This is what we could have in the 2050 planning area, a GREENWAY NETWORK AND ECOLOGICAL INFRASTRUCTURE POCKETS OF AGRICULTURE. We could have a restored Cow Pen Slough in a way that rivals a natural river flow and floodplain. A wonderful greenway network with water supply reservoirs to moderate the flows of freshwater in the bay. We could have connections throughout the rural area to the major public lands in the Myakka Island, and to the Legacy Trail system, and large parks in the west County.
What the public will get is nothing unless we SYSTEMATICALLY plan it.
The voters voted on conservation lands for public purposes. They voted on land conservation measures for water resources, strategic biodiversity protection, fitness and nature trails. Much of the money has gone instead to land speculators for development rights that we gave them, in plans that were terrible and ill conceived. We have purchases a lot of land but at a much higher price because of extremely poor planning and lack of coordination with private developers who plan to develop in the future.
There is a big incentive for the developers to work with the County as their open space within the development will have little value without a network of open spaces and core areas. The current logic of planning greenways would be like building a road, or bike or sidewalk within the development and not allowing surrounding developers to use it, or put them together as a system.
We can never expect the developers to plan the open space, and natural resources and provide for agriculture. They have a history of doing a terrible job when left to do so in development orders. You cannot have a voluntary network, which even if beneficial to those within the development will be completely inaccessible to everyone else. Just think if there was no centralized planning of the roads and water and sewer. We even tried this and it did not work. It just cost hundreds of millions of tax payers dollars to plan to clean up the mess. A mess that extends into Sarasota Bay and creates red tide or extends on to I75 and creates gridlock.
We need to plan for the whole community. Ecological infrastructure provides services 24 hours a day. It provides it even more effectively during hurricanes and floods. It is ironic to think that this natural infrastructure actually saves development from disaster. It is also ironic that it keeps people fit with all the potential recreational opportunities. It makes it possible to not only live longer but live much better healthier lives. It is ironic that much of the natural park systems restore themselves when put on the right trajectory and provide many free goods and services such as food for fisherman and clean air and water for everyone else.
We need to move away for now from the special interest urban park planning we have in the past. Much of our urban parks are highly specialized facilities like the rowing facility or baseball stadium or golf course that are used only a few times of year by very specialized users. Much of the facilities are idle much of the year, and expensive to maintain. And they are highly subsidized, and often provide congestion and inconvenience for those not going to the events.
Sarasota's largest industry is the tourist and season visitors. The east part of the County could be a world class destination and much more accessible to the general public than the west where much of the shoreline is privatized and you have to own a boat to access the open waters of the bay and much of the gulf. We could become leader in fitness and medical tourism. And noted for a very high quality of life. A world class destination for naturalists and nature lovers.
There are some people who are philosophically opposed to the public owning land. But we have learned from the coastal development that public ownership of the land is much cheaper than public ownership of the disaster brought about by highly stupid and grossly negligent developers. For example, instead of buying more beach for the public there is a move to spend 50 million dollars to protect development on south Lido. Everyone in the County not only pays high taxes to subsidize these developments who require period pulses of Federal State and Local aid, but we also pay higher insurance rates sometimes higher than our total taxes.
Waiting for someone stupid to plan your future is not worth the wait.