Coalition for Lake Apopka Ecotourism
Since there has been considerable confusion and some misconceptions about the Lake Apopka planning process, I present a brief history of the project.
It is my hope we will not have to spend much time discussing goals, objectives, vision statements, etc. if we agree on those already discussed. I hope we can quickly agree on such things as the structure of the group, operation of the group, even the name of the group. I present the recommendations of FOLA for points of discussion.
Since the initial discussions focused on the restoration of Lake Apopka, interest has continued to rise regarding how the lake and shorelines will be treated. While the lake is not restored, it has shown steady improvement and now is the time to increase interest in the process and begin plans to insure economic as well as ecologic restoration.
Friends of Lake Apopka incorporated in 1991 and began the important process of educating the public about problems and potential projects and received a great deal of interest from the State legislature as well as numerous environmental organizations, local governments, and research groups. The group funded a planning firm to study ideas for a Planning Initiative which was published by Canin Associates in February 2000. A second project followed which published the Lake Apopka Basin Master Plan in January 2002. Both plans presented many basic ideas about our planning efforts and are available on the FOLA website (FOLA.org). Perhaps we can start our efforts by reviewing these.
The need for planning was further emphasized at the Lake County Summit on Regional Issues which was held on February 8, 2013 where a number of presentations were provided from various State and Local governments and non-profits on the issues facing Lake Apopka. Following this meeting, Lake County asked Orange County to join them in an effort to prepare a detailed master plan for the Lake Apopka basin.
The City of Apopka funded a planning study for a portion of the Lake Apopka North Shore focusing on about 1,000 acres, forming a steering committee mad holding 2 public meetings to obtain input.
The goal developed by the Orange County Committee on July 22, 2014 for an Ecotourism Plan to “Establish the Lake Apopka Region as a Premier Ecotourism Mecca” included:
- Attracting tourists to visit the area by providing public access points, ensuring that user groups respect the restoration plan and to provide educational tourism opportunities, both environmental and historic. All activities or initiatives taken to achieve the goals should have a positive impact on the region and improve the environmental quality of the lake.
- A vision statement was adopted from one that was taken from the City of Apopka Lake Apopka North Shore Ecotourism Plan:
- A world class ecotourism destination which balances economic development with the protection and restoration of Lake Apopka’s vast and unique environmental resources to create significant nature-based opportunities for both visitors and residents of Central Florida.
- Name of the group "Coalition for Lake Apopka Ecotourism"
- Structure of the group:
a) Form a full coalition that includes both counties, City of Apopka, Winter Garden, Ocoee, Oakland, Montverde, Mount Dora, Environmental groups (FOLA ,Audubon, others).
b) Break up the group into committees, perhaps based on regions (Apopka area, Winter Garden-Oakland, Lake County, etc).
c) Have alternate monthly meetings (Committees and full membership)
d) Begin listing current existing assets for ecotourism development and proposed projects
e) Have coalition hear presentations from committees, vote whether to approve. Have each member group present one or two delegates which will vote? (We have some opposition groups to the eco-plan. What happens if they oppose).
- Presentation of our plans: when a project is approved, a group is selected to plan it and present it to the right agency, group, etc. then have the coalition politic for acceptance. Make this an on-going process, don’t wait to produce a list before we start working toward approval.
- Funding, as usual, will be our biggest problem. Presentation plans should include possible funding sources.
- Determine the best way to do things like branding our projects and day-to-day activities (record keeping, publicity, website, Facebook, etc.)
- Once we start listing possible projects, we need to schedule a thorough bus tour of the entire basin to help us decide the best locations, etc.
- Define the area covered by the coalition: suggest using the Drainage Basin delineation.