When St. Johns County developer Jay McGarvey offers new luxury homesites at Ponte Vedra’s Marsh Dunes II over the next year, there’s a part that won’t be included, and it’s with good reason.
A parcel to the north will instead be joining other acreage McGarvey has donated in years past to the North Florida Land Trust. The parcel is part of the Guana River State Park wetlands.
The developer is not required to set this latest property donation aside as part of a wetland’s mitigation plan. McGarvey said, however, he is continuing a long-standing tradition of preserving what makes Florida a special place to the people who purchase homes here — its natural resources.
“It’s what makes Jay a very extraordinary person. He gets it,” said Jim McCarthy, executive director of the North Florida Land Trust. “He could build on that land, but instead, he’s decided it’s for everybody’s benefit.”
McGarvey kicked off the Land Trust’s preservation of the Guana River Preserve in 2004 with a donation of 39 acres. After that, he persuaded fellow developers to come forward with contributions of their own.
McGarvey’s 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 Land Trust in the years that followed.
“Jay was really the impetus for that whole Guana River preserve,” McCarthy said. “What he has done goes above and beyond.”
The Guana River Preserve is considered a critical part of the community’s ecosystem. Marsh grasses take pollutants out of the water. Each acre of marshlands can hold up to 1.5 million gallons of flood water, which McCarthy said is enormously helpful to people living downriver. He pegs the economic benefit at $1.6 million.
McGarvey’s philanthropy extends beyond land conservation, too.
As chairman of the Board for the Beaches Habitat for Humanity, he 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.
McGarvey also donated land for a nearby library and provided landscaping for all St. Augustine Beach medians along Highway A1A.
Since 1980, the focus of McGarvey Residential Communities has been to “build communities that last for generations.” His St. Augustine Beach communities include Sea Colony, Sea Grove, Anastasia Dunes and Sea View.