Past, Present, Future

This weekend an observant friend and I took advantage of this Chamber of Commerce “winter” weather and took a drive – getting lost in the very place we call home – exploring from Ormond Beach south to New Smyrna on South Williamson and Pioneer Trail, then southwest along 415 past Lake Ashby to Osteen, Enterprise, Deltona, and Deland – before looping home north on 17 to US 92. 

I’ve lived in Volusia County virtually my entire life – and I know the Halifax area and places east of the Palmetto Curtain like the back of my hand – but I must admit, when I get over to Wild West Volusia, I activate every electronic device and locator in the Lone Eagle – and even with the best of modern GPS navigation systems working in my favor – sometimes finding my bearings means driving aimlessly until I run into a familiar landmark, like the bumper-to-bumper parking lot that is I-4, then trundling northeast toward home.

To assist the cross-county economy, I picked up a new pair of Wrangler’s at Skip’s Boots in Osteen – and while in Deltona, we shopped Fresco y Más – the delightful Hispanic and Caribbean supermarket opened last month by Jacksonville-based Southeastern Grocers on Providence Boulevard, where I loaded up on my favorite refresher/mixer, Topo Chico, and rounds of delicious queso fresco

Moving north into Delightful Deland I guided east of 17 to avoid the closed streets and building traffic ahead of the 73rd Annual Downtown Christmas Parade – skirting the Holiday bustle of Woodland Boulevard along North Amelia Avenue to International Speedway Boulevard then LPGA Boulevard – passing the massive developments at Mosaic, Margaritaville, etc., etc., through the pinch-point at the Tomoka River bridge and up the causeway of the I-95 overpass where the sprawl of Boomtown Boulevard emerges like a tableau of retail and apartment complexes from AdventHealth Hospital near Ormond Beach to Daytona International Speedway and beyond – punctuated by the black muck of recently cleared pine scrub as developers make the wet earth ready to bring us more “progress.”

As we drove through what remains of the bucolic countryside of south Volusia – the working ranches, nurseries, and active agricultural areas that marked our rural past – then the hulking mega-warehouse that is Amazon’s Deltona “Fulfillment Center,” and a hideous string of under construction wood-frame apartment complexes and cookie cutter subdivisions that mark our future – I couldn’t help but wonder if our forefathers would approve of the voracious appetite of developers and complete lack of planning by our ‘powers that be’ that brought us to this dismal place in our interesting history.  

As we drove along, I felt increasingly like the introspective Marlow of Joseph Conrad’s novella, Heart of Darkness, traveling unavoidably toward the reality of our amoral and irrational decent to a place where our sensitive environment and quality of life is being bought, sold, and developed in an economy of greed. 

It is said ‘for an understanding of the future, look to the past,’ and ours is an interesting one.

Way back in December 1854, the Florida legislature split Orange County, leaving six hundred unfortunate souls languishing on a plot of sandy scrub about the size of Rhode Island, nestled between the St. John’s River and the Atlantic Ocean.

They named us after our largest city at the time, “Volusia,” with some historians claiming the Spanish dubbed us Volusio, after the famed Roman jurist who tutored Marcus Aurelius – others believe it derives from a 19th century B-list magician whose schtick was turning wetlands into money. . . 

Who knows? 

What we know for certain is that Orange County went on to enjoy the fruits of Disney World, theme parks, and metropolitan prosperity – with the rest of Central Florida dragging along on their lucrative coattails – while we became a cautionary tale, the weird drunk uncle who resides at the eastern terminus of the I-4 corridor. . .    

The fact is, we never quite “got our shit together” – falling victim to every rogue pirate in the world – some who brandished a tricorn hat, cutlass, and blunderbuss – now wielding gunslinging land use attorneys – but the rape and pillage of our natural places remains the same. . .    

Yep.  A lot of history here on the Fun Coast – good and bad. 

Many fear Volusia’s enduring legacy will be proving the axiom, “Failure to plan for known problems and predictable outcomes is planning to fail” – a disastrous civic strategy that has been fully embraced by our compromised elected and appointed officials who continue to ignore the natural limitations imposed by our finite water quantity and quality, the fact our transportation infrastructure is already woefully overstressed, or that our utilities and essential services have failed to keep pace with the out-of-control growth that is spreading like a greed-fueled malignancy along the spine of Volusia County – sprawl that will have us drinking our own recycled sewage in the not too distant future. 

Don’t take my word for it.

On Wednesday, December 8, beginning at 9:00am, the City of Daytona Beach will host a tour of the city’s “former direct potable reuse demonstration testing system” which recently complete two-years of testing what has become colloquially known as Toilet-to-Tap“…processed treated effluent and produced purified water, which was then returned to the wastewater treatment process and was not placed in the city’s drinking water supply.”  

“…the two-year data gathering effort of the system is complete and the results are being reviewed as a final report is being prepared” – whatever in hell that means. . .

While the bulldozers roar – the sound of money to a speculative developer’s ear – does anyone care to guess what the recommendations of the tests will be? 

Anyone?   

I am told by a reliable source that the City of Daytona Beach is having trouble finding enough interested residents to make a tour. 

Due to “limited space” at the facility, the event is capped at 15 people – with a minimum of 10 participants required (?) – which is strange, given the convenient scheduling of 9:00am in the middle of the workweek and requirement that anyone interested in visiting a glorified sewage treatment facility complete a “Educational Tour Registration Form” (Find it here: https://tinyurl.com/23jyzwnt ).    

Whatever.  

For anyone interested in the past, present, and future of Volusia County – might I suggest you take a few hours on a driving tour for an up close and personal look at where we came from, enjoy the last remnants of our pastoral beginnings, the beauty of our lakes, springs, and rivers – juxtaposed with the frightening reality of our present.

Then stop by the City of Daytona Beach’s “full-scale direct potable reuse demonstration testing site” for a cold glass of our grim future.   

9 thoughts on “Past, Present, Future

  1. The Toilet To Tap Legacy of the “CHISLER”
    I can still remember when he chuckled as he opined…..
    “astronauts drink it“ …….
    He thought it was hilarious…
    Whatever

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Moved to Volusia from Palm Beach County.Have not been there in two years but relatives tell me there is no more availavle land and they have been turning waste water to drinking water for years but the question they have is what do we do when the wells go dry.In 10 years you will not recognize this area.My wife and I take your trip twice a year for shits and giggles.My question for everybody is why if we are so close to the ocean why dont we use desalinization plants like they do in the carribean.The water is better than the water in Plantation Bay.

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  3. I have lived 3 years in one of the smaller communities on Williamson between International Speedway Blvd & LPGA. In that brief time, many developments have sprung up. Traffic is awful riding towards Granada. Widening the roadway, putting in new sewer and water lines. Large swaths of bulldozed trees, ruining our ecosystem. The toilet to tap plan will fail like every other unplanned plan. I don’t think many people drink the water here as grocery stores sell out of bottled water faster than they can stock the shelves. (Tap water smells like well water as it is.) But, we have to wash dishes and BATHE in it! People in our County seem to have given up at election time. We need strong, honest leadership. We can’t wait much longer!

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    1. Diane we are neighbors as I Iive in Chelsea Place on Granada and travel almost everyday from Granada and then south which last week was bumper to bumper all week and all day and it was not because of schools because the heaviest was from west to east including the Latitude Margaritaville bus to their beach and not looking forward to Avalon.I had to put a full house water filter system in a few years ago and it costs money to replace those filters every few months but my Mayor Partington agreed to give Avalon in Daytona a big discount on water and sewage and house a Ormond fire station and we need to hire more police as Ormond will take care of Avalon.Who is paying for all this? Hope not my taxes.The water per my pool service man is horrible in Plantation Bay.Out west in California and by the Hoover Dam as they use the Dam for electricity they are drying up.We need a new source for water and let Daytona supply their own water.Houses and commercial popping up like crazy.How much water will Amazon alone use on its 3 million sq ft building?.Dade,Broward and Palm Beach are built out with water supply problems.Desalinization is the answer if they keep buliding like this in Volusia.We have the ocean.

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  4. How in the hell can intelligent people expect us to drink shit water when Blue Springs has a flow of over one billion gallons of water a month, four springs flow over 12 billion gallons of water a DAY in to the Crystal River and there are another 1,000 springs in Florida that flow in to rivers.

    ALL of that water then empties in to the Gulf of Mexico or the Atlantic Ocean.

    Water water every where but not a drop to drink!

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  5. Pat Rice just announced his retirement at the end of this month.AlthoughI rarely agreed with him he must see the writing on the wall as well as CNN who needs to clean house.Gannett and Covid destroyed the DBNJ.I doubt if many of the other Gannett 246 local newspapers can survive.Good luck Pat what ever you do.Mark keep writing your excellent blog.Journalism is dying .

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