A new initiative to regenerate plant coverage and rid the Ormond Scenic Loop and Trail of invasive species was approved by the Volusia County Council in a 5-1 vote on Tuesday, April 4.
The initiative, titled "Regrow the Loop," was drafted in conjunction with the University of Florida's Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences Extension Services and will act as a one-year pilot program, with the potential to expand the initiative to other environmentally-sensitive areas in the county.
"Regrow the Loop is not only a win for our community and state, it's a huge win for all animals," County Councilman Troy Kent said, who had brought the issue forward at a past meeting.
The lone vote against the initiative was Councilman Don Dempsey, who felt the county was focusing its most of its efforts and attention on the east side. It's not fair, he said, citing the west side's needs for facilities like little league and football fields.
He said he's not against the Loop, or against the initiative, but he was concerned about taxpayers paying for something that he didn't believe should be the county's responsibility.
"There's other places in the community that I think are equally as beautiful and need to be watched out more," Dempsey said.
The initiative includes providing one tree at least 3 gallons in size to each of the households located along the state and nationally designated scenic byway. Other objectives of the program includes monthly educational activities for the community and volunteer events to remove invasive plant species. The county would also offer a Regrow the Loop pledge where residents will be able to pledge to adopt practices to sustain the Loop.
This approach is "behavior-focused on growing green," said Bradley Burbaugh, county director of resource stewardship.
"Essentially, growing green means we're doing things that are going to protect the environment in our yard, protecting water quality and engaging in the initiative," Burbaugh said.
The tree fund, which has about $1.3 million, was identified as a prospective funding source.
While County Council Chair Jeff Brower was in support of the program, he was concerned about depleting the tree fund. A pilot program would give them a better idea of what the initiative will cost, he added. Brower also wished the county to be the role model for the citizens for the initiative.
“The county needs to take the lead. All those things it says we’re asking homeowners to do, I would like the county to do as well," he said.
County Councilman David Santiago, who admitted to not knowing where the Loop was located, said he liked the idea of a pilot program to see what works and what can be tweaked along the way. The Loop spans over 30 miles along John Anderson Drive, A1A, Old Dixie Highway and North Beach Street in Ormond Beach. It is home to three Florida State Parks: North Peninsula State Park, Tomoka State Park and Bulow Creek State Park.
"I want to make sure that as we allocate funds for this project, we are conscious of some of the statements that it's a big county," Santiago said. "Ormond has the Loop. DeLand may have the triangle, right, and other cities may have the square, and I want to make sure that the funds we're going to tap into or utilize are adequately dispersed amongst the county."
At the meeting, Ormond Beach resident Alan Burton pledged to donate $1,000 for a dedicated tree fund for the Regrow the Loop initiative, in memory of the late Sue Parkerson, an Ormond Beach resident who dedicated much of her life to serving in civic organizations.
"I would ask that we grow the Loop to cultivate the highest quality of life for us and our future generation," Burton said.