News / Events
'A magical place' - Volusia County developing public plan for Deep Creek land
Dinah Voyles Pulver, ENVIRONMENT WRITER
May 19, 2013
Gnarled cypress roots and towering trees crowd the banks of Deep Creek where it
flows into the St. Johns River south of Osteen. Wild beauty lures passing boaters to
the winding waterway where otters scamper and bald eagles soar.
The hammocks and prairies along the creek were owned by the Miami Corp. for
nearly 100 years, but now belong to the people of Volusia County.
Ownership of the 1,400 acres along the creek was transferred to the county on
March 28 as part of complex and sometimes controversial agreements that mapped
out the future of nearly 90 square miles of land the company owns in southern
Volusia and northern Brevard counties. But it will be awhile before the public gains
access to the lands.
"It's a terrific acquisition for the county and for the public most of all," said Volusia
Councilwoman Pat Northey, who pushed to get the land deeded to the county
throughout a three-year planning process with the company. "It's a magnificent
property that the citizens of Volusia County will treasure forever."
In exchange for gaining the rights to develop up to 23,000 homes and 4 million
square feet of commercial space, the company set aside about 43,000 acres in
conservation, including the 1,400 acres deeded to the county.
The land, beginning just south of Osteen-Maytown Road and ending along the St.
Johns River, will be known as the Deering Preserve, after members of the family that
started the Miami Corp. in 1917 and started buying land locally in the 1920s.
County officials say they hope to have a plan in place to allow members of the public
limited access to the land during organized field trips within a year to 18 months. A
hunting lease the company had in place with a hunt club and the difficulty of gaining
access to the remote wilderness keep it from happening sooner.
"When the public finally has an opportunity to explore the land, they're going to fall in
love," Northey said. "It's a magical place."
Forest floors are lined with green ferns. Wild turkeys call and the eerie cries of
limpkins can be heard among the cypress trees.
"It's Old Florida at its finest," said Northey.
But some may consider parts of old Florida finer than others. When trails open on the
land eventually, hikers will have to step carefully to watch for alligators that live in
the creek and the plethora of water moccasins and pygmy rattlesnakes found in the
swamps and woods.
The hunting lease is in effect until April 30, 2016, but the company has an option to
extend that lease five years, county officials said. The agreement gradually limits the
type of hunting allowed. For example, all dog hunting ended in March.
Until 2016, county staff will be allowed on the property on Wednesdays, the one day
a week when no hunting is allowed, said Randy Sleister, land management supervisor
for the county. The staff will begin planning how to develop public access, Sleister
After 2016, staff and the public will be allowed on Wednesdays during hunting season
and on other days of the week outside hunting season, Sleister said.
Access to the land will be via a dirt road and parking area to be developed across
Osteen — Maytown Road from the point where Pell Road now ends. Northey said the
county hopes to begin developing primitive walking trails over the next year to 18
Northey and Sleister said the county also will begin exploring ways to cross Deep
Creek to access the land on the west side of the creek.
Any construction must be approved and permitted by the U.S. Army Corps of
Engineers and the St. Johns River Water Management District because the land on
the east side of the creek is part of a mitigation bank. The company's permit for the
bank requires only minimal impacts to the land to protect its conservation value.
Eventually, the county plans a kayak launch and possibly primitive camping.
DEEP CREEK TIMELINE
Ownership of Deering Preserve transferred to county, dog hunting ends
2013 - 2016
County staff allowed on property on Wednesdays
Officials hope to begin organized field trips
Hunting lease expires, but with option to extend 5 years