Dedicated to the protection of birds, other animals, and their habitats through education and activism
Southeast Volusia Audubon Society, P.O. Box 46, New Smyrna Beach, FL 32170; president@SEVolusiaAudubon.org
No doubt you
all saw Dinah Pulver’s articles in the News- Journal detailing the
brouhaha at the Doris Leeper Spruce Creek Preserve. Just in case you
didn’t, let me recap the issue.
acquisition for the Doris Leeper Spruce Creek Preserve was begun in
1982. The Nature Conservancy, The Trust For Public Land, Audubon of
Florida and the St Johns River Water Management District were all
instrumental in the efforts to piece together what is now a roughly
2,400 acre natural area that stretches from west of I-95 to the Halifax
River, south of Rose Bay. The land is state owned for the most part but
is managed by Volusia County. Martins Dairy Road pulls north off
Turnbull Bay Road just east of Pioneer Trail. It dead ends in the
parking lot for a portion of the Preserve that’s become very popular
with mountain bikers and those riding horses on the property.
Archbold Biological Station sent a team to Volusia County to survey our
Florida Scrub Jay population. The area where the mountain bikers ride
was identified as prime Scrub Jay habitat that had been allowed to
degrade, primarily because of fire suppression. The Acquisition and
Restoration Council, a group within the Florida Department of
Environmental Protection, has been urging the County to restore the
scrub habitat since 2005, through a combined technique of “roller
chopping” and controlled burning. The County posted notices on the
property and began by roller chopping a small section. It was at this
point that all hell broke loose and the mountain bike folks went to the
County Council to complain that the plan would ruin what they thought
was one of the best mountain bike trails in the state.
Council felt that they were already committed to a policy of scrub
habitat restoration and there was little they could do. So the mountain
bikers went before the City Council of Port Orange to raise the issue
since that part of the Preserve lies within the city limits. All this
was taking place during the election season. So all of the politicians
were anxious to show that they were responding to their constituents.
It should also be pointed out that the original restoration plan was
perhaps a bit too aggressive in its scope since it calls for mowing
down some beautiful trees and wiping out a canopied pathway popular
with anyone using the property. In July, I walked the property for the
first time in years. I could see right away that a compromise was
easily available. By leaving the canopy shaded trails, a buffer could
be created that allowed restoration of the true scrub habitat. This
would leave untouched, the trails that were so valued by all of the
users of the property.
President, Paula Wehr, and I attended a special meeting at the County
Council to deal with the issue. The County staff had already come to
the same conclusion we had and proposed it in their initial statement
at the opening of the meeting. In the fractious political times in
which we live, a compromise apparently wasn’t what the other side on
this issue wanted. They don’t want any change at all on the property.
All three Audubon chapters here in Volusia County have joined with Clay
Henderson, former County Council member and state representative, in
asking DEP and the County to move ahead with the compromise restoration
plan. A delegation from Port Orange met with DEP officials in
Tallahassee on August 29th. From that meeting came a decision to have a
facilitated conference to determine a course of action that addresses
the concerns of all stake holders. The date for that meeting has not
yet been set.