Stewardship: In Support of a Land Ethic

Editor's Note: Articles written by citizens reflect their own opinions and not the views of the Winter Park Voice.  

Stewardship: In Support of a Land Ethic

Guest Columnist Charley Williams

“The earth is common ground and…gradually the idea is taking form that the land must be held in safekeeping….” E.B. White, 1942

There is growing support state-wide and throughout our local communities for the adoption of a formal land ethic.


Each of us has become witness to challenges never before seen in the Sunshine State. Our beaches and shores are blighted with sea-rise and algae bloom. Climate change spin-offs have brought us increasingly violent storms like Irma. The storms, combined with pollution and over-building, are shortening the life cycle of our tree canopy, which is the critical factor in cleaning the air and protecting us from the sun.

Parks are on Life Support

City and county park lands are vying for survival with the exponential growth now occurring in Central Florida. Cities and counties do their best to balance competing demands for passive vs active use of park lands.

Still Not Safe to Get Out of the Car

Central Florida continues to head the list of the most dangerous communities for pedestrian and bicycle safety. Here in Winter Park, greenspace connectivity is increasingly cited as the single most important step to renewing our pledge to sustain the character of our community.

Green Assets = $$$

While open green lands cannot be measured solely in economic terms, parks and green space are invaluable assets as a marketing tool for our city. Proximity to parks has been proven to increase property values. What’s more, protected park lands do not require costly, full-blown municipal services such as water, sewer and schools.

Momentum is Building

This conversation has been gaining momentum since 2014, when Amendment 1 — known as the Florida Water and land Conservation Initiative — to increase spending for natural lands acquisition programs like Florida Forever passed with an overwhelming majority.

WP Needs an Integrated Plan

Locally, this vision for an integrated plan for greenspace connectivity within our urban core resonates with citizens of all walks of life. It embraces our often-discussed concerns for a healthy tree canopy, a vibrant, connected system of parks and greenspace, an appreciation for scenic beauty, designated quiet zones, family enjoyment, outdoor recreation, community enrichment and sustainable local native habitats.

City Leadership: Join In

I would urge our city and community leaders to take this trend a step further. The time has come to clearly define and articulate a Land Ethic for all of Winter Park. It will serve as our guide for future decisions as well as the definition of our responsibility for this generation and the next. It’s time to stop talking and pledge to take action.

  • author's avatar

    By: Anne Mooney

    Anne Mooney has assumed the editorship of the Winter Park Voice from founding editor Tom Childers.

    Mooney got her start in New York as a freelance line editor for book publishers, among them Simon & Schuster and the Clarkson Potter division of Crown Books. From New York, she and her husband and their year-old toddler moved to Washington, D.C., where the two ran a newswire service for Harper’s magazine. “We called it Network News,” said Mooney, “because it was a network of the Harper’s writers, whose work we edited into newspaper style and format and sold to papers in the top U.S. and Canadian markets. We were sort of like a tiny UPI.”

    The newswire ceased operation with the death of Mooney’s first husband, but Mooney continued to write and edit, doing freelance work for Williams Sonoma cookbooks and for local publications in D.C.

    In 2005, Mooney moved to Winter Park, where she worked as a personal chef and wrote a regular food column for a south Florida magazine. She took an active interest in Winter Park politics and was there when the Winter Park Voice was founded. She wrote occasional pieces for the Voice, including the Childers bio that this piece replaces.

    The Winter Park Voice is one of a large number of “hyper-local” publications that have sprung up across the U.S. in response to the decline of the major daily newspapers and the resulting deficit of local news coverage. The Voice’sbeat is Winter Park City Hall, and its purpose is to help the residents of our city better understand the political forces that shape our daily lives.

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21 replies
  1. jimmy says:

    this op/ed is so full of weasel words, unsubstantiated allegations, personal opinion, and vagueness that it is almost impossible to know where to begin to address it. perhaps it would’ve been a good start to define “formal land ethic” instead of advocating something that is meaningless to most readers.

  2. Count on it says:

    I fully expect that the City Commission will read your article and immediately call off the construction of the new library in MLK Park.

  3. Herb Weiss says:

    Many cities in the US and in Europe have converted streets like Park Avenue into pedestrian Mall/Parks. Eliminating automobile access. Adding trees and park benches. On such city is Boulder CO. They converted a 10 block street and its thriving for its businesses and resturants. The idea isn’t new but it’s takes imagination and political will. The expense is minimal and it could be accomplished in a matter of months. Let’s get out of our cars and walk. Novel idea?

    • Park Avenue Truth says:

      Herb, nearly everyone in Winter Park agrees that Park Avenue should be closed to traffic and turned into a sidewalk. But, we don’t have a representative government here. They have no interest whatsoever in doing what the residents want. They answer only to a few fat cat developers who are too fat to walk half a block.

  4. Beth Hall says:

    Charley, Wow! Thank you for this piece. The idea of a “land ethic” is powerful. The news of Florida’s environmental woes was nationwide this summer. Protecting WP’s precious natural assets should surely be a top priority. I have asked the commission to please consider a budgetary allocation for a long range master plan for our parks. A land ethic could be a guide for all the decades to come.

    • Scaramouche says:

      I don’t think you’re supposed to call it “Boy Scouts” anymore because it is exclusionary or something like that.

  5. Thank you Mr. Williams says:

    Mr. Williams,

    Thank you for an important, clear call to save what is left of our green space in Winter Park.

    For those of us who grew up in and love traditional Winter Park, we are happy to still be able to gaze through the gate at Genius Preserve, and walk along the lake at Windsong where developers were wise enough to leave some green space and create a lovely walking trail.

    Parking problems make it too difficult to walk in Central Park. Nonresident dog owners, many of whom don’t pick up waste and don’t control even dangerous dogs, have taken over the once quiet park and lake adjacent to Baldwin Park. We used to sail on Sunfish there in the 70s and 80s.

    Cady Way Park used to be a quiet and lovely place to play tennis. It’s still okay, but overbuilt, with too many ball fields. It is no longer tranquil.

    Mr. Weiss’s idea is also great.

    Wish the city government would be more forward looking, visionary, instead of focused on enabling short-term profits as quickly as possible for a few ruffian developers who don’t have deep ties with or concerns about Winter park.

  6. Anonymous says:

    Thank you, Mr. Williams, for your beautifully written article. . . If only it could happen! Some 30 years ago I moved from a similar location and saw it all change so much that you would hardly recognize it now. I think everyone would like to live in a beautiful, little town and they come, just like I did, more and more people, and there is the opportunity for developers because those people need a place to live. I have seen it happening all over the world! All in all though I think Winter Park is still a lovely place to live despite all the changes. Just sayin’

    • Scaramouche says:

      I agree, this special little city is well managed and positioned for future growth, economic vitality, transport, and aesthetics. Those thinking green space will be massively expanded and the clock turned back are going to be disappointed with the future. Either that or they just like complaining as a form of entertainment.

      • Always Thinkin says:

        The reason the City hasn’t bought the post office property yet is that they will need a postage stamp to measure the size of MLK Park when they get done developing it.

      • at supports the freedom of an individual or a community to articulate their opinions and ideas without fear of retaliation, censorship says:

        Attempts at demoralizing residents who want better green space management have not worked in the past and are not going to work. Those of us with deep roots and who lived here longer than 30 years have a better understanding and respect of the founders’ vision of Winter Park as a unique resort community will not accept your attempts to turn it into I-Drive simply because that is your style preference.

        Additionally, the straw man proposition about “massively expanding green space and turning back the clock,” has nothing to do with Mr. Williams’ reasonable advocacy of rational planning.

        Finally, ad hominem attacks against residents who are are exercising their right to take part in participatory democratic governance “as complainers who like to complain as a form of entertainment” is reminiscent of censorship in the former Soviet Union and Maoist China.

        Why would anyone have so much derision for residents who care about our city, green space, our planet, freedom of speech and civic participation?

      • Who's afraid of Green Space and Free Speech? says:

        Why all the ad homimen attacks against those who would like to maintain green space and who support public dialogue on the topic, and who, overall, express concern about our planet and democratic governance?

        Mr. Williams did not advocate “massively” expanding green space and “turning back the clock”?

        He and many lifetime Winter Park residents simply want a rational plan to protect what green space is left.

        Are there some who just like to criticize those who disagree with them as a form of entertainment (or who simply like to “troll” which is defined as a form of online behavior to upset others:

  7. John Skolfield says:

    Good piece.

    Of note, my recent continuing ed course for my contractor’s licences proudly stated that Florida’s density is merely 1/6th that of Los Angeles. The implication is that Florida’s green space has great unmet potential, as if LA County should be our aspirational goal. This mindset is disturbing at best and, at worst, catastrophic. I support Charley’s position.


    • Scaramouche says:

      The only way you’re going to prevent population growth in Florida is to cut off all immigration and build a wall.

      Growth – and people – are good.

  8. OZYMANDIAS says:

    A land ethic is way late in coming to the rescue of Winter Parkers. To wit: How many would have approved the library bonds if they had known that SIXTY-THREE TREES would be sacrificed?
    How many might have changed their votes to “No” if they’d known how much more park land the library and the multiple parking lots would gobble up? 1% more? Naw… Parking lots in every direction. The Canopy at The Canopy won’t be a canopy of trees. One could weep over it.

  9. Forest Gray Michael says:


    OBSERVE EACH CANDIDATE THIS SPRING and see what they offer you and our community regarding a greenspace vision and an effective action plan. Then support and vote for the GREENEST CANDIDATE (Green = greenbacks and nature). You win!

    Winter Park needs three (3) commission votes to Save Our Parks. The current typical 3 vote commission majority does Not value greenspace sufficiently for its value to Winter Park. Lack of a Park Legacy Vision.
    • For instance, why not add a 2-3 acre passive park at the city owned Progress Park property, RIGHT NOW? Go ahead and include several lots for redevelopment too.
    • Why did 3 commissioners kill the recent proposal to increase the size of MLK Jr. Park at the Bowling Alley property to offset the massive Library/Events Center?
    • Why did 3 commissioners kill the proposal for a Hannibal Square Market Garden at Blake Yard, thereby expanding the Farmer’s Market?
    • Why did the commission delete the parking garage structure from the library project and sprawl surface parking all over MLK Jr. Park? Does this violate the bond?
    • Why didn’t Rollins College propose a small urban park along with their plans to massively redevelop downtown?
    • Why isn’t anyone talking about turning the old library site into a park and gateway into Downtown?

    ECONOMIC VALUE – The financial value of greenspace is tremendous. Add more greenspace and get more value for your property and redevelopments.

    QUALITY OF LIFE – GENERATIONAL – Add more greenspace for your family’s quality of life for generations with new views to lakes, new healthy trails for walking and biking, and new greenspace to enhance safer routes to schools.


  10. A FOX Guards the Hen House says:

    A few years ago, Mayor Steve Leary and the Winter Park City Commission disbanded the City’s longstanding Ethics Board.

    The excuse they gave the residents for demolishing this pillar of public confidence in their government and undermining the traditional checks and balances that inhibit public wrongdoing?…

    …A City Ethics Board is no longer needed because the City Commission has no ethics problems…

    A lame excuse and a sad day for Winter Park indeed.


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