By Samantha Joseph
MARTIN COUNTY - A $25,000 gift from an anonymous donor has furthered the work of a group dedicated to preserving the Mount Olympia Preserve.
The unnamed benefactor donated the money to the Treasured Lands Foundation on the condition the group uses the money to help protect one of the last major pieces of undeveloped sand pine scrub in the county.
The money will go toward the $2 million capital fund the group launched to buy the site.
The foundation wants to purchase the property from landowner, Ted Hamm, who wants it put in preservation and has therefore since shaved $300,000 off the price as part of a deal that gives the group an interest-free option.
Conservationists say the site holds historical, environmental and archaeological value. It is among the highest elevations in Southeast Florida, the discovery site of Native American artifacts and a habitat for the Florida scrub and possibly Florida scrub jay.
Mount Olympia is also the last of a massive range that once ran from Indian River to Palm Beach counties, experts said. But the characteristics that likely made it attractive to ancient settlers have also accounted for its appeal to modern developers and its consequent threatened disappearance, conservationists said.
"Being high and dry it was the first land that was developed in Florida because you didn't have to worry about flooding," said Charles "Chuck" Barrowclough, executive director of Treasured Lands.
"No one's quite sure how big it was, but we think what's left is about 10 percent of what the habitat used to be."
Mount Olympia Preserve is a 46-acre parcel in Hobe Sound, next to Jonathan Dickinson State Park, Hobe Sound Wildlife Refuge and Atlantic Ridge. It overlooks the Zeus Park residential community.
"Up until this point we've worked with the Zeus Park neighborhood and wider Hobe Sound community to garner support for preserving the property and ensuring it's deeded to an entity that will keep it in permanent preservation," Mr. Barrowclough said.
"This donation really quickens our momentum, and we plan to tell more people around the county and across the broader conservation community about this one-of-a-kind piece of property. We know they'll appreciate its beauty."