THIS IS COMMUNITY — Members of the community — including the developer’s representatives — fill the City Commission meeting room at DeLand City Hall for a Nov. 22 hearing on the Beresford Reserve development plan for the former Southridge Golf Course. The meeting lasted 4.5 hours, and featured more than 20 speakers giving expert testimony or their opinions to city commissioners. BEACON PHOTO/MARSHA MCLAUGHLIN

Recently, I read Wendell Berry’s “A Poem on Hope” aloud to my Sustainability Studies class at Stetson University. [Read an excerpt from A Poem on Hope below.]

This was amid an exhausting couple of weeks, when three complicated development issues that could impact the health of people and the environment in my community were sequentially coming to a head.

<p><p><strong>Wendy Anderson</strong></p></p><p></p>
Dr. Wendy Anderson

Halfway through the poem, I broke into tears. Not just choke up, then take a breath and continue, but full-on tears.

I cried because reading that poem in that particular moment, I realized for the very first time in the 7.5 years I’ve lived here that … I love this place.

I. Love. This. Place. And that surprised me. Because I didn’t know I loved this place. I am not a fan of the heat and humidity. The traffic and overcrowding. The often-irrational politics and occasionally wacky culture.

But I realized that I’m fighting alongside so many others to protect our places and the people in them because this is home now, and I care deeply for my fellow residents. I belong here.

“Its places at last are no better than their people while their people continue in them.”

On the evening of Nov. 22, our community came together peacefully and passionately in the DeLand City Commission Chambers to discuss together the complicated concerns of the Southridge Golf Course.

I was so grateful for the hundreds of people who showed up, for the many who spoke, and for the few who yielded their speaking time so an expert witness could finish her presentation.

I was proud of our City Commission for listening intently to all of the perspectives shared, for understanding the seriousness of our concerns, and for responding by asking tough questions with no easy answers.

I don’t know what I expected — the commissioners are in a very difficult position — but they insisted on exactly what was needed: a thorough and independent review of a comprehensive study of the contaminants on the old city-dump and golf-course site and the relative risks and benefits of different solutions for dealing with them.

Some might say the City Commission just “kicked the can down the road again.” No. They paused the progress of the proposal to get the necessary data required to make an informed decision about the best way to proceed on a site that is potentially highly contaminated, right in the middle of town. This is wisdom.

This is what community looks like: caring enough to show up, participating in meetings with civility, sharing individual expertise for the good of the community, and being willing to work together to seek solutions to complex problems.

This meeting was good practice. Let’s do more of that with more proactive, visionary intentions, not just resistance to others’ proposals.

Life is good here. I am grateful to be a part of such a vibrant community that works together for the good of the larger whole, and to protect our beautiful landscapes and waterways.

— Anderson is a professor of environmental science and studies at Stetson University, and chair of the Volusia Soil and Water Conservation District board of supervisors. She has been promoting sustainable community development for 20 years.

A Poem on Hope

Because we have not made our lives to fit

our places, the forests are ruined, the fields, eroded,

the streams polluted, the mountains, overturned. Hope

then to belong to your place by your own knowledge

of what it is that no other place is, and by

your caring for it, as you care for no other place, this

knowledge cannot be taken from you by power or by wealth.

Find your hope, then, on the ground under your feet.

Your hope of Heaven, let it rest on the ground underfoot.

The world is no better than its places. Its places at last

are no better than their people while their people

continue in them. When the people make

dark the light within them, the world darkens.

— Excerpted from “A Poem on Hope” by Wendell Berry


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