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Editor, The Beacon:

More than 64,000 Volusia County residents have stated via an online circulated petition that we want the county to purchase Parker Mynchenberg’s offered 36 acres for preservation on the Ormond Scenic Loop and Trail. 

Volusia County residents have made it clear via the recent vote for continuation of Volusia Forever and ECHO that land conservation is important and necessary for the present and future of our county.

Due to various circumstances, much talk lately is of the unlikelihood that Volusia Forever or ECHO will be used for this once-in-a-lifetime land purchase. However, if neither can be used, there are other viable grant options.

One, The Trust for Public Land, creates parks and protects land by offering grants to be reimbursed in the future. They have helped preserve 169,600 acres in Florida, so far. Their contact in Tallahassee is aware of the offer to the county and is currently waiting to hear from the county.

The Florida Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) offers land and recreation grants. Florida Communities Trust offers grants through the Florida Forever Program. 

The Parks and Open Space Program provides state funds to local governments for land acquisitions. Florida Recreation Development Assistance Program and Recreational Trails Program (RTP) are two others.

The RTP opened for grant applications Feb. 1-March 1, so the time is now. This is a federally funded program that helps cities, counties, state or federal governments create recreational trails. Volusia County residents are active outdoors and would enjoy a trail on this property, eventually connecting to other trails on the Ormond Loop in the future.

The Land and Water Conservation Fund provides matching grants to states and local governments for public outdoor recreation areas. For more than 40 years, it has provided 40,400 grants to state and local governments. 

Our National Scenic Byway corridor of the Ormond Loop qualifies as a recreation area, especially if bike or hiking trails are added. 

Unfortunately, the county has missed the deadline to apply this year (ended Feb. 3). However, this grant should be utilized in the future for land acquisition for conservation.

Finally, the Ormond Loop would likely qualify for the World Heritage Fund as a UNESCO World Heritage designation. Based on the criteria of “to contain superlative natural phenomena or areas of exceptional natural beauty and aesthetic importance; and to contain the most important and significant natural habitats for in-situ conservation of biological diversity, including those containing threatened species of outstanding universal value from the point of view of science or conservation,” among others (https://whc.unesco.org/en/criteria).

Preserving our local natural treasures, such as the Ormond Loop, is of utmost importance in these times, when bulldozing and paving over seem to be the norm. People flock to Volusia County as tourists and residents solely for its unique natural charm. When the charm and uniqueness are gone (think Anytown, USA), people will surely flock away as well. We cannot let these rare opportunities pass us by.

Rebecca Chaffee

New Smyrna Beach

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