Watermelon Pond - History
Watermelon Pond was acquired by the state in 2007 through the gopher tortoise mitigation program. Prior to purchase, the property in the WEA's original 1,287 acres was known as Barry's Ranch. Ranch operations included logging and commercial timber production, row crops and other agricultural plantings, turpentine harvesting, and cattle grazing. A 2,944-acre tract of Goethe State Forest was added to the WEA in 2010. This tract was originally acquired by the state in 1997-98 from Loncala, Inc., a Florida corporation that used the land for phosphate mining and timber production. The land was acquired to protect Watermelon Pond and its associated uplands. The 456-acre Gladman Tract was an addition to the WEA in 2015.
The now-defunct Mitigation Park Program was established in 1998 as an off-site alternative to on-site protection for rare species impacted by development. When developers eliminated habitat for an endangered or threatened species, they paid fees that were used to buy and manage high quality habitat elsewhere.