Visitors to this area -- there are many -- will think well of our county and its leaders for having created a gateway to East County, with its wide vista opening onto this special place. How many other counties can lay claim to a water management facility that birthed a bird habitat, a superb recreation area, and its very own mountain?
Valuable lessons -- too many to list -- can be learned from this four-year exercise in civic planning. Perhaps the most humbling insight -- for me at least -- is that while the goal is to plan well, one also should plan to be surprised.
Those who remembered the area's original sawgrass marshes knew that the regional water facility would attract birds, but could anyone have predicted that 246 species of birds (at last count) would nest, feed, or visit here?
|Training to become a firefighter|
|Citizen Suggestion for NW parcel:|
Bus Loop pavilion for schoolchildren
Your confidence in both the Conservation Foundation and Sarasota Audubon is well founded. The planning department's Critical Area Plan offers practical means to balance interests and uses, fostering compatibility under a unifying gateway vision.
I invite you to apply three important lessons going forward:
- Consider this area as a complex organic whole -- the Celery Fields has endowed the Palmer-Fruitville area east of I-75 with widespread recognition as a brilliant combination of public utility and natural beauty -- a "happy place."
- Welcome unanticipated perspectives -- if agreement comes too readily, it might result from a lack of diverse and creative ideas.
- There's no rush - allow time for Nature and the community to teach us what needs and purposes these public spaces will best serve.
Challenged by your community to produce a plan worthy of this place, you stepped up. The result is a natural treasure that developers and tourist venues feature in their marketing.
What happens from this point on can sustain the same high level if you remain transparently in touch with the community. We'll be paying attention, and we hope to be pleasantly surprised. - Tom Matrullo