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IMAGINE THIS — Piedmont Park in Atlanta is a green oasis amid urban intensity. Could the former Southridge Golf Course offer similar public-friendly vistas for DeLand?

PHOTO BY CHARITY DAVENPORT/FLICKR.COM

Rarely does a small city have a gem this large dropped in its lap. West Volusia has a “rich person’s problem.” One hundred sixty-seven beautiful Central Florida acres of rolling hills and ancient live oaks await the sharpening of our collective imaginations, just blocks from busy Downtown DeLand.

The old Southridge Golf Course is bounded by the busy avenues of Beresford, Boston, Euclid and Hill, 1 mile from the Historic Volusia County Courthouse. Unused for several years, this gorgeous acreage is now on the radar of various interests poised with shovels.

Before leaping to a typical Florida response, let’s first imagine possibilities for our geographic jewel, starting with ideas that benefit all West Volusia residents — and our visitors. 

“Quality of life” includes health, leisure, social interactions, natural environments, economic opportunities and safe, secure surroundings. The most desirable and economically successful cities take every chance to build those qualities for their people.

At the same time, our area needs more affordable — and less repetitious — housing options. That can’t be ignored.

What about a mix — an ideal combination of features and interests? Consider a well-planned variety of public walking paths, wide biking trails, social gathering spaces and beautiful green vistas. 

The bike trails should be linked to local paths and the transportation hub on Euclid Avenue, to enable the easy and safe crisscrossing of DeLand without cars, and to foster the enjoyment of Downtown bistros via sidewalk and bicycle.

With 167 acres, there would be room perhaps for a modern hybrid golfing facility with fun activities, and with features similar to those at a wildly successful Topgolf. The facility would be privately owned and operated. Concession stands could sell refreshments and souvenirs, and rent bicycles. We need entertainment options to keep our young people closer to home, and to attract money-toting visitors.

It’s about public and private. On the edges of a Southridge Park could be a variety of private housing plans, including town homes, apartments, a section of single-family homes, and even a condo tower or two for beginning homebuyers and downsizing seniors. 

These living options would cater to current trends for smaller, lower-maintenance urban living without the baggage of large yards. And the concentrated, privately built housing would positively impact DeLand’s development density.

A parcel of the size and dramatic offerings of Southridge is worthy of a newer, better vision of quality in West Volusia. How can we best look forward through the 21st century and leverage its options and advantages, while avoiding a dreary repeat of 20th-century concrete-rich development?

Southridge is a perfect opportunity for a public-private partnership, an efficient, mutually beneficial arrangement between local government (on behalf of the citizens) and private business.

The results would be clear: reduced noise and traffic, lessened frenzy and stress, greater value added for the people, yet with a private role and cost benefit. 

Seminole County has purchased and is converting just such unused golf courses for these purposes. The blueprints and calculations are there. We simply need to open our West Volusia minds to the possibilities for Southridge through public and private cooperation — with the short time that remains before the fate of this gem will be sealed.

New York City had its boundless vision of a vast Central Park, and Atlanta had its Piedmont Park with botanical gardens and a tavern grill overlooking open fields. 

Imagine the pride, the boost to the quality of life, and the potential economic value to our West Volusia community of our own Southridge Park!

Vote coming up

Editor’s note: The DeLand City Commission has delayed its decision about a housing development, known as Beresford Reserve, planned on the former Southridge Golf Course. The City Commission is scheduled to vote on the development at its 7 p.m. meeting Monday, June 7, at DeLand City Hall, 120 S. Florida Ave. The meeting is open to the public.

Greg Heeter

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

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