De Funiak Spring, De Funiak Springs, Florida, 32433
Taking its name from the disappearing act that Natural Bridge Creek plays as it dives under a limestone arch formation, Natural Bridge Plantation is a throwback to an earlier era when wildfires swept through large swaths of longleaf pine and wiregrass, creating a park-like appearance. For the past 50 years, the Hester family has mimicked Mother Nature by carrying out a prescribed burn program as part of a thoughtful timber and wildlife management program that distinguishes itself from prototypical industrial timberlands. Their efforts have been rewarded with a beautiful and biologically diverse landscape that has all but vanished outside of high-end plantations and government owned forests. All this points to a rare opportunity for an astute investor to acquire this truly unique property and take pleasure in the innumerable benefits it will provide - at a price that has been significantly reduced.
Diversity Creates Opportunities
Straddling the Florida - Alabama state line only 50 miles from the Gulf Coast's white sand beaches, Natural Bridge Plantation encompasses 2,528+/- acres, 1,980 acres of which are in Walton County, Florida with the remaining 548 acres in Covington County, Alabama. The property can be purchased in its entirety or in parcels ranging from 93 to 1,387 acres, each with excellent access due to the property's six miles of paved road frontage and 20+ miles of internal roads. Because of the multi-faceted nature of Natural Bridge Plantation, there are several uses that present themselves to an investor including recreational, conservation, and timber.
From a recreational and aesthetic standpoint, Natural Bridge Plantation delivers. The gently rolling topography contains beautiful stands of natural timber that are traversed by three miles of crystal clear Natural Bridge Creek. Part and parcel to Natural Bridge Plantation's land features is an abundance of wildlife including deer, turkey, duck, and quail. With different start and end dates for hunting in Alabama and Florida, the season is effectively extended for the sportsman.
Given the quality and breadth of Natural Bridge Plantation's natural features, it is coveted by naturalists and environmental organizations. Were it not for the recession and the resulting scarcity of funds, it is likely that a governmental or private conservation group would have already acquired it. With an improved economic outlook, it is anticipated those entities will once again show interest. Some of the possibilities for Natural Bridge Plantation include placing a conservation easement on the property, establishing an ecosystem mitigation bank, or laying the groundwork for a future sale to a conservation organization or the State of Florida/Alabama. Natural Bridge Plantation is listed on Florida Forever's priority list and has been nominated to receive a first appraisal for the State of Alabama's Forever Wild program. At the local level, Walton County made inroads in 2009 to purchase 19 acres (plus a 6-acre easement) surrounding the second magnitude spring for preservation and public areas. Appraised at $690,000, the project’s boundaries grew in scope and ultimately succumbed to a lack of funding despite the County’s willingness to contribute a significant amount of preservation funds.
Because Natural Bridge Plantation possesses so many unique attributes, categorizing it as a timberland tract would sell it short. Still, it has very valuable timber, including many pines classified in the pole and plywood veneer category that brings premium pricing. Virtually all the pine is merchantable with natural longleaf and slash accounting for most of the volume. A considerable amount of soils are rated 'Prime Farmland' or 'Farmland of Local Importance' by the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Services (NRCS) and include Dothan, Florala, Fuquay, Malbis, and Troup. Combined with a high percentage of usable land, Natural Bridge Plantation has outstanding timberland qualities.
Due to increased fragmentation, large blocks of quality land are increasingly difficult to find and will only become more scarce. Make plans to visit Natural Bridge Plantation to see first-hand the exceptional qualities and potential that this special property has to offer.