U.S. Fish and Wildlife Press Release - Fourteen acres on the bank of the Lower Suwannee National Wildlife Refuge now are within refuge boundaries, thanks to a generous donation by members of the Cummer Family.
The acquisition of the high-valued Vista Camp parcel provides unique access to the river that may one day allow the refuge to develop a visitor center or other facilities that could be used to directly showcase the Suwannee River to the public. The donation process, initiated by members of the Cummer Family, who are long-time friends of the refuge, took nearly two years to bring to fruition. In 1971, much of the land surrounding Vista was also donated by the Cummer Sons Cypress Company to The Nature Conservancy so that it could later be transferred to the refuge.
“The donation of this special place is a rare and remarkable gift to the people of the United States,” said Cynthia Dohner, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Southeast Regional Director. “It clearly demonstrates the Cummer Family’s legacy of devotion to the Suwannee River and their history of land stewardship. On behalf of the Service and the National Wildlife Refuge System, I want to extend a sincere thank you to the Cummer Family for its generous donation.”
The Vista property is located near the refuge headquarters in Levy County, Florida, and was one of the last private inholdings in the refuge.
“It was the intention of our family to have this final, former piece of Cummer Company property added to the previous gift, so that others also may enjoy this special place,” the donors said.
As part of the donation agreement, the donors will retain the right to use the developed areas of Vista for their lifetime. After that time, the Fish and Wildlife Service will obtain all rights to the property.
The Lower Suwannee National Wildlife Refuge was established in 1979 to protect the last 20 miles of Stephen Foster’s famous Suwannee River and includes more than 20 miles of coastal marsh along Florida’s Gulf Coast. Refuge staff members manage these important lands to restore habitat for native wildlife through forestry practices, restoration of native species, and prescribed burning. Recreational opportunities from birding, hiking, paddling, hunting, fishing, and photography, abound.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is the principal federal agency responsible for conserving, protecting and enhancing fish, wildlife and plants and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people.