“Preserving historical, cultural and environmental resources.”
Geographic Area Served
Blackwater River Watershed: Okaloosa and Santa Rosa Counties in Florida, and Conecuh County in Alabama.
Current Programs and Projects
Blackwater River Watershed Stewardship Program, Blackwater River Watershed Urban Forestry Program, Blackwater River Watershed Master Planning Project, Blackwater River Watershed Education Program, and Clear Creek Land Management Project.
Brief Summary of Organization’s History
The Blackwater River Foundation, Inc. (Foundation) was established in 2002 to fulfill the unmet needs of preserving environmental and cultural resources within the Blackwater River watershed. That same year, the Zarrow Families Foundation donated the historic T.W. Jones House (built circa 1880) and 29 acres of surrounding waterfront property to the Foundation. Immediately thereafter, the Foundation entered 19 acres of the property into conservation through a donation and transfer to the Northwest Florida Water Management District.
The T.W. Jones House was in extreme disrepair after a decade of abandonment. Funds were secured through grants and donations within the next year to replace the roof on the house. The house remained untouched for the next five years until funding became available for a complete and historically accurate restoration.
In 2005, the Jelks Family Foundation donated 80 acres of property to the Foundation along Juniper Creek in the Blackwater River State Forest. The Foundation later sold the property to the Blackwater River State Forest for inclusion in the Juniper Creek Primitive Area. The proceeds from the sale allowed the Foundation to match historic preservation grants to help realize its original goal of restoring the T.W. Jones for use as an education and office center for nonprofit activities. Concurrently, in 2004, the Foundation fostered the development of a management plan for the Bagdad Mill Site Park when it was leased by Santa Rosa County from the State of Florida.
In 2005, the Foundation in partnership with Santa Rosa County received a Waterfronts Florida Partnership state designation for the community of Bagdad. The Florida Department of Community Affairs and the Foundation provided seed money over a two-year period to establish a long-term participatory vision plan process for the community. Bagdad’s vision process, facilitated by the Foundation, has been recognized by the Florida Department of Community Affairs as one of the most successful participatory community programs out of its 24 designated communities.
In 2006, the Foundation established an Urban Forestry Program through a U.S. Forest Service grant. The program sponsors tree education and urban forestry workshops. The program has been funded again for 2009-2010 to develop a series of educational podcasts related with urban forestry along the Blackwater River. In 2007, the Foundation sponsored the development of the Ollinger & Bruce Shipyard Neighborhood Park on the Blackwater River.
The Foundation sponsored the incorporation of the Bagdad Waterfronts Florida Partnership as a nonprofit organization upon “graduation” from the statewide Waterfronts Florida Program in 2007. The Foundation still provides technical and limited financial assistance to the program as it meets the needs of long-term planning for the village. The visioning efforts of Bagdad are now used as examples throughout Florida.
From 2008 to 2009, the Foundation partnered with The Nature Conservancy, Santa Rosa County, NAS Whiting Field, the University of Florida/IFAS, and the State of Florida to develop a management plan for property along Clear Creek near NAS Whiting Field that had been acquired through Florida Forever conservation funds. The Foundation is the interim land manager of the property.
The Foundation also provided financial and technical support for other community projects related with historic preservation and environmental stewardship. For example, the Foundation saved an 1871 historic home (the Mason-Allen House) from demolition by Santa Rosa County by advocating its preservation and relocation. It has since been relocated by a private citizen.
In 2008, the Foundation established the Blackwater Watershed Stewardship Program, and has secured program funding through a federal grant running from 2009-2010. Through the stewardship activities, the Foundation is currently developing a Blackwater River Watershed Stewardship Master Plan, a need that has not been addressed by any other entity.
The Foundation has developed a long-term strategic plan that keeps it focused and motivated to foster new programming and accomplish many more successful projects. Key elements of the strategic plan include development of cultural and environmental educational facilities and programs, recruitment of community membership, further development of a land trust, and expansion of the Foundation advisory board. There is no other organization focused solely on environmental and cultural education, outreach, and stewardship related to the Blackwater River.
The Blackwater River Foundation, Inc., is a non-profit corporation under the laws of the State of Florida, and a 501(c)3 agency as determined by the Internal Revenue Service. A copy of the official registration and financial information may be obtained from the State Division of Consumer Services by calling 1-800-435-7352. Registration does not imply endorsement, approval, or recommendation by the State (Florida Statutes, Ch. 157).