanae and Jamie, are best known in this area for their ongoing management of Palm Island Resort, the Palm Island Marina and the historic Useppa Island Club. Both Useppa and Palm Island Resort are acclaimed as extremely successful developments that have shown great sensitivity to their fragile barrier island ecosystems.
The Beckstead family are the creators of Palm Island Resort located on Palm Island and the historic Useppa Island Club located in Lee County.
There was more good news about Wildflower Preserve. The Conservancy owns the 80-acre property free and clear, having paid off the $250,000 mortgage in one year.
The event was, by any definition, a rousing success. The Gasparilla Inn Beach Club was full of laughter and conversation as Conservancy members and guests mingled, ate and listened to the music of a live steel drum.
The party was a chance to say thank you to all of the people who volunteered their time and money to the Conservancy.
Cooper greeted the gathering, “with a thank you to all of the wonderful volunteers who have done all of the work on Wildflower over the last year.”
Cooper extended special recognition and thanks to Jay Harrison, who built the information kiosk at the Preserve. It was the first Eagle Scout project completed on the property.
He then turned the microphone over to Sandy Melvin, who announced that all proceeds from T-shirt sales from the Gasparilla Island Kid’s Classic Tournament in May will be donated to the Conservancy.
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