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West Volusia and its cities are swept up in the wave of rapid population growth that is occurring throughout Florida.

Articles and letters in The West Volusia Beacon often focus on critiques of what appears to be unbridled and unimaginative residential development and anywhere-USA commercial clusters.

The Beacon also reports on the great things about living in West Volusia, celebrating our arts, festivals, and individual and community accomplishments.

We launch this new column now to blend the best aspects of living in West Volusia with ideas from other vibrant communities, with the goal of stimulating the imaginations of readers for how we want our communities to grow in ways that are distinctive, equitable and supportive of the well-being of all residents.

We need to encourage and support growth and infill that adds to existing residents’ quality of life — rather than just adding quantity of new lives to serve.

Economic development can mean many different things besides just more new residents buying more new houses. It can mean keeping our residents here, spending their money in the community where they live.

It can mean having more reasons for visitors to choose our West Volusia cities and natural areas as their weekend or longer destinations, contributing more tourism dollars.

It can mean investing in infrastructure that ensures our streets and other public spaces can serve all people, including children, the elderly and the disabled.

It can mean supporting the health and well-being of our residents and protecting our water, air and biodiversity.

In the coming weeks, we will explore a variety of issues, ranging from transportation and active mobility infrastructure to ideas for public/private partnerships for more arts and recreation opportunities.

We will discuss the value of supporting our local businesses, strengthening local food security, protecting our precarious water resources from overuse and nutrient loading, and caring for each other across generations and cultural divides.

Maggie Ardito

We will look for ways to leverage opportunities to heal long-segregated populations within our communities.

Wendy Anderson

All of West Volusia’s communities, from Pierson to Osteen, have shown their capacity for innovative improvements that feature their unique cultural, historic and environmental resources. Let’s explore those, learn from each other, and trigger lively conversations where we collectively imagine a future for West Volusia that is a place we all want to keep living.

Greg Heeter

Perhaps these conversations will inspire entrepreneurs and inform local elected officials about what our communities value most.

What does “quality of life” look like to you? Why do you live in a city rather than a rural area? Why do you live in this city vs. that city? What amenities and activities would keep you and other residents of all ages here for leisure time, and what additional amenities would keep you and others here more often plus attract more visitors — if only we had them?

What would entice our students to stay here after graduation and offer their talents to making our communities even more vibrant?

— Marguerite Ardito is St. Johns River-to-Sea Loop Alliance president and River of Lakes National Scenic Byway board member. She sees policies, infrastructure and attitudes that enable safe and equitable active mobility as a key to sustainable life quality for people and communities.

Dr. Wendy B. Anderson is a professor of environmental science and studies at Stetson University, and the chair of the Volusia Soil and Water Conservation District Board of Supervisors. She has been promoting sustainable community development for 20 years.

Greg Heeter worked as a consultant to the Department of Defense and commercial nuclear power facilities after graduate school in industrial-organizational psychology, and later specialized in learning methods for complex systems in global organizations. With his recent retirement, Greg now avoids hard scheduling demands through hobbies like kayaking, woodworking and reading.

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