A lasting love—with a long history
When it comes to land conservation, Martin County residents put our money where our heart is.
For nearly two decades the county has pursued aggressive and comprehensive programs to acquire and maintain environmentally sensitive lands and parks in the public interest.
In 1989, Lands For You was founded to acquire environmentally sensitive lands and develop parks and community centers, resulting in 3,150 acres of conservation lands and 366 acres of recreation lands.
To ensure community input, Martin County Commissioners established a citizen’s oversight committee known as the Land Acquisition Selection Committee. The seven-member panel consisted of a cross-section of the community, including segments of the environmental and business sectors.
In 1996, Martin County citizens recognized the need to preserve lands designated by the state and federal governments as integral to the successful restoration of the Florida Everglades and the Indian River Lagoon. The community approved the Healthy Rivers Program with a one-cent sales tax for five years to acquire lands within Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan and the Indian River Lagoon program.
The effort generated $50 million in revenue, leveraged to purchase 42,762 acres of conservation land, including:
- Allapattah Flats
- Cypress Creek
- Hartsel Ranch
- Pal Mar
- Atlantic Ridge
- C-44 Reservoir and Stormwater Treatment Areas (thanks largely to partnerships with the South Florida Water Management District and Florida Department of Environmental Protection).
In 1999, county commissioners established the Environmentally Sensitive Lands Division within the Parks and Recreation Department, focused on restoring, managing, maintaining, and providing public access to the county’s conservation land resources.
Commissioners also established the Parks and Recreation Advisory Board to oversee the development of the county parks system and provide a vision for the future. In addition, impact fees for the development of parks and acquisition of conservation land was established by the commission, allowing funds for park development, additional land conservation land acquisition and capital improvements.
In 2005, a much-anticipated Parks and Recreation Master Plan was adopted by the county commission after relying on a series of charrettes and workshops given to the community to form a vision of the county’s needs through the year 2020.
The master plan relied on impact fees for funding. To supplement the expense, staff members with the Environmentally Sensitive Lands Division introduced the Trust for Public Land to explore the feasibility of alternate sources—the most reliable of which turned out to be Martin County residents.
Through its research, Trust for Public Land determined that strong community support existed among Martin County residents for a ½ cent sales tax for “clean water, wildlife, beaches and parks.”