FLTWS Citizen Conservation Award 2013
Recipients: “The Friends of Thornby”
Core members of “The Friends” of Thornby:
Sandy Lou Gallagher
Debra Blanchard Richardson
This nomination recognizes the successful grassroots efforts of a small, dedicated group of local citizens to conserve an area of environmental and cultural significance. The area, known as "Thornby,” is a 40-acre parcel of Old Florida boasting 1,000 feet of shoreline on Lake Monroe in West Volusia County. In addition to the cultural significance associated with remnants of an Indian midden and a possible Seminole Indian Wars fort, the area supported centuries-old live oak and cypress trees, more than seven acres of wetlands that serve as both a discharge and recharge area for the Floridan aquifer, and a host of wildlife and native plant species.
When a proposal to change local land use planning to allow high density development on Thornby was submitted during 2000, an effort to conserve this area as a public park was initiated by a group of individuals that called themselves the Friends of Thornby, which included Florida Master Naturalist Sandra Walters. Empowered by the knowledge gained in their FMNP course and technical information gleaned from local experts, including the carrying capacity of Thornby’s soils and drainage patterns, the Friends of Thornby were well-equipped to support their position in the effort to conserve the property. The process was long and difficult, and involved 11 public hearings, several development plan changes, and three local elections.
Conservation efforts were finally met with success after nine years when the Thornby property was purchased by Volusia County and the City of Deltona. Once slated for high-density development, Thornby Park now offers a handicapped-accessible playground, gazebo, and a mulched trail that takes park visitors into the interior of the property. The remaining 38 acres of the Park has been preserved in its natural state to provide ecological services and to benefit wildlife and the native plant communities they depend upon.
You can learn more about the effort to conserve Thornby Park, including valuable insights for "ordinary citizens" working toward a conservation goal opposed by local special interests from the Story of Thornby website (http://www.thestoryofthornby.com/index.html) and the book "The Story of Thornby: How Ordinary People Took on Government," published by Blackwyrm Press and available on Amazon.com.
The vision, the considerable effort, and the eventual success of this group is a testimony to what local citizens can accomplish.