What It Could Be

On City Politics

BY LISL LIANG SRQ DAILY SATURDAY PERSPECTIVES EDITION SATURDAY DEC 22, 2018

And it could be a corrective to dangerous overconsumption, specifically the use of water and lawn fertilizer. No longer would tons of phosphorus and nitrogen needed to satiate 45 voracious fairways and Bermuda grass greens run off and bloom into algal doomsday. A letter published the Sarasota Herald-Tribune last month shrewdly observes the disconnect between words (let's reduce the threat of red tide) and deeds (let's build and landscape as if oblivious to probable consequences). A proposed 182-unit development in Venice, wrote Joanne Baum of Venice on November 23, "will feature landscaped grounds with walking paths. I’m guessing these landscaped grounds will feature that crunchy, pesticide-drenched grass. That pesticide will end up in our beautiful Gulf and contribute to more years of red tide." That crunchy, pesticide-drenched grass, if that's indeed what will be used at the Venice development, would be but a small amount compared to 14,452 yards worth of golf holes of it. 

Rothenbach Park (landfill) and the Celery Fields (intensive agriculture) are successful recent examples of restoring lands and waterways to meet the intrinsic needs of people to be in nature and for non-human nature to meet its intrinsic needs to hatch and mate and migrate and display and hunt and forage and photosynthesize and play and on and on at a safe remove from the constant threat of human encroachment. "I think the hawks are right, and the rattlesnakes," said the late desert prophet Edward Abbey. "Keep going. Continuity." Reimagining what these 300-plus acres could be is the best chance we have in the foreseeable future to reconnect Sarasota's urban core to nature's providence, at least in the longitudes between the Gulf and bay to the west and the fragmented rural areas east of the interstate.  

The City Commission should rescind its 4-1 vote from December 11 to fund, through unidentified sources, an overhaul of the complex. I was not involved in the laborious series of workshops to draw up a master plan for Bobby Jones, but as an outsider the hiring of a golf course consultant to oversee that process feels to me like a fait accompli. Richard Mandell, the golf architect and city consultant, is a competent advocate for golf courses who is not going to foolishly undermine his own livelihood. Likewise, some golfers clearly want to retain the central location, comparatively inexpensive greens fees and historical aura of Bobby Jones. But, in heeding these two interests, which have been most vocal, has not the will of many people and goodwill towards nature gone mostly unheard? The December 11 decision ought to be undone. Local leaders need to be warier of path dependence, and local citizens could be more earnest in defining their vision and forming bold collaborations.

If the prospect of a rewilded Bobby Jones charms you as it does me, talk to your family and friends, local commissioners and boards, conservation nonprofits and other philanthropic organizations, SWFWMD, the state legislators obliged to implement 2014's Amendment 1 for conservation purchases, the Florida Department of Environmental Protection and Sarasota's equivalents, homeowner associations and developers, native plant societies and environmental groups, birders and fishers, walkers and bikers, workers and retirees, residents and visitors. We still stand a chance to restore this last remaining half of the city's public green space into something other than one of those twin pillars of Florida humor, a golf course and/or cookie-cutter housing. 

Ryan Thompson studied environmental history at UF and lives in north Florida. He can be contacted at rylthom@gmail.com.

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Part 3 of 3

Among Florida's urban and suburban parks, a rewilded Bobby Jones could be peers with Lettuce Lake Park in Tampa, Loblolly Woods Nature Park in Gainesville and the Theodore Roosevelt Area in Jacksonville, among others. Locally, it would join ecotourism destinations like Robinson Preserve and Oscar Scherer State Park. Vacationers could make a day trip down Fruitville, visiting this park, the Celery Fields, the Crowley Museum and Nature Center, the north entrance of Myakka State Park, and myriad businesses along the way. It could be a veritable outdoor classroom for youth in the north part of the county who are most vulnerable to what author Richard Louv calls "nature-deficit disorder." 

And it could be a corrective to dangerous overconsumption, specifically the use of water and lawn fertilizer. No longer would tons of phosphorus and nitrogen needed to satiate 45 voracious fairways and Bermuda grass greens run off and bloom into algal doomsday. A letter published the Sarasota Herald-Tribune last month shrewdly observes the disconnect between words (let's reduce the threat of red tide) and deeds (let's build and landscape as if oblivious to probable consequences). A proposed 182-unit development in Venice, wrote Joanne Baum of Venice on November 23, "will feature landscaped grounds with walking paths. I’m guessing these landscaped grounds will feature that crunchy, pesticide-drenched grass. That pesticide will end up in our beautiful Gulf and contribute to more years of red tide." That crunchy, pesticide-drenched grass, if that's indeed what will be used at the Venice development, would be but a small amount compared to 14,452 yards worth of golf holes of it. 

Rothenbach Park (landfill) and the Celery Fields (intensive agriculture) are successful recent examples of restoring lands and waterways to meet the intrinsic needs of people to be in nature and for non-human nature to meet its intrinsic needs to hatch and mate and migrate and display and hunt and forage and photosynthesize and play and on and on at a safe remove from the constant threat of human encroachment. "I think the hawks are right, and the rattlesnakes," said the late desert prophet Edward Abbey. "Keep going. Continuity." Reimagining what these 300-plus acres could be is the best chance we have in the foreseeable future to reconnect Sarasota's urban core to nature's providence, at least in the longitudes between the Gulf and bay to the west and the fragmented rural areas east of the interstate.  

The City Commission should rescind its 4-1 vote from December 11 to fund, through unidentified sources, an overhaul of the complex. I was not involved in the laborious series of workshops to draw up a master plan for Bobby Jones, but as an outsider the hiring of a golf course consultant to oversee that process feels to me like a fait accompli. Richard Mandell, the golf architect and city consultant, is a competent advocate for golf courses who is not going to foolishly undermine his own livelihood. Likewise, some golfers clearly want to retain the central location, comparatively inexpensive greens fees and historical aura of Bobby Jones. But, in heeding these two interests, which have been most vocal, has not the will of many people and goodwill towards nature gone mostly unheard? The December 11 decision ought to be undone. Local leaders need to be warier of path dependence, and local citizens could be more earnest in defining their vision and forming bold collaborations.

If the prospect of a rewilded Bobby Jones charms you as it does me, talk to your family and friends, local commissioners and boards, conservation nonprofits and other philanthropic organizations, SWFWMD, the state legislators obliged to implement 2014's Amendment 1 for conservation purchases, the Florida Department of Environmental Protection and Sarasota's equivalents, homeowner associations and developers, native plant societies and environmental groups, birders and fishers, walkers and bikers, workers and retirees, residents and visitors. We still stand a chance to restore this last remaining half of the city's public green space into something other than one of those twin pillars of Florida humor, a golf course and/or cookie-cutter housing. 

Ryan Thompson studied environmental history at UF and lives in north Florida. He can be contacted at rylthom@gmail.com.

Read Part 2 in the Dec. 15 edition of SRQ Daily

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Dec 11, 2018Ryan Thompson

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