SARASOTA, Fla. - Nestled in the middle of Sarasota, Bobby Jones Golf Course covers 261 acres. It's the only remaining green space of its kind left in the area. City commissioners just voted to protect the land, keeping it protected and out of reach from developers, forever. It's a big moment for the city and for the community.
Sarasota residents wore green shorts to the city commission meeting, representative of the green space they aimed to protect.
"The people are raising their voice one more time. This, I think, is what the people want," said one resident.
"Please, please preserve this for the rest of posterity," said another resident.
Bobby Jones Golf Course closed two years ago as COVID-19 appeared. Residents feared the 45-hole course would fall into the hands of developers, but on Monday commission agreed to never let that happen.
They voted to rebuild and reopen a smaller course of 27 holes and dedicate the remaining land for a public park. The plan also protects a vital watershed.
Water throughout the region flows through the northern part of the land.
"As a coastal community, it’s my firm belief, it’s the highest of responsibilities that we make sure every drop of water that enters those bays and estuaries are as clean as they possibly can be. That’s hopefully what this project will work towards," said Commissioner Hagen Brody.
Commission’s unanimous vote protects the land forever, through the Conservation Foundation of the Gulf Coast.
Steps will be taken to improve water quality and clean storm water.
"We look forward to building something that will last forever, a destination that people will be proud of and find peace," said Christine Johnson, the president of the Conservation Foundation of the Gulf Coast.
Nancy Milholland, the founder of Conserve Bobby Jones Now, called this an important step.
"I know folks will look back on this day and be grateful. Just like they were when Central Park came into being in New York," Milholland said, adding that the plan will preserve the land for future generations to come. "They will be so awesomely grateful that this set of commissioners had forethought to make this happen. There will be even less at that point and our children and grandchildren will have a place for respite."
Commissioners also voted to give Sarasota County about 12 acres of land to build a regional playground. The county must start construction within 10 years, or the property will be returned to the city.