Lands program is magnet for funds
Several recent letters and editorials have extolled the virtues of Hernando's Environmentally Sensitive Lands Program but overlooked one of its most valuable benefits. The program has served as a magnet for other sources of funding that have made the program an incredible bargain to our community.
Nearly every ESL property has been protected by working in partnership with other public agencies or programs. The Cypress Lakes Preserve was purchased with assistance from a Florida Community Trust grant that covered half of the purchase price. Development of the boat ramps, boardwalk and other recreational facilities at Bayport Park were the result of partnering with the Southwest Florida Water Management District in expansion of the park. And the creation of an innovative water treatment system to prevent groundwater contamination at Peck Sink would not have happened without $2.4 million in funding from outside sources after ESL purchased the land.
The competition for grants and other sources of funding assistance is fierce. There are more deserving projects than funds to go around, and strong community support often serves as a compelling bargaining chip. Nothing says "community support" better than a willingness to put your money where your mouth is and contribute funds toward the cost of a project. The ESL Program allows Hernando County to do exactly that, and in the process we protect our most precious natural resources at bargain prices.
At an estimated annual cost of less than $6 per property owner, ESL might be easily overlooked or discounted as unimportant. But if you ever fish at Jenkins Creek, enjoy a sunset at Bayport, canoe the Withlacoochee near Cypress Lake or appreciate clean water coming out of your tap, then make no mistake — you are a beneficiary of the ESL Program. And one of the best bargains you'll ever find.
Eugene Kelly, Brooksville