Jack Nicklaus seeks land swap for development in Jupiter Bear’s Club


Golf legend Jack Nicklaus’ exclusive Bear’s Club wants to develop about 15 acres of property it owns that is restricted by a hands-off conservation easement protecting the habitat.

So, the club is offering a trade.

It is asking the Palm Beach County Commission to unlock the land. In exchange, Bear’s Club will give a one-time payment of $1 million to the Natural Areas Fund, which pays for maintaining the county’s natural areas, and about 20 acres of other property at Bear’s Club — totaling 44 parcels, each averaging less than half an acre — to be protected.

Commissioners are expected to vote on the deal Tuesday. Located in Jupiter, the community includes about 115 homes, a golf course and clubhouse. Membership is by invitation only, according to the club’s website.

County staff opposes the trade, saying the new land being offered would be fragmented and the overall ecological value of the complete habitat would be degraded. The staff’s report also expresses concern about the message that would be sent by exchanging a conservation easement for money.

But the commissioners have had another view presented to them — by former County Commissioner Karen Marcus, who represented northern Palm Beach County when she was in office. Bear’s Club employed Marcus as a lobbyist from May 2017 to this past April, according to the county’s lobbyist registry.

MORE: Fueled by public concern, county to research ACs for dog kennels

She’s won over at least one county commissioner: Her replacement in District 1, Hal Valeche.

“I’m supporting it,” Valeche told The Palm Beach Post. “This was brought to my attention by former Commissioner Marcus, and I would not be supporting this unless she was because she is really very involved with the environment and has a lot of credibility in that area, so I really was looking to her guidance on this.”

The public doesn’t have access to the preserve, a factor Valeche considered.

“So it’s not like if you exchange one piece of preserve land for another one that you’re taking anything away from the public,” he said.

Marcus, who was a county commissioner from 1984 to 2012, is the president of Sustainable Palm Beach County.

She did not return a request for comment for this story.

Commissioners have received emails from the Sierra Club’s Loxahatchee Group and Audubon Everglades organization opposing the swap.

The conservation easement was placed on the property in 1993 in a settlement unrelated to Nicklaus or Bear’s Club. That agreement 25 years ago between the county and the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation — which owned the land at the time — said the property would be retained and maintained “forever.”

Staff said that’s another reason to deny the swap: the “forever” part.

The protected land has 165 species of plants and 22 species of animals that have been documented on the site, according to an assessment the county’s Environmental Resources Management department did in July. The list includes gopher tortoises, considered by the state a threatened species, and giant and common wild pine, both considered endangered.

“Overall, the site has a diversity of habitats and is in good condition with very few exotic plant species present,” the ERM assessment says. “The scrub and scrubby flatwoods are providing valuable habitat for endemic and rare plant and animal species.”

Drew Martin, conservation chairman of the Sierra Club, said protecting the county’s remaining habitat overrides the $1 million “onetime gift.” He also said if the commission does approve the switch, officials would send a message that they doesn’t take seriously the loss of environment through illegal actions.

The 15 acres is at the southwest corner of Frederick Small and Palmwood roads just north of Donald Ross Road. It’s in the 400-acre Bear’s Club single-family home community. Jack and Barbara Nicklaus founded the club in 1999.



Reader Comments ...


Next Up in Local

Opera ‘food truck’ and other arts events receive PNC Bank grants
Opera ‘food truck’ and other arts events receive PNC Bank grants

Imagine ordering a taste of opera just as you do a snack from a food truck. In the fall of 2019, Palm Beach Opera plans to unveil Opera a la Cart, pop-up opera shows performed in a truck doubling as a stage at festivals, parks and other venues. The plan calls for a menu of opera excerpts from which audience members can make selections. The truck also...
Alaska man gets a 'pass' after pleading guilty to assaulting woman
Alaska man gets a 'pass' after pleading guilty to assaulting woman

An Alaska man escaped jail time Wednesday after pleading guilty to assaulting a woman who said he sexually assaulted and strangled her until she lost consciousness, KTVA reported. >> Read more trending news  Justin Schneider, 34, of Anchorage, was convicted on four felony charges -- including kidnapping and assault -- and a misdemeanor...
3D-printed gun creator wanted on child sex charge arrested at Taiwan hotel
3D-printed gun creator wanted on child sex charge arrested at Taiwan hotel

The creator of the 3D-printed gun was arrested Friday in Taiwan after being accused of sexual assault in Texas, CNN reported Saturday. >> Read more trending news  A warrant to arrest Cody Wilson, 30, was issued earlier this week after allegations that he had sex with a 16-year-old girl he met on an adult dating site, according to police...
More details released about 2-headed baby snake
More details released about 2-headed baby snake

A state herpetologist released new details about a two-headed baby Eastern copperhead snake found outside a home in Woodbridge, Virginia, WTVR reported. The snake was examined at the Wildlife Center of Virginia. >> Read more trending news  The center received the snake on Sept. 20, according to the center’s website. ...
Ole Miss considers changing name of journalism school after namesake's social media post
Ole Miss considers changing name of journalism school after namesake's social media post

The University of Mississippi is considering changing the name of its School of Journalism after receiving major backlash stemming from a controversial post made on Facebook by the school’s namesake.  >> Read more trending news  Ed Meek is a well-known and respected alumnus of Ole Miss, as well as a significant booster for...
More Stories