Providing homes, conserving nature
A simple way to think about the two parts of Wildlight is that DSAP1 is more like the central area of a town, a mix of residential neighborhoods with retail districts and job centers, while DSAP2 is more about providing a wider variety of homes as well as giving people access to more than 7,000 acres of Florida nature — woodlands, wetlands and an area of bluffs along the St. Marys River — that until now have been inaccessible.
DSAP2 is a long-term plan that spans several decades. With a total of 15,000 acres and with some much-needed infrastructure improvements and new civic facilities paid for by impact fees, this larger side of Wildlight will accommodate a multi-generational period of growth In Nassau County and will give residents and visitors a greatly expanded list of choices for outdoor recreation. And the financial structure built into the plan for Wildlight gives Nassau County a sustainable, fiscally responsible path for growth.
Wildlight Conservation Network
Population growth creates a need for more outdoor recreation choices. The DSAP2 area of Wildlight will include a number of regional-scale destinations, giving residents and visitors new kinds of outdoor experiences to go along Nassau County’s renowned beaches.
The largest of these new destinations will be the Wildlight Conservation Network — over 7,000 acres that will be maintained in perpetuity as a pristine expanse of unique Northeast Florida nature.
The Wildlight Conservation Network will become one of the largest, most environmentally significant park systems in Northeast Florida. An uninterrupted natural ecosystem with miles of paths and trails connecting natural features, parks, schools, civic areas, village centers and neighborhoods.
The Conservation Network will include 2,100 acres of natural uplands, preserving an area that’s larger than any upland development project in Nassau County.
Another unique outdoor feature in DSAP2, the Green Ribbon linear park will provide public access to the bluffs along the St. Marys River. The Wildlight Conservation Network will link to the Green Ribbon, creating a wide-ranging hiking/biking connection to the river.
According to Nassau County’s valuation method, this conservation land is worth over $67 million. Nassau County citizens passed a bond referendum to issue $30 million in debt to purchase conservation land in other areas of the county. The Wildlight Conservation Network will conserve over twice as much land at no cost to the taxpayer.
Nature, parks, schools & infrastructure
The Green Ribbon
The bluffs along the St. Marys River are unlike any landform in Florida, in their own way as strikingly beautiful as the beaches of Nassau County. For many years, these bluffs have been closed off to the public. The plan for DSAP2 will create the Green Ribbon, a 13-mile-long linear park — as long as Amelia Island itself — that will stretch along the bluffs. With 8 miles of river frontage, the park will be anchored by a variety of experiences including a publicly accessible trail that ties the park together.
Nassau County currently features approximately 365 acres of regional and community parks. DSAP2 dedicates an additional 533 acres to the County’s regional/community park system over the life of the project. It also provides land for the only public boat ramp on this entire stretch of the St. Marys.
New public schools
Nassau County School District rates as the #2 district in the state. Even so, it has wrestled with overcrowding as the County has grown in population. Opened in 2017, Wildlight Elementary is the County’s first new school built in the last 20 years. Originally designed for 600 K-5 students, the school was expanded in 2021 to make room for another 200. Current enrollment stands at more than 1,000 students, fewer than 100 of which come from the Wildlight community.
In DSAP2 we’ve set aside land for five additional school sites: three elementary, one middle school and one high school.
New civic infrastructure
The plan for Wildlight’s DSAP2 includes much-needed improvements to Nassau County infrastructure. An enhanced mobility network of roads and multi-use trails will feature a new major thoroughfare, Wildlight Parkway, which will create an additional east-west route for Nassau County, improve access to I-95, alleviate traffic on State Road 200 and provide an important new hurricane evacuation route.
DSAP2 also sets aside land for three new fire stations and police substations. A new regional wastewater facility will provide service both to Wildlight and to many Nassau County residents who currently have no access to the municipal wastewater system. And fiber optic infrastructure will give every home and business in Wildlight access to next-generation gigabit internet.
When it’s finished two or three decades from now, Wildlight will have made room for over 20,000 new homes in Nassau County. Perhaps just as importantly, it will have set a new standard for home and neighborhood design.
The DSAP2 area of Wildlight will expand the availability, variety and attainability of new homes, meeting the needs of a broad range of homebuyers.
True to Florida
Like the homes currently offered in Wildlight, the new homes of DSAP2 will be designed to honor the Florida lowcountry heritage and help conserve resources such as energy, water and building materials.
In DSAP2, the Wildlight trail network will expand to over 50 miles, connecting homes to parks, recreational facilities, village centers and other conveniences.
DSAP2 is in the final stages of detailed planning and governmental approval. The plan for DSAP2 does not add land or make any changes to the general ENCPA plan that was approved in 2011. But through a series of planning and approval steps, DSAP2 simply creates a detailed pathway to achieving the objectives established in the ENCPA. With the completion of these steps, development of DSAP2 is expected to begin in 2024.
In this step, the overall plan for DSAP2 is taken to the next level of detail. Using a careful assessment of land conditions and current market needs, adjustments are made to elements of the plan such as the placement of roadways and the boundaries for wetlands and residential neighborhoods.
Regional-scale development is an incredibly complex undertaking. It involves the coordination of numerous elements, which must be completed in the logical order. In this step, an agreement between the land owner and Nassau County lays out how and at what point during the development process the various dedications and improvements will occur.
Although the total land area of DSAP2 includes 15,000 acres, development will take place in limited stages over several decades. Each stage has its own Preliminary Development Plan, which must be approved by Nassau County and includes detailed specifications such as building heights and road setbacks.
In this final step of planning and approval, engineering plans for elements such as road improvements and storm water management are submitted to the proper governmental agencies — the Army Corps of Engineers, Department of Transportation and so forth.
Community Info Sessions
In the coming months, Rayonier will be hosting a series of public open house meetings where you can learn more about the plan for Wildlight.
The next session is Monday April 3, 2023, at 6:00 P.M.
Florida State College Jacksonville, Nassau Room T126
76346 William Burgess Blvd., Yulee, FL 32097
Have a question or comment about Wildlight? Please share it in the space below. And be sure to include your email address so we can respond.