In 1996 IFAS began consolidating their research centers at Apopka, leaving the PEAR site available for lease or sale.
Interested citizens representing nearby homeowners, environmental and conservation groups, and governmental department representatives met to consider the possibility of obtaining this environmentally sensitive land as a community resource for the citizens of Lake County.
In affiliation with the Lake Soil and Water Conservation District, the Palatlakaha Environmental and Agricultural Reserve was incorporated as a not-for-profit organization. A conceptual master plan for the use of the property was developed in 1998. This included:
A multi-use trail and linear park along the 1.5 miles of the river on the west and north sides of the property; Restoration of wetland areas using native plants; Recreational open green space for outdoor use and special events; Creation of habitat for endangered bird species; A working farm to be operated in association with the education program; Restoration of woodlands.
In 2001, IFAS released the PEAR site. The Lake Board of County Commissioners signed a 50-year lease agreement with the Florida Dept. of Environmental Protection, Bureau of Public Lands. The Lake BCC retains full authority and control of the site.
The conceptual plan of 1998 showed a 50 acre parcel with a nearly 2500 foot frontage on SR 27. The owner of this land wanted to sell and had approached the City of Leesburg for authorization of 25 acres of commercial development and 25 acres of high density homes and townhouses. The Pear Association feared we would lose out on obtaining this land. With much hard work by Lake County personnel a PEAR Park Gateway conceptual plan was devised and application to the Florida Communities Trust for funding to purchase this land. This was an exciting adventure for our Pear Association volunteers. In October 2003 a delegation of ten travelled to Tallahassee to make an oral presentation for funds. Lake County was approved for the purchase of this pristine 50 acre parcel – a victory and accomplishment for all residents.

Lake County is now finalizing the site plan for PEAR Park. A nearly complete version is shown on this website. Bobby Bonilla, Director of the Parks and Trails Division of Lake County, is actively engaged in having this plan completed.