On Volusia: Because They Can…

During my working years I tried to keep an equal “work/life” balance.

Fact is – I failed miserably.

Most people like to think they follow the “work hard/play hard” manifesto, but most of us put our nose to the grindstone and pick our head up 30 or 40-years later wondering where the time went.

I know I did.

After all, putting food on the table, paying the mortgage and providing a reasonably comfortable life for your family takes precedence over leisure and recreation.

Now that I have “time on my hands” – I truly see the value of leisure travel, taking in new things and experiencing unique places – to a balanced life.  Perhaps more important, getting away from the day-to-day allows us to “recharge,” clear our hearts and minds of extraneous twaddle, and invigorate ourselves for what comes next.

Most of all, even short trips from home give us new opportunities to learn something we didn’t know before the journey.

Last week, I took a few days away to drive my 82-year old (going on 28-year old) mom to her summer home in the Holston Valley of east Tennessee.  We packed up her shiny black Ford F-150 Harley Davidson Edition pickup truck (seriously, she’s 82 – five-foot nothing – and drives a Harley truck), along with my niece and nephew, then set out on the open road.

For the next four days, I took in the sights and sounds of Jonesborough, Tennessee – the oldest city in the state – and home to the International Storytelling Center.

While strolling around the quaint town square and spending a few minutes at the Center, I learned that regardless of how sophisticated the culture, historians and sociologists agree that storytelling is our most powerful tool for effective communication.

According to the storyteller’s ethos, “Each of us has the power to tap into our stories, our narrative assets, to become better communicators – to entertain, to share our history and culture, to spread knowledge, to persuade, to advance a cause, to teach, to dream a vision of the future.”

It’s true.  No matter how advanced the medium of transmission – the fact is, storytelling is still how we communicate our thoughts, opinions and experiences as a community.  Be it online newspaper, satellite radio, podcasts or internet blogs like Barker’s View – we can empower, enrich and inspire others through our unique experiences and take on the events of the day simply by the stories we tell.

When I returned home, I took a few minutes to catch up on the news of the day – the topical stories from here on the Fun Coast.

Wow – what a week it was.

From news that the Forbes-listed France family of billionaires – d/b/a NASCAR, Daytona International Speedway and International Speedway Corporation – dug around the couch cushions and found $5,000 from each business entity to contribute to the new homeless shelter – to the mysterious mid-stream resignation of Halifax Urban Ministries Director Mark Geallis, deepening concerns about Bethune-Cookman University’s finances, and the murky dealings of a Russian developer building a $185 million dollar condominium/hotel project on the beach who “doesn’t think” he’s associated with an off-shore bank account in the Seychelles – then reassured everyone with the quip, “money is money” – these were some interesting stories indeed.

But what caught my eye was a recent yarn spun by Dustin Wyatt in the Daytona Beach News-Journal entitled, “Beach advocates question parking policy at new lot.”

Look, everyone is aware that the Volusia County Council – through the machinations of County Manager Jim Dinneen – have done everything humanly and governmentally possible to ensure that Summit Hospitality receives a private, traffic-free beach behind it’s languishing multi-year renovation of the former Desert Inn – a project which (we’re told) is set to become a “Hard Rock” hotel sometime in the next decade.

The assurance was that the strand behind the Desert Inn/Westin/Hard Rock would remain open for beach driving, parking and public use until the hotel opens for business.


I mean, that was the deal, right?

As part of the original “deal,” Summit agreed to sell a parcel of land south of the hotel to Volusia County for off-beach parking.  (Why our elected and appointed officials didn’t demand the land transfer as part of the gifting of our heritage of beach driving is – like most things – over my head.)

We were then told County government gave Summit $1.8 million of our tax dollars to purchase the lot – then poured on another $774,635 of public funds to pave a 100-space parking lot (?).

Nearly simultaneous to the grand opening of the off-beach lot – our elected and appointed officials placed a series of hideous lime-green traffic cones emblazoned “No Parking” along the beach directly behind the equally hideous Desert Inn.

Why?  Because they can.

You see, in 2012 the Volusia County Council approved something called a “beach services model” – a power grab cloaked in the always effective “safety and aesthetics” argument – that allowed county officials to arbitrarily remove cars from “major off-beach parking lots and parks.”

Still, this doesn’t adequately explain why Volusia County developed a no parking area on the beach behind the still-under-construction Hard Rock?

That wasn’t part of the “deal” they made with us guileless peons and desperate rubes who double as taxpayers, was it?

According to Ray Manchester – Director of Volusia County Beach Safety Ocean Rescue, and latest county employee to communicate beach policy to the public – let us know that “hundreds” of people (including, of course, “families with children”) have been attracted to the space behind the Desert Inn like moths to flame by the new parking lot.

“This was done (no-parking signage) to provide users of these parks clear access to the beach and the ocean without having to navigate between parked cars and moving traffic.  This no-parking zone doubles as an extension of the park and provides a car-free area where the public can set up for the day safely above the tide line and traffic lane.”

Yeah.  But that wasn’t part of the “deal,” Ray?

The fact is – there aren’t “hundreds” of people on the sand behind the Desert Inn – on the day the News-Journal dropped by, there was one old dude in white socks and sandals squatting on a beach chair and prattling about non-existent kids running into traffic from a non-existent “hotel” that has been under endless renovation for the past two-years.

What gives?

This latest power-play once again demonstrates that Volusia County will openly reverse policy – and shamelessly break promises to constituents – simply to flex their muscles and demonstrate the level of power and influence they have over beach use and access.

Anyone who still believes that our elected and appointed officials in Deland have our best interests at heart is delusional – they are gutless liars – and this latest bald-faced bait-and-switch is indicative of the level to which county government will stoop to ensure that We, The People, remain subservient to their capricious whims – and a distant second to the self-serving needs and wants of speculative developers with a constant hunger for public funds and private beaches.

Stories don’t always have a happy ending – and sometimes they can be downright depressing.

But, hey, like our latest benefactor said – money is money – right?






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