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DR/GR Steering Committee Bus Tour - Feb. 27th, 2008

County Staff organized a tour of the DR/GR for the steering committee on 2/27/08. Sites and areas visited:

·         Youngquist Brothers Rock – mining operation
·         Mallard & Devore Lanes – residences located within historic mining corridor
·         Corkscrew Wellfield & Water Treatment Plant – operations
·         Burgundy Farms Rd. - residences / Airport Mitigation Park
·         Old Corkscrew Golf Club
·         Six L’s Farm Road - residences / Six L’s Farm – Farm worker housing
·         Corkscrew Country Store
·         Carter Road / Lazy D Farms Road residences / Ultimate Ski Lake RPD
·         CREW Trust Headquarters
·         Wildcat Farms Road - residences
·         Green Meadows Road - residences, future N-S connection with Lehigh
·         Florida Rock (Vulcan Industries) mines & haul road

My overall impression of the tour was “fair to middlin’”. If the goal of the tour was simply to see the DR/GR first-hand, then it was successful. On the other hand, if the goal was for the committee to gain a better understanding of all the varied land uses in the DR/GR, then it was only partially successful.

Youngquist Brothers Rock (YBR) hosted us for lunch, and CEO Richard Friday did an outstanding job of explaining their daily operations, their various products, and their state-of-the-art facilities and equipment. YBR is a very impressive and well managed operation. However, there were some aspects of the visit that I believe may have created false impressions on the part of the committee.

Blasting: YBR conducted a blast for the committee to experience. It was what I would call a “Public Relations” blast staged for the benefit of the uninformed. There was no detectable noise and no ground vibration. It was a non-event that was absolutely nothing like the blasts that residents near the Westwind mine experience regularly. It’s unfortunate that the group couldn’t experience the real thing. If this was a normal Youngquist Brothers blast, I wish they’d share their technology with Westwind.

Mine Activity: At the present time Youngquist Brothers Rock, like most growth-dependent industries, is at a virtual standstill. The crushers, loaders, conveyers, and processing facilities were not operating during the tour, so the committee wasn’t able to experience the noises and dust associated with this and other mining operations. They also didn’t experience the 1000 dump trucks per day that enter and leave this mine during normal growth economy.

Corkscrew Country Store:  Owners Connie Carter and Buddy Carter, along with store manager Debbie Halcomb did a great job in welcoming the committee to Corkscrew’s “commercial district”. They provided refreshments and a goody bag which included an interesting history of the Country Store. The Corkscrew Country Store is a community icon and landmark with a distinct atmosphere that we’d obviously like to preserve.

Agriculture: It’s very unfortunate that there was no presentation to the group about the current and future role of agriculture as a land use in the DR/GR. Together with conservation uses, agriculture remains the dominating land use with thousands of acres employed in the production of citrus, winter vegetables, and beef cattle. Operations like cattle grazing are inherently low-impact land uses, and many of the more intense agricultural activities employ best management practices that conserve water and minimize the use of fertilizers and pesticides. It’s too bad the economic, aesthetic, and environmental value of agriculture to Lee County was not addressed in any significant way.

The tour route was excellent and covered nearly every easily accessible area of the SE DR/GR. The county staff did well to include organized presentations by mining and conservation / mitigation stakeholders. Unfortunately, presentations from the agriculture industry and rural residents were notably absent.  

As the bus drove through residential areas and past farms in Corkscrew, there was very little supporting information being shared with the committee. So I hijacked the microphone and talked a bit about the Corkscrew Community as we drove through.  I tried to give some brief background about the history of the road & community,  the idea of one neighborhood as opposed to “residential clusters”, historic drainage patterns, important wildlife corridors and connections, importance of farming to the community, etc. Peggy Schmidt also related some of the impacts from the Westwind mine that she experienced at her former residence. It probably could have been done better if we had been more prepared, but I hope we at least filled some of the void for the committee.



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