St. Johns developer donates nearly 3 acres to North Florida Land Trust



St. Johns County developer Jay McGarvey is donating nearly three acres of land at Ponte Vedra Beach deemed key natural habitat, according to the North Florida Land Trust, a nonprofit conservation organization.

The parcel is part of the Guana River State Park wetlands, which provides critical flood protection for the area and habitat for native species. It joins other acreage McGarvey has previously donated to the trust.

The site being donated is north of McGarvey’s luxury home development, Marsh Dunes II. He is giving the land voluntarily. He is not required to set aside the property as part of any wetland’s mitigation plan. He is continuing a longtime tradition of preserving what makes Florida a special place to people who buy homes here — its natural resources.

“It’s what makes Jay a very extraordinary person. He gets it,” said Jim McCarthy, executive director of the Land Trust. “He could build on that land, but instead, he’s decided it’s for everybody’s benefit.”

The Guana River Preserve is a critical part of the community’s ecosystem. Marsh grasses take pollutants out of the water. And, each acre of marshlands can hold up to 1.5 million gallons of flood water. That’s enormously helpful to people living downriver, McCarthy said.

He estimated the economic benefit at $1.6 million.

McCarthy said conservation in Northeast Florida is in a race against time. Development is happening quickly — faster than money is pouring into the Land Trust’s coffers. In that race, McGarvey has been a leader among developers, he said.

McGarvey kicked off the Land Trust’s preservation of the Guana River Preserve in 2004 by donating 39 acres. He then persuaded fellow developers to come forward with contributions of their own.

His was the first donation ever made to the Land Trust in St. Johns County and the second to the organization overall. It would be the first of many contributions from McGarvey to the organization in the following years.

“Jay was really the impetus for that whole Guana River preserve,” McCarthy said. “What he has done goes above and beyond.”

McGarvey’s philanthropy has extended to other quality of life facets in Northeast Florida.

As board chairman for Beaches Habitat for Humanity, McGarvey oversaw the conceptualization and development of Ocean Walk — a 70-unit community for low-income residents on Mayport Road in Atlantic Beach.

McGarvey also donated funds for historic preservation of a community building in St Augustine Beach and for the construction of St Augustine Beach’s Splash Park. In addition, he donated land for a nearby library and provided landscaping for all St. Augustine Beach medians along Highway A1A.

Teresa Stepzinski: (904) 359-4075