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. . .
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?
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 ).
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.