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Meet Thomas Unrath

Today we’d like to introduce you to Hundred Acre Hollows through the words of Thomas Unrath.

Hi Thomas, so excited to have you on the platform. So before we get into questions about your work-life, maybe you can bring our readers up to speed on your story and how you got to where you are today?
The history of this property goes back to a time about 3000 years ago. The Ais Indians used this area to escape the mosquitos in the coastal sites where they lived. A couple of thousand years later, General Hernandez led his troops through here in January 1837 during the Second Seminole War. More recently, Brevard County used the 114 acres, which is now Hundred Acre Hollows, as rapid infiltration basins for a water treatment plant. By the mid-’90s, the recently developed neighboring communities had outgrown the treatment capacity, and the plant was moved. The 114 acres were left as an emergency backup area for stormwater overflow, etc. and the county kept it mowed for that purpose. When the county commissioners decided to sell the property in 2015, people from the surrounding communities worked together to ask that the sale not happen. The commissioners listened and asked what should be done with the property… Folks took some time to investigate possibilities, and the commissioners agreed that “Conservation and Education” was a good use.

Hundred Acre Hollows, Inc. was incorporated in 2016 as a 501c3 nonprofit organization. We lease the property from the county with our mission stated as “Protect the Wildlife, Restore the Habitat, and Engage the Public”. We have a five years lease renewable ten times. We are just starting our first renewal period.

Hundred Acre Hollows is both the name of the 114 acres and the name of the organization. The property is home to many different species of animals and plants. Over 90 species of birds have been identified there. There were 407 active gopher tortoise burrows identified in early 2020. We have photos of bobcats, deer, skunks, raccoons and many more mammals. Several different reptiles including black racers, pine snakes, king snakes, five-lined skinks, lizards, frogs, toads and more live here. Gopher Tortoises have over 350 commensal species living with them in their burrows.

We try to manage the invasive plants like Brazilian Pepper and cogon grass. We have planted many Florida native pollinator-friendly plants and are looking to expand and enhance our garden areas.

Several community groups have used the area. There has been home school outings. Five Boy Scouts have done Eagle Scout projects. Several Girl Scouts have done Silver and Gold Award projects here. Space Coast Audubon Society received an “Audubon in Action” grant for a native plant-pollinator and bird garden. In 2019, HAH received a Keep Brevard Beautiful grant for another native plant garden. We are open every 1st and 3rd Sunday evening for what we call “Sunset in the Hollows”. The sunsets are absolutely gorgeous viewed from here.

Can you talk to us a bit about the challenges and lessons you’ve learned along the way. Looking back would you say it’s been easy or smooth in retrospect?
The initial challenge was to convince the County Commissioners to not sell the property. Then came the forming of a nonprofit, something none of us had ever done. Since then the normal board changes and growing into our roles has been a continuing challenge.  So is our very location.

Access to the property is difficult as it is through one empty lot between two houses on a long dead-end street with 60 houses. This is why we are only open on Sunday evenings or by appointment. As a small non-profit, we rely on donations and grants. We are cutting down invasive Brazilian Pepper trees and aggressive native grapevines by hand. We hired a contractor to spray the invasive cogon grass.

The property, if it had a house, is 1170 Rock Springs Dr. Melbourne, FL. This works in a GPS.

Hundred Acre Hollows Inc mailing address: 1170 Ida Way, Melbourne, FL 32940

321-757-3637

Appreciate you sharing that. What else should we know about what you do?
I am a retired pastor. I served over 20 years as an Air Force chaplain, and since retirement from the USAF, I served several Lutheran congregations in Brevard County. I am one of the people who asked the County Commissioners to not sell the Hundred Acre Hollows property. With many others, who deserve the majority of the credit, I have worked to bring HAH to where it is now.

As a pastor, I see this work as a way to accomplish several things central to Christian teaching. I believe God asks two things of us all; Love God and Love your neighbor. In the creation account in the Bible, God tells us to take care of the gift of creation we are given. To “Love God” I think I should do what I’m asked. By keeping this creation, and particularly the Hundred Acre Hollows property well cared for I show love for my neighbors. In that love, I’m considering my neighbors throughout the local area, of course, and much further afield as well. By keeping HAH in its most natural state, we are keeping much runoff out of the Indian River Lagoon. That helps the ecology of the whole region. It also gives people a place to relax, play, and work in this beautiful place we call HAH.

If you had to, what characteristic of yours would you give the most credit to?
Helping guide and motivate people work together is the main, really only, reason we are where we are now. Whether it is by planting, weeding, cutting down invasive plants, or donating funds, we could not exist without the support of so many people who have come to value the vision of this beautiful green space in Brevard County.

Contact Info:

  • Email: hundredacrehollows@gmail.com
  • Website: www://hundredacrehollows.org
  • Instagram: hundredacrehollows
  • Facebook: Hundred Acre Hollows Inc
  • Twitter: @HAHBrevard

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