What can you possibly do with 114-acres of abandoned waste-water retention ponds surrounded by some of the most attractive residential real estate in Brevard County? Turn it into an environmental education center and green space for everyone to enjoy! Sounds crazy? It is, but it’s exactly what we are doing!
Hundred Acre Hollows, Inc. is a non-profit 501(c)(3) grassroots organization that is working to enhance the lives of others by creating public accessible green space and creating an educational experience where people can learn about the sustainability of our unique Florida environment.
Hundred Acre Hollows Board is made up of residents of Suntree and Viera. We are dedicated to ensure that Hundred Acre Hollows remains home to the threatened Gopher Tortoises and other animals that live there while also being a green space that the people of Brevard County can enjoy.
We are volunteers who have the vision to discover, study, and teach about Florida’s plants and animals to help sustain and enrich lives.
We pledge to protect the animals that live there, restore habitat for the animals, and instruct the public so that the people can discover the beauty in this hidden treasure, enjoy the green space while walking in nature, and learn to preserve the environment.
Hundred Acre Hollows is just starting out, but we already have big plans to:
Educate the public about the threatened gopher tortoise and the commensal species that live in their burrows.
Teach about the native and non-native plants that are on Hundred Acre Hollows.
Help people to learn sustainability by becoming aware of how they are using resources like water and electricity and how they could help the environment.
History of Hundred Acre Hollows
Six Rapid Infiltration Basins for a water treatment plant in Suntree were built from 1985 to 1990 just north of Spyglass Hill Rd which was a dirt road then. The plant wasn’t used for long. It was moved to Port St. John and the basins were left. The series of pipes remained and were used for reclaimed water. The county mowed the property quarterly and checked the water levels in the pipes. The pipes for reclaimed water for Rock Springs Rd in Magnolia Springs are on the east side of the 114 acres.
Over the course of the ensuing years, many threatened Gopher Tortoises made the berms around the basins their home. Nobody knows how so many tortoises found their way there. FWC has no record of it being a legal recipient site for tortoises. Anecdotally, some workmen indicated they put the tortoises over the fence when they were building the houses around the property.
In January 2015, the Brevard County Board of Commissioners decided to begin disposing of county surplus properties. The 114 acre parcel was the largest and the first to be advertised for bids. The county information about the land indicated there might be 400 gopher tortoises there, and they would need to be relocated in order to build on the land.
The homeowners in the surrounding communities knew nothing about the potential sale until March 2015. The only entrance to the subdivision is an empty lot between two houses on Rock Springs Rd. When the homeowners found out the property was out for bids, they began to research why selling the land for 200 houses would have a negative effect on their neighborhood. The narrow roads in the Springs of Suntree weren’t built to be a highway to other homes. Some people researched how relocating tortoises is so costly and harmful to them.
The bids were due in April 2015, and two developers bid on the property. The date was set for deciding on the bids: July 7, 2015. That day, many people descended on the county chambers to voice their opposition to the sale. While several of the Commissioners were ready to accept one of the bids, the public convinced them not to. The Commissioners listened to the people and voted 5 to 0 against accepting the bid. The next Saturday, the Springs of Suntree neighbors had a celebratory picnic on the grassy lot on “Blue Springs Rd” which would have been the road to the new subdivision. Commissioners Smith and Infantini came to the picnic.
Commissioner Smith, District 4, has been very supportive of our efforts to find a better solution for use of the property. It was decided that a task force be formed to determine how to best use the property. That was the beginning of GREAT! (Green Space Environmental Activists Task Force). A group of people from the neighborhoods surrounding the 114 acres as well as interested environmentalists from Cocoa, Baytree, and Viera met monthly to try to determine the “highest and best use” for the property.
At the same time, four Brevard County teachers, the “Space Coast Eco Geeks,” were looking for property to put camera traps on gopher tortoise burrows. The teachers are from Bayside, West Shore, Edgewood, and Cocoa High Schools. This property was a great location for all of them. Com. Smith gave the teachers permission to put their cameras on the property. They had five camera traps that they moved around the land during the 2015 to 2016 school year. They collected thousands of photos which showed the many tortoises and other animals that live there. The Eco Geeks did a presentation where they named the land “Hundred Acre Hollows,” and the name stuck.
In Oct, 2016, GREAT! members presented before the County Commissioners. The task force’s findings were to use the land for a conservation area for the animals and for STEM education for the public. The county needed to have us form a nonprofit to enter into a lease agreement, so Hundred Acre Hollows, Inc. incorporated in the state of Florida on Oct 25, 2016. The lease was approved by the County Board and signed on Nov 15, 2016, the last meeting of those five Commissioners. They were Curt Smith, Jim Barfield, Andy Anderson, Trudi Infantini, and Robin Fisher, the latter three going off the Board after eight years of service to the county.
Since Nov. there have been several work days to blaze a trail and put a gate for an entrance from the grassy lot on Rock Springs Rd. There were about 40 volunteers who, cut down trees to make the pathway, filled holes in the berms to make them safe for walkers, and cut back vines from the top of the berms. There is still a lot of maintenance needed before it is open to the public. There are many invasive plants that need to be eradicated or managed. We will try to get rid of the Cogon Grass this summer. The Brazilian pepper trees are everywhere around the perimeter and some are also growing in the basins. We need to manage the pepper trees to make sure they are not growing over the gopher tortoise burrows.
On March 28, the City of Melbourne recognized Gopher Tortoise Day at their meeting. In 2015, in order to bring awareness about the importance of the Gopher Tortoise as a keystone species, April 10 was declared Gopher Tortoise Day in Florida. This year, the Brevard County Commissioners declared April 10 Gopher Tortoise Day in Brevard County.
Members from Hundred Acre Hollows and the Florida Wildlife Hospital attended the County meeting on March 21 to receive the proclamation. Brevard County Commission Chairperson, Curt Smith, read the Gopher Tortoise Day proclamation. A special visitor at the meeting was Lt. Dan, an injured tortoise who is missing a front foot. He is a permanent resident at the wildlife hospital and is the Gopher Tortoise Ambassador.