By Buster Thompson, Citrus County Chronicle
An educated society is the backbone to making a successful community.
Whether it’s a pathway toward a graduate degree or getting certified in a vocational trade, a person’s knowledge keeps their area neighborhoods, businesses and governments strong.
But education demands in Citrus County are ever-changing, and if the system can’t keep up with what parents, students, teachers, state mandates and expanding infrastructure need, want or require, stagnation sets in.
So what does Citrus County want for its schools over the next 10 years, as technology and size keep growing in classrooms?
That’s the question Citrus 2030’s Education Aspiration Group wants its county to answer at an upcoming Vision Check on Oct. 5 at the College of Central Florida’s Citrus campus in Lecanto.
Special to the Chronicle - Editorial Section
THE ISSUE: Vision Check 2030.
OUR OPINION: Plan now to make a better future for all of us.
As Maj. Justin Ferrara of the Citrus County Sheriff’s Office pointed out in a recent guest column, Florida, and by extension Citrus County, continue to see significant population growth.
Florida is now the third most populous states in the country. Citrus County’s population is expected to grow by 10 percent over the next decade to 161,100.
This type of growth increases the demand for services and puts a strain on the existing resources and those agencies providing resources.
The sheriff’s department is included those agencies that will face challenges in the next decade. Those challenges will require planning for today as they will directly affect the budget. Planning ahead will not only position law enforcement to meet the upcoming challenges, but will can help save money in the long run.
Lace Blue-McLean/Guest Column to the Chronicle
Beginning with its inception in 1995, the heart of Citrus 20/20 Inc. was always “Living in Harmony with Nature” (originally named Nature & Man), with our water resources repeatedly identified as Citrus County’s core issue.
From the 1996 March to the Mall, to the 1999 Vision Check, to the 2007 Vision Check, the citizens of Citrus County repeatedly affirmed that our water resources and the natural resources that they support are the key to our quality of life, as well as our ability to sustain residential and economic growth. It was only at the 2010 Vision Check following the 2008 Great Recession that our water resources took a second place to economic development.
Meredith Linley Bleakley/Guest Column to the Chronicle
When I moved back home to Crystal River in 2009, I had been out of college for just five short years. I had spent the previous decade attending Florida State University, then living and working in Jacksonville Beach running political campaigns. Just about everyone in my life thought I was certifiably crazy to be (excited about) moving back to my small hometown.
If you know me at all, you know I don’t put too much stock in other people’s opinions of me, so I confidently told them I was elated to be moving home.
There was nothing wrong with Jacksonville Beach, but it wasn’t home. I was involved in the community there, but I felt as though I was just going through the motions to occupy my time. My heart wasn’t in it. I wanted to be back here, and I wanted to be heavily involved in this community.
So with a preschool-aged daughter in tow and a job working with Josh Wooten at the Chamber of Commerce waiting for me, we made the move from big city to small town.
I was probably every nonprofit organizations dream volunteer that first year. I didn’t know how to say no. I wanted to be involved with every group that was doing good work in our community. I wanted to have a say in the direction we were taking Citrus County, I wanted to make sure this area held the same small town charm I experienced growing up but also that we were preparing for smart managed growth to sustain us for future generations.
Of course organizations that I had been involved with as a teen were some of the first to recruit me. One of those was Citrus 20/20; my senior year of high school I sat on that board as a student member. Toward the end of 2009, Citrus 20/20 was gearing up for Vision Check 2020, a one-day vision-casting event where any community member could participate and contribute ideas of how they wanted Citrus County to look in the year 2020.
Spoiler alert, we are four months away from 2020. Gulp!
Gloria Bishop/Guest Column to the Chronicle
The Citrus 2020 plan did not address career and technical education (CTE), but changes brought about by various forces required it to be added to the Citrus 2030 plan.
The mere emergence of the topic as part of Citrus 2030 Vision Check is indicative of how things have changed in regard to options available to students (the theme Destiny by Choice being apropos, there being more choice in post-secondary education now).
In 1995, the emphasis was not on training in the trades. This led to the lessening of youth entering the trades. Now we face a severe shortage of tradespeople at a time when these skills are more in demand than ever, based upon the way the future of work appears to be developing. This shortage impacted Citrus County as it has grown and diversified its economic base from the original vision of 1995. The urgency is real, because we are already behind and need to close the gap.
In response to growing public interest, the registration deadline for the Citrus 2030 “Destiny by Design” Vision Check, scheduled from 8:30 a.m. to 4:00 p.m., Saturday, October 5 at the College of Central Florida Citrus Campus Conference Center in Lecanto, has been extended through Monday, September 16.
County residents interested in participating in the development of Citrus County’s strategic pathway to the year 2030 are urged to visit the Citrus 2030 website at www.citrus2030.org to download a registration form or call the Citrus County Chamber at 352-795-3149.
The registration form and $15 registration fee (payable to Citrus County Chamber) for beverages, continental breakfast and luncheon should be mailed to the Citrus County Chamber of Commerce, Attn: Citrus 2030, 915 North Suncoast Blvd., Crystal River, FL 34429.
Don’t miss this opportunity to help design our county’s destiny.
Justin Ferrara/Guest Column to the Chronicle
Recently, Florida’s growing population surpassed New York, making us the nation’s third most populous state. Citrus County has shared in Central Florida’s evolution from a largely rural region to a flourishing community where tourism and urbanization contribute to our economic revitalization, while simultaneously straining our infrastructure system.
We are all endeavoring to accommodate the stressors of an ever-growing population. According to the University of Florida’s Bureau of Economic and Business Research (2018), Citrus County’s population could increase by over 10% to reach 161,100 residents by 2030. The bureau estimates the state of Florida may exceed 22 million residents as early as 2022.
Additionally, surrounding counties such as Marion, Sumter, and Hernando will all experience significant population increases during the same period. The upcoming completion of the Suncoast Parkway’s expansion into our community, and its subsequent move to the north, will transform the landscape of Citrus County.
Florida’s progress brings both opportunities and potential challenges as Citrus County finds itself at a crucial crossroads trying to balance development and maintaining our natural resources.
By Nancy Kennedy, Citrus County Chronicle
Successful communities don’t happen by accident — it takes input and a buy-in from everyone.
With that in mind, the steering committee of Vision Check 2030 invites the public to a kick-off mixer from 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 12, at Lollygaggers Sports Pub, 744 U.S. 19, Crystal River (in the same plaza as Harbor Freight Tools).
Cash bar — light appetizers will be served.
This is an opportunity to meet the people on the steering committee, ask questions — and volunteer.
It’s also a fundraising event. Tip jars will be available to collect cash and/or business sponsorship checks.
Funds raised will go to cover the cost of the upcoming Vision Check 2030 event Saturday, Oct. 5, at the College of Central Florida (CF).
At that time, the public will be able to help identify issues that are critical to the county’s future, just the group Citrus 20/20 did back in the 1990s.
Businesses interested in sponsoring Vision Check 2030 or for more information, email Ardath Prendergast at email@example.com.
Special to the Chronicle - Editorial Section
THE ISSUE: Health in All Policies is about creating a healthy, livable community.
OUR OPINION: Be part of making it happen.
The term “Health in All Policies” may be new to most of us in Citrus County, but it’s a concept that many locations have adopted throughout Florida, as well as across the nation and even the world.
As a recent Chronicle guest column noted, Health in All Policies (HiAP) is about people being aware of what constitutes a healthy community — including physical and social determinants of health — and ensuring through education and advocacy that decision-makers in all areas adopt “health in all policies” thinking. HiAP is a collaborative approach to improving the health of all people by incorporating health considerations into decision-making across all sectors and policy areas.
Citrus County will be hearing that term more and more, as people in a variety of community sectors start bending their thinking in that direction, and as the Citrus 2030 community visioning project solicits input for how to build a healthy, livable Citrus County community.
Ardath Prendergast/GUEST COLUMN to the Chronicle
In many communities, it seems art and culture are the last items people focus on when determining what is most important among the many priorities they must choose from.
But think about it: When communities DO choose the arts, they thrive. The arts open the door to beauty, creativity, critical thinking, mental and physical health, and a sense of well-being. Communities that welcome the essential role that arts and culture play in the community are more vibrant to live in and to visit.
Since the Citrus 20/20 plan was developed 25 years ago, Citrus County has made strides in the arts. Lecanto High School boasts a strong School of Art, Citrus High has its Drama Club, the Art Center in Hernando stays busy hosting art exhibits, workshops, plays and music. The elegant Valerie Theatre is a showpiece in downtown Inverness, and the Old Courthouse Museum has exhibited stellar works from the Smithsonian and other museums. Public murals are sprouting up in Crystal River, Inverness, Floral City and Homosassa.
And yet, it is still difficult for many to see the economic and educational value of the arts.