Laura Starkey

Citation
Laura Starkey

Material Information

Title:
Laura Starkey
Series Title:
West Central Florida land use oral history project
Creator:
Starkey, Laura, 1965-
Mansfield, Bill
University of South Florida Libraries -- Florida Studies Center. -- Oral History Program
University of South Florida -- Tampa Library
Place of Publication:
Tampa, Fla
Publisher:
University of South Florida Tampa Library
Publication Date:
Language:
English
Physical Description:
1 sound file ( 60 min.) : digital, MPEG4 file + ;

Subjects

Subjects / Keywords:
Ecotourism -- Florida -- Pasco County ( lcsh )
Natural areas -- Florida -- Pasco County ( lcsh )
Genre:
Oral history. ( local )
Online audio. ( local )
interview ( marcgt )
Oral history ( local )
Online audio ( local )

Notes

Summary:
Laura Starkey, director of business development for J.B. Starkey's Flatwoods Adventure and director of conservation of lands for Starkey Land Company, talks about her experiences with land conservation and ecotourism. She discusses the Starkey Land Company, the development and activities of the Flatwoods Adventure, connections with the Audubon Society and other conservation groups, publicity, and environmental education. She focuses on the importance of nature in people's lives.
Venue:
Interview conducted August 9, 2006, in Odessa, Fla.
System Details:
Mode of access: World Wide Web.
Statement of Responsibility:
interviewed by William Mansfield.

Record Information

Source Institution:
University of South Florida Library
Holding Location:
University of South Florida
Rights Management:
All applicable rights reserved by the source institution and holding location.
Resource Identifier:
028592561 ( ALEPH )
182556232 ( OCLC )
W34-00011 ( USFLDC DOI )
w34.11 ( USFLDC Handle )

Postcard Information

Format:
Audio

Downloads

This item has the following downloads:


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West Central Florida land use oral history project
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Laura Starkey, director of business development for J.B. Starkey's Flatwoods Adventure and director of conservation of lands for Starkey Land Company, talks about her experiences with land conservation and ecotourism. She discusses the Starkey Land Company, the development and activities of the Flatwoods Adventure, connections with the Audubon Society and other conservation groups, publicity, and environmental education. She focuses on the importance of nature in people's lives.
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text William Mansfield: There is this running. I have to wear these headphones to make sure it works. And I always put a label on the disc by saying: This is Bill Mansfield, from the University of South Floridas Land Use Oral History Project talking to Ms. Laura Starkey, here in the offices of the Starkey Ranch in Odessa, Florida on August 9, 2006.
1
00:00:22.7
Ms. Starkey, we always get people to start out by having them state their name and tell us when they were born and where they were born. So let her go.
2
00:00:30.4
Laura Starkey: Okay. My name is Laura Starkey. I was born on December 12, 1965 in Tampa, Florida.
3
00:00:38.4
WM: Okay, and how would you describe your current occupation?
4
00:00:44.1
LS: My current occupation is two-fold. At this moment I have half-time work for Flatwoods Adventures, which is my Dads eco-tourism business.1 Im the director of business development and then Im also the director of conservation lands for Starkey Ranch, Starkey Land Company. Which is developing an institute for the conservation area of the ranch, as we head down the road with our plans.
5
00:01:17.8
WM: Well I guess explain what you do for the Flatwoods Adventures and then the development institute?
6
00:01:29.2
LS: Okay. For Flatwoods AdventuresIve been with Flatwoods full-time, for about two years, having left my teaching job to come help my Dad look at the option of converting Flatwoods Adventures into a non-profit organization. Its currently a for-profit business. We looked at that project, that option for about six months and decided that it was not the best plan for Flatwoods Adventures at this time. At that point I stayed on board, on salary, you know, on staff, to increase marketing and business development. Just to help with smoothing out some of the business elements of it and kind of overseeing the business side of things, in an effort to get it to where it is closer to solvent. Its not been a realIts a wildly successful project, in terms of the publics experience with it, you know, the people that come out here their experience with it. But from a business standpoint, it has really not been so hot.
7
00:02:45.8
WM: The newspaper article said that and your Dad said the he was underwriting the project. And whats the conservation development?
8
00:02:58.9
LS: The conservation project is part of Starkey Ranch, the Starkey Family or Starkey Land Company. Well, Starkey Land Company is the land holding company, which owns the ranch, which basically is made up of family members. In general we just refer to it all as Starkey Ranch. But as far as our plans for the future go, we are going to be developing portions of the remaining ranch in mixed use, traditional neighborhood design-developments, little pods of neighborhoods, a town center, a district park, different things like that.
9
00:03:41.0
So we have a master plan that were developing on that. Were going through the DRI processthe Development of Regional Impact process and part of that project, that overall plan for the remaining ranch is to keep a chunk of about roughly a 1,00 acres in conservation. And alongside of that conservation area, we want to develop an institute, which will, most likely, be a non-profit organization, which will encompass the eco-tours, that type of educational element as well as possibly a research facility for one of the state universities, a place for people to explore the interface between man and nature as well as continue our being a part of the living history of this area.
10
00:04:41.2
So thatswere in the early planning stages of that, just as we are with the development of the ranch. So Im in the wonderful position of getting to figure out what that institute is going to look like and how we are going to go about making that happen.
11
00:04:58.4
WM: Your father said that you were developing thewhat, Longleaf or was it Greenleaf, I cant remember?
12
00:05:7.9
LS: Longleaf.
13
00:05:8.5
WM: The Longleaf area and you had to go through the DRIDevelopment of Regional
14
00:05:15.4
LS: The Development of Regional Impact.
15
00:05:16.1
WM: Tell me about that process.
16
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LS: Okay. Longleaf is separate from the DRI. That was done by my brothers.2
17
00:05:23.1
WM: Oh, so thats already been done?
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00:05:24.1
LS: Thats alreadyessentially its roughly halfway completed and they have someone, a developer who is finishing the construction of the second half of the whole project. That is separate, thats already visible; people are living there, mowing their lawns and everything. Right now were in the DRI process of the other part of the ranch, the remaining part of the ranch.
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00:05:50.0
WM: Okay, tell me about that then.
20
00:05:51.6
LS: Well the DRI is a statewide permitting, required permitting process for any project thats over a certain size, a certain threshold of size. And we made a decision that it would be more responsible and more profitable but also have more options to do a really good, high quality responsible job, if we went the DRI route as opposed to piecemealing off bits of the property as we had to back against the wall, selling off of pieces.
21
00:06:30.8
So part of its been a decision from our family to go with the DRI, based onmostly wanting to be proactive, on the offensive of what were going to do with our property as opposed to reactionary, defensive decision making. So the DRI process was a decision that we made, oh gosh two years ago now.
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00:06:59.4
WM: When you say more responsiblecould you explain what you mean by that?
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00:07:4.7
LS: Responsible in forms ofwere looking at being able to keep a big chunk of the more, you know environmentally sensitive areas and beautiful pristine areas of the ranch. Basically the area that were using for the eco-tours now, that is roughly the area were going keep in conservation. To be able and be responsible and manage that land as well as preserve it thats one element of responsibility that we felt.
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00:07:39.9
Financial responsibility, in terms of doing things that took into consideration the needs of all of our family members with our varying ages and life-stages and financial needs. The realisticness of, its not just Granddad making all of the decisions. Hes passed on, Dads older in years and now the third generation is making the decisions with Dad. And were not going to be here forever. So kind of thinking down the road, generations from now, the best, responsible use of this property. Not only for ourselves, who have been stewards of it for the last sixty-some years, but also for future generations. So for this whole area, looking at this whole region as well as this most immediate area.
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00:08:33.7
Also, responsibility in terms of social responsibility, in terms of creating a place that twenty, fifty, a hundred years from now, that is gonna be a place that people are gonna really value and say, Somebody somewhere back sometime, really did a good job of making this happen. Whereas instead of being another cul-de-sac subdivision that could be God knows what fifty, a hundred years from now.
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WM: Just to make sure I understand you, youre trying to balance economic realities with environmental responsibilities?
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LS: Yes.
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WM: Okay.
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LS: Yes. And thats really what weve had to face over the last few years already. A lot of the decisions weve had to make, weve had to consider those types of things.
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WM: Oh thank you so much.
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00:09:25.2
Unidentified Woman: Do you want anything?
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LS: Is that coffee?
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Unidentified Woman: Yeah. Want me to make you tea?
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LS: Could you make me like a half a coffee and then a bunch of half and half?
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Unidentified Woman: A bunch of half and half?
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LS: Yeah like maybe this much half and half.
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Unidentified Woman: And no sugar?
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LS: And like two spoons of sugar.
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Unidentified Woman: Two spoons ofokay.
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LS: Thank you. That will help me warm up.
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WM: I didnt want my afternoon nap to make me
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LS: Yeah exactly it will keep me from yawning in the middle of my answers too.
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WM: But you know, you eat lunch and you get a full stomach and you want to take a nap, so I figured the coffee will help keep me upright.
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LS: Yup, I know this is right at that napping hour. When I taught I hated teaching classes at this hour because everybodys asleep.
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00:10:6.4
WM: But anyhow, you need to face the economic realities, but you also want to do the right thing environmentally? How did youI dont know what to call it, environmental awareness, and social responsibility? What brought about that, that way of thinking? How did that evolve?
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00:10:26.5
LS: Its just the way we were brought up. I dont mean to sound, you know, overly polished about it, but we justI think a lot of landowners, ranchers, farmers would agree, that as farmers or ranchers, people that are in agriculture business, taking care of the land is just a natural thing that you do.
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00:10:55.0
And land management here, we grew up knowing what land management is about. From controlled burns of the flatwoods areas going on since we were kids. My granddad and dad have always done that; for certainly as long as I can remember. For the last thirty years, anyway, they have done controlled burns, and just being concerned about the crops, which are the cattle as well as the grasses and the pasturelands, and all of those things. So it just was a natural fit, literally. Being a ranching family, maybe we have it in our genes. But were a pretty sentimental bunch as well. I think most people are sentimental with the land that their family, you know their fore-parents have raised them on. But I think were definitely a pretty sentimental bunch with the property.
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00:11:58.6
Thank you. I appreciate it.
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00:12:1.0
So its naturalraised, a sentimentality for the land. But were not so sentimental that we are not realistic as well. I think our generation, myself and my sister and my brothersI think that weve had to look at the realistic side. We arent ranchers. None of the four of us were really drawn to ranching ourselves.
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00:12:38.6
So what does that mean? Do we hire-out ranching for the next few generations? Do we go against what, you know our parents raised us to be who and what we wanted to be. Thats an honorable thing. Most people wouldnt argue with that, desire of part of the American dream. Not that bettering yourself means not becoming a rancher, but none of the four of us happened to really be drawn, professionally, to ranching life. So, thats part of that reality.
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WM: Okay. I seem to remember in the newspaper that after your grandfather passed away, you all had to sell some of the land to pay the estate taxes. If I recollect, the newspaper said that at that point ranching was a real economic liability. Is that
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00:13:39.4
LS: Yeah. The issue is part of it happened when Granddad planned for the future by putting the top half of the ranch into the wilderness park. That you knowcut our ranching area by half, roughly although that wasnt mostly cleared for pasture; a lot of it was woodlands. And then having to face the estate tax, we did have to pay in cash. His estate was valued in land; therefore we had to liquidate. And were able to put that 3,500 additional acres by selling it to the DOT, who needed it for mitigation, were able to add it to the parkland.
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00:14:28.8
So, in effect, we were able to add to the parkland and having to do a couple of other salesother small developments on the fringes, we were able to pay off the estate tax. The issue with ranching is you need a certain number of acres, I dont know that statistic Steve, Dad, Trey probably all know that statistic of certain number of hundred of acres are needed per head of cattle, in order to be viable as a business. So after all of these sales, precipitated byinitiated, whatever the word is, by the sales to the wilderness park, due to A wanting to protect it for future uses, future conservation as well as B having to pay off all that estate tax. The end result, we have to have a smaller space and that becomes unviable as a ranch.
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00:15:27.3
Now, another possibility would have been to buy other property and continue ranching. Again it comes back to what the current generation really wanted to do with their lives. Did we really want to continue into the ranching business? Honestly, like I said, were not ranching hands. So my Dad two years ago sold his cattle herd to a family that is doing that, that has a large spread and this ranch is a satellite location for them, continue to be a ranching family.
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00:16:3.3
WM: Okay that clarifies things.
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LS: Okay.
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WM: Ranching is pretty demanding and a risky enterprise. I can see how you might want to think about doing something else.
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LS: Yeah, its never been an extremely lucrative business. Im sure that Dad explained this in his interview, that its a cyclical business. There is a cycle of the cattle industry in terms of sales of beef and everything goes in a cycle. Youve got good years and youve got bad years. And the value, in this area, has become higher for the land itself than the cattle business.
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WM: Its like one farmer Ive talked to said, In farming you make a living, you dont make money.
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LS: Right. Exactly.
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WM: So you came here full-time to work with the eco-tourism? Tell me about what youhow you all set the eco-tourism up. Your father mentioned looking at another ranch, or another eco-tourism enterprise. So tell me what you all did to adapt Starkey Ranch for eco-tourism? Not to adapt but to prepare it.
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00:17:28.5
LS: Well I think he did hisI dont want to repeat what he probably went over, but he got the idea through a conference or workshop he had gone to and saw a couple of other ranches doing similar things and started developing. Hes got such an inventors creative, orderly mind. Creative and orderly, I should say. He figured out building these buses, adapting them into tour buses. Then he hired a woman, Rhonda, who is still with us. Shes the general manager and has been with Dad since the beginning, since the year prior to opening to the public.
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00:18:13.4
She helped him developshe has experience with eco-tourism as well as some related fields so she was highly qualified to come in and help develop this. She worked with Dad. Dad went around with a tape recorder and drove through the ranch, talking into the recorder about things that he knows about and wanted to explore, you know, wanted to present more of and they develop the route. They looked at how tothey added the information, the knowledge, and the educational pieces that needed to be in there for all of the different ecosystems so that family and area history as well as the environmental education.
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00:19:6.8
So they developed this tour script and they hired five part-time tour guides and trained them over several months. Worked really hard on training these women. All turned out being women. Theyve been incredibly great tour guides. But three of them are still with us. One of them recently retiringone of them that retired was here today, out there cutting the branches on the route, so shes still around. (phone rings)
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WM: Ill pause this if you need to take that call.
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LS: Okay, Im not going to take it, I was just put it on do not disturb. There, then we dont have to hear the ring.
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00:19:51.2
So they hired the staff and started marketing it to different areas, you know, got some area media coverage. Joined some different associations, worked on the marketing, produced brochures. Its been a long road from a marketing and publicity standpoint. Got a good deal of attention, when it first started out as a brand-new. Wow! Look! An eco-tour in Pasco County, on a cattle ranch! What a novel idea. So you got the new kid on the block attention early on.
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00:20:39.0
But, of course, you have to continue that and it costs money. You have to spend the money to make the money. So we kept spending the money and spending the money, and people were starting to come in but because it was such a new project and a new concept for this area, and not highly replicated around. There were some other businesses to learn from and other people to learn from, but there was an awful lot offiguring it out as we go, going on that took several years.
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00:21:11.5
Hindsight is twenty-twenty. When I came on board two years ago, I was here kind of working part time in the gift shop, back when they opened. So I was around for the first year or so before I got busy with my own career and graduate school. I saw it, somewhat at the ground level seven years ago. And then coming back two years ago and looking at the non-profit option, we could look back and say that we should have gone non-profit from the beginning. But seven years into it, it was a little too late to try and shift gears and change direction from a for-profit business to a non-profit. It is such a work culture change, if you know what I mean.
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So we could have gone non-profit, thats one of the decisionsyou know Dads original thought was that this could be something that actually brought in a little bit of cash flow for the ranch. That was his original thought and that was his reasoning, I think, behind not going non-profit at the beginning. And feeling like hes been involved in non-profits for the orchestra and the master chorale and other arts organizations. We all know non-profit is full of fund raising and asking people for money and there is this feeling of, Oh we cant be asking people for money. Which wouldnt necessarily be the case. You can still sell tickets for a non-profit. But anyway, he was still thinking that it could be an economic answer, for the ranch.
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00:23:0.2
Not completely. I dont think he ever intended it to be, except maybe in his wildest dreams, the answer to encroaching development on a cattle ranch. So I think a lot of times people get the impression is out there that eco-tourism is going to solve the woes of a cattle ranch that has encroaching development. I think thats a little naive to think that was going to ever be a possibility. I think he was just hoping that it could be one thing to bring some attention to this property and be able to share this property with other people, at the same time bringing in some money and helping us out economically.
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WM: Kind of like another crop, so to speak?
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LS: Exactly! Diversifying your crops.
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WM: What changes have taken place in eco-tourism, here at Flatlands
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LS: Flatwoods.
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WM: Im sorry Flatwoods Adventures? What changes have you made, or seen in the past seven years?
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00:24:12.8
LS: Well, we have added different elements. Weve added horseback riding, horseback activities. We added it and then we changed our business format where we contract it out, instead of working together and doing the overhead. We changed it to where we simply lease the facility to the horseback activities. So, were not having to answer the phones for them and do the booking. He takes care of all of that. So thats one change.
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00:24:48.0
Business-wise we worked out the best way to do that. Programming-wise, people love horseback riding. Our insurance people and our attorney dont love it, because it is high risk and theyre nervous about that. I dont know if I should put that in there or not. (laughs)
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WM: We can edit that out if you want.
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LS: Yeah okay. But you know, itsas far as the public goes, they love the horseback riding and having a petting zoo, and that sort of thing. Thats just a part of being on a ranch that people can get their hands on.
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00:25:26.5
Another thing is we have a pavilion out there now that we didnt have at the beginning. That we rent out for private parties and events. We have a moonlight festival thats been going on for two or three years now, wildly popular. Everyone loves it. People come out October through May the Saturday night closest to the full moon, each month. We have barbecue, we have campfires, we have hayrides, optional horseback riding. We have folksingers around the campfire. Families come, couples come, groups, birthday parties, seniors, singles groups, you know single individual people come. I mean its just an amazingly popular event.
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00:26:15.2
So thats been a great thing. Right now were in the process of developing new educational programs. Weve pretty much stuck with the original tour. The actual two hour buggy tour that we started out with seven years ago is essentially the same thing were doing today. So were working on developing variations on that, so that people, who have been on it once, will want to come back and do something different.
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00:26:48.5
The problem is that there are a few of us that would love to come back time and again and bring our friends and relatives that are visiting. But for the most part, once people come on, one time they feel like theyve done it. Where as horseback riding, theyll come again and again. Moonlight festival, theyll come again and again. So when it comes to education, most people, not all of us, but most people just want to hear it one time. (laughs)
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00:27:14.4
WM: We dont want biology 101 but once.
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LS: Exactly. Exactly.
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WM: Well tell me about the educational aspect of it. Have you worked with the school systems?
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LS: Yes! We are an approved field trip site for Hillsborough County; I believe Pinellas County and Pasco County. So we have school groups from north Pinellas and north Hillsborough, primarily, and west Pasco. Logistically we have within a short driving distance so the school buses can get to-and-from in time. But during field trip season, post-FCAT, until a few weeks before school is out, were booked five days a week, double buses with school groups. And then were booking in the afternoon for non-school groups.
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00:28:7.5
So were doing really well with the schools. For example we have a middle school teacher at Tarpon Middle School who wrote a curriculum book forI think its eighth grade childrena book called A Land Remembered written by Patrick Smith. If you havent read it you really ought to. Have you read it?
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WM: I havent read it, but several people have recommended it.
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00:28:36.9
LS: Oh its just a delightful read. Its just really interesting. We sell it like hotcakes at our bookstore. Children read it as part of their state curriculum, of state history. I believe eighth-grade is the year they go through state history. So it is part of their history and we do A Land Remembered tour for kids that are reading that book in their school. One middle school teacher, Margaret Pascal, has developed a childrens eighth-grade curriculum book on A Land Remembered. So shes working a lot with us and is really excited about maybe developing more stuff with us.
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00:29:15.7
She is so thrilled with what were doing. Shes so thrilled with what her middle school is doing with it. Weve got some really nice collaborations going on with educators in the area. Gosh theres something else I want to mention. We have seniors groups that come out. We work with tour operators to get groups out.
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00:29:41.9
We are finding, from a business standpoint, when you have groups come out, its better financially for us. Unfortunately weve just got to pay attention to primarily, first and foremost at this point. Because Dad, you got to love himhas been pouring so much money into this. And anyone who runs a business you just dont keep doing that after seven years. Put it to charity, but hes been willing to do it. But at a certain point I feel like my job is to make sure we do everything we can to get away from that dependence on his checkbook.
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00:30:25.6
So the tour operators and the school groups you have the same overhead of running a bus with a group of six people, you know, tourist, people that pick-up a brochure at their hotel and come out. To have four or six people on the bus is the same overhead as having a group of forty kids or, you know, twenty adults.
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00:30:51.6
So, of course it makes better sense for us to really push for groups. We wont turn away individuals, but in terms of where were marketing itthings like that are ways that were working it, getting it better. Learning as we go whats the best marketing and business direction to go to keep the place a float.
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00:31:17.4
WM: Well have you worked with the school systems? Have you gone to them or have they come to you?
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00:31:22.6
LS: We usuallywe do some direct marketing. They come here, in terms of the tours. We dont go into the schools.
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WM: I know, but in terms of scheduling.
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00:31:32.9
LS: In terms of getting them schedulingwe usually send out notices, with like, summer programs and that type of thing. During the summertime we get lots of summer day camps or summer camps that bring their kids out for the day for a fieldtrips. So weve sent out letters about that. Weve sent packets out to the schools. At this point that has pretty much gotten enough, you know, rolling with it that we dontI dont think we have to send those letters out as much as we did a couple of years ago.
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00:32:12.9
I know two years ago we were sending out letters to the schools, but [now] if we have to raise the price we might send a letter out saying what this years offerings are this and here are the prices. But, that element, getting the school groups out here. Now they are booking as soon as they get their budget.
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Schoolteachers are calling us. I think its late August, at a certain point, when they are doing their planning for the year we know when that time is and were just on hand with the scheduling book. Those teachers get in there and book it just as soon as they can. Its got enough going with it with the school groups.
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WM: So it sounds like its catching on but more slowly than youd like. What about environmentalist groups, like the Audubon, or the World Wildlife Fund? Have you worked with them?
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LS: Weve worked very much with Audubon. Were on the Audubons list of important birding areas. The local Audubon Society group comes and does an annual bird count. One of our tour guides is an avid Audubon member and leader in the area. She usually brings out Audubon groups, different chapters throughout the area. So, Audubon, definitely. Weve had environmental educators out. Weve hadgoodnessvarious different environmental groups. Im sure weve had Sierra Club chapters out here and different things. But, you know, the ones that have groups in the area do get out here.
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WM: What kind of permitting process did you have to go through for the eco-tourism? What county and state agencies did you have to deal with for that?
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LS: I dont know. I wasnt really in on that element of that. I cant answer that question knowledge. Rhonda and Dad would be the ones to ask that too.
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WM: Well thats a good answer. Id rather you tell me that than invent something.
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LS: (laughs) Yeah hem and haw and invent something.
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WM: Okay, now what about the environmental institute that youve talked about developing? Tell me about that.
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LS: Were still in the early planning stages. Ive been, for the past year, kind of getting out and collecting information, collecting ideas, meeting people, making contacts, networking and have started this strategic plan of the preliminary mission statement and vision statement. Im working on a proposal for the family that will develop into a business plan. So were still in the real early planning stages.
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Essentially the idea of it is to have two prongs to it. One prong will be land management; the other prong will be people experiencing nature. If you think of it as the two prongs being man or humanity and nature, both take care of each other. There is sort of a symbiotic relationship between, you know, humanity and nature. In this day and age and in this area, specifically, nature really depends on humanity to take care of it.
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Were not the arctic wild, where we just need to leave well enough alone which is to be said in itself. But, in this area we have to take the control burns into our own hands, because we cant really let nature, we wont, we, this society wont allow nature to just bulldoze fires through here because of property and all of those things.
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So, humanity, in this area has to take care of nature and nature takes care of humanity when we do that. So Im seeing this as a symbiotic relationship between the two. The institute will have the two prongs of that relationship, with nature being taken care of through our land management plan, which will include exotic weed control. Invasive weed species control is ongoing. Theres going to continue to be more things coming in as the world gets smaller. Control burns; managing pasture lands if they want to stay in pasturelands, restoration of certain habitats, that type of thing. Other elements of that would be a biological research station, which would also be feeding into the bigger picture of taking care of land while were contributing to that down the roadthe element of taking care of nature.
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WM: You said youve been collecting information, getting ideas, could you tell me about what information youve been collecting and where youve been getting the ideas?
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LS: Yeah. There is sort of a new term for what were doing called Community Stewardship Organization, or CSO. There is a group out in Arizona called the Sonoran Institute. They have stated a network of these CSOs. Its still kind of a new concept right now.
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Its basically the idea of you have a conservation organization, you have a developer. Generally those two groups have been diametrically opposed and in conflict with each other. But there are a lot of developers who really want to be conservationists. There are a lot of conservationists and environmentalists who are realistic about that development is going to happen, so therefore it is those two groups that are willing to come together and say, Lets do a great thing. Given that were going to need to develop in certain areas, lets do it right! Lets make a development that is conservation oriented, that is community focused that is going to bring these things together in a good way.
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So Ive gotten involved with that group and in learning through different projects that they have and going to visit those projects. Also been seeing whats going on with other TND [Traditional Neighborhood Design] New Urbanist-type of projects around. New Urbanism is an area that is beginning to embrace conservation development more and more. I think were at the beginning of seeing those two philosophies join together.
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So going to conferences and seminars and visiting other places and getting to know people that are other landowners that are going through DRI. Specifically developers that are conservation oriented, seeing other projects where people are successfully using green designs, green engineering, conservation oriented development, housing projects as well as non-profit organizations, institutes and land trust areas, where youve got a development occurring with conservation easements on the natural parts of the development. So, Ive been looking at different models of other projects that are doing similar things to what we are doing.
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WM: Now have these beenyouve mentioned going out to Arizona, or was it New Mexico?
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LS: They are based in Arizona. I havent been out there, but Ive met with them.
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WM: What are some of the projects youve looked at? Have there been any in Florida?
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LS: Yes. I know Spring Island, is a conservation development out of the low country of South Carolina. Its not really the same that ours will be in that ours it is a retirement settlement, second home, higher end, you know minimal housing typelike one house on a big conservation lot. Maybe thirty-six homes on this island, I cant remember how many. Its a resort style of conservation development. But, theyve set up what they call a landthe Spring Island Trust, or the Spring Island Institute, an organization that oversees the land management and involves the community members in preserving, conserving their island, their space.
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Prairie Crossing is another project up in Illinois, just north of Chicago, which is probably more similar to what we are doing, in that they are in a suburban area. Theyre about an hour outside of Chicago. You can get there in forty-five minutes on the train. Theyre on a train stop.
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Theyre working on prairie restoration, so they are taking farm land that before, you know 150 years ago, before it became farm land, it was prairie land. Which as far as natural ecosystems go it wasnt just sending it back to farmland. The land had gone from natural prairie land, to farmland, which was very intensive and degraded and destroyed the prairie grasses and the prairie eco-system. Now its moving into housing, so they are taking the housing area and restoring it back to prairie grasses. Natural prairie using old seed banks and amazing stuff that they are doing.
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Of course they had a different set of habitats. They have a different set of economic circumstances and a lot of things are different. So I havent yet found any projects that are parallel, or equivalent to what were doing.
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Or equivalent, but parallel yes, equivalent, no. So thats why it takes lots of collecting and sorting out and taking bits from the way they are doing their structure and organization here and how they are doing their land management over there and how they are creating their institute over here. So, taking all those pieces together were sort of inventing the wheel, but were not fully inventing the wheel.
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WM: Youre inventing a wheel that will work here.
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LS: Exactly, yeah.
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WM: What kind ofI meanhow have you been received with this in the local area? I know with real estate prices just going up and up and up, are people resistant to this notion? Are they in favor of it? What kind of response have you received?
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LS: Well its funny. Its funny the responses we get, funny as in interesting. Because there are so many people that are here that have been here for a long time. There are many people that are here, that are moving here every day.
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Flatwoods Adventures has an interesting opportunityor interaction with the public because across the yard over here at our offices, at Flatwoods Adventures, every day we have the public coming in, either saying I drive by here all the time and I wondered what you?re about. Or All I want is to come back for my daughters birthday party. Weve come here the past two years. But we have interaction, daily, with public in this area and what were hearing from them is a combination ofa lot of times the first thing they say is, Oh were so glad youre here still. Or, So glad to see open space. Were so glad youre not putting houses up. Youre not putting houses up are you? Youre not going to ever develop this, are you?
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And witch I find interesting, because when I get into conversation with them and you say, Where are you from? Where do you live? Oh, I live in Trinity. Well Trinity was a cow pasture about twenty minutes ago (laughs). I mean literally, it was just a few years a go that it was a cow pasture, like they are looking at here. It looked exactly the same, the Mitchell Ranch. Now its their home.
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There is a realI think the public is somewhat conflicted about their feelings. They move out here because they want the green open space. Yet, they are a part of the market that is pushing the green space out. And then they find themselves feeling conflicted because they are happy to be here, yet they are wanting it all to stay this way. Well its not going to stay this way because theyre here. You know, its a real conflict. Its a real ambiguity, so I find myself a little conflicted with that attitude. But to be fair, a lot of times when Ican sayin a gentle way (laughs) when Im in a good moodand I can say You know, we all love it here. The area is booming and people move here because they like it here.
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So we have had some negative reaction to early announcements of plans for the DRI, for the development. Because people hear, Oh the Starkeys are going to develop. And a lot of people, especially those who grew up here, who are from this area, who have raised their families here even if theyre not from here, but have been here for ten or more years they tend to, Oh no! Not the Starkeys! They were going to hold out. (laughs)
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But when you sit down and talk to them and explain just some of the basic issues that are at hand. I mean we dont have time to get into all of the reasons weve made thisyears and years of process to get to this point and its still years ahead before were going to actually see anything different.
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When you sit and talk to someone about just a few of those issues they start nodding their heads and go, Oh okay. Oh, youre right! Oh wow! Yeah. I see what you mean. I think when people realize that this is just the reality; they dont feel quite as harsh aboutof course there are still a few people who are pretty hard-core about the decisions. But Ive talked to a few people who are pretty hard-core and when I tell them the whole story, or close to the whole story they do soften up about it.
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WM: That is one of the contradictions because people want to live in the country and when they move to the country
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LS: They are part of the disappearance of it.
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WM: Yeah, they help destroy the country. But what about real estate people or developer people? How do they feel about this controlled growth that you are advocating?
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LS: I dont know the full answer to that. Im not in that realm daily. I can tell you as I just did about the everyday public coming in, from my living or working with Flatwoods. I think Frank can tell you more about what the business world of developers and real estate people are feeling about it. I hear bits and pieces of people saying they are looking forward to having more real estate options and some alternatives to the same old conventional stuff, that you see in terms of developments, the same old subdivision format.
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WM: The sprawl complex?
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LS: Yeah, so people are interested. Im hearing just people sounding more interested in conservation development and mixed use, you dont have to get in your car for every dadgum thing that you want to do, besides whats in your backyard. But again I dont know the answer from the business stand point in the field.
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WM: Ive talked to some folks, down in south Hillsborough County and they were farmers and were glad to see the development, because that increased the value of their land. Which gave them more leverage when borrowing money, but also gave them, when they said, Were ready to retire, we can cash this in and retire comfortably.
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LS: Oh, yeah.
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WM: One of the individuals I talked to didnt like the idea of control or regulation, inhibiting what he would do with his land. I think property rights is the term he used.
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LS: Yeah.
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WM: He said, I should be able to do with whatever I want.
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LS: Its the backbone of our country isnt it? Property rights. (laughs) Arguably.
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WM: But where does one persons stop and anothers begin?
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LS: Exactly. But thats the fervency, people getting up in arms, literally, over property rights. Thats such an ingrained American sense of entitlement. Thats a whole other topic Im sure.
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WM: I dont reckon we need to do that. What do you seeI mean youve told me about the plans that you all have put in place, but do you foresee happening? I guess you can have me a best-case scenario and a worst-case scenario.
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LS: Happening with this ranch?
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WM: Around here, yes.
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LS: Bestcase scenario, I think over the next twenty years were going to see something really unique. A place that really develops into and grows into being some really charming and beautiful and warm neighborhoods. A lot of beautiful trees and some pasture land views, and wooded areas that are kept and an area where people are able to feel a sense of This is my home. This isnt just a subdivision I grew up in. This is my home where I raised my children This is where I grow old with my partner, my loved ones. A place where people feel that they have woods to walk in and go look at. And they can hear crickets and frogs at night and not to be freaked out by snakes and raccoons running through their back yard, where theyre backed up on a conservation.
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Because they understand that this is what were here for and this is great. I can walk to my coffee shop and walk my kid to the park to play ball and then walk that way and go have quiet time in the woods, by myself. Thats what I see as best-case scenario and healthy habitats in the woods that we keep. And some place that is an example, a replicable model, a place that people from around the country can use as an example of a place that did it right. A family that made some hard choices but took a road of integrity and made something really beautiful, and contributed to the seventh generation! (laughs)
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WM: Okay. That sounds good.
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LS: Worst-case scenario is it doesnt get to be all that. (laughs) We lose the shirt off of our backs because we didnt go the get rich quick route. Sometimes the good guy doesnt always win, you knowI mean were looking at the cost of going with green engineering and green design. Its expensive! Its expensive to do it wrong, you know? And its even more expensive to do it right.
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Hopefully we can get the numbers to match up where we can do a green design and do it right, because the market will demand it. Market demand will pay for it. I think our world is getting nearly a desperate enough of a place that whatever cost, weve got to do green design. Weve got to do more energy efficient and alternate uses of our materials and resources. It will happen. But, in the meantime, will the timing be right when it comes to us having to make the numbers work? We could miss it by five or ten years, and what have we got?
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WM: I guess the worst-case scenario would be you stocking shelves in the Wal-Mart in Starkey Plaza.
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LS: (laughs) Hopefully not Wal-Mart. At least Target. (laughs)
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WM: But either you pay for it either up front, by doing it the smart way, or you do it the cheap way and end up paying for it down-the-line.
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LS: Right.
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WM: So I can see how youd want to get it right to begin with. What kind ofI meanare you aware of any kind of pressure from real estate people or development people to sell out? To go ahead and turn it over to them for a quick profit?
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LS: We, meaningusually my older brother Trey fields most of those calls, but I know Frank gets them as well. I get some calls from people thinking Id be an option, of an in. But especially those two get calls weekly, with offers. I think now that were in the DRI process most developers know that were stuck in the mire of that, that thats just part of that process.
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But, you know there have been pressures in the past, but I think because weve been forthright with our decision making and proceeding with our plans thatI dont know if were getting as much pressure now. Trey and Frank might tell you something totally different. Im just supposing, from what my experience is, being in the environment here. So I think right now were getting some pressure, but mostly in the form of offers andyou know. Sometimes people just still come and say, Could you sell me ten acres so I can build a house with a little pasture in the back? Thats when we have to chuckle and smile and say, No, sorry thats not an option. I mean thats just notthats just an option for us, but we dont have it set up like that.
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WM: What about the county? I remember reading about the Tourism Development Council (TDC) in Pasco County. What county agencies or what kind of support did you receive from county agencies, and I guess support or advice or (inaudible)?
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LS: Well we work a lot with the county because of the permitting and were hoping to get a district park on part of property as part of our plan. We would like to see happen for our neighborhood and the surrounding neighborhoods and the county needs one in this area so were trying to work out a deal with them, still remains to be seen because its a negotiation, so its still up in the air. So we certainly have a good relationship with the county because we have been working them for years. SWIFTMUD, Southwest Florida Water Management Districtwe work hand in hand with them on a lot of things. Of course both of those agencies are on the review committee for the DRI. So were having to answer a lot of questions to them about our application. So those certainly the county and the Water Management Districtweve had to work with Tampa Bay Water with right-of-way things and things like that. Other than that I would have to refer that to Frank to answer that better. He is more in that realm.
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WM: Well, Ive been throwing questions at you for the past hour. Is there anything you want to comment on that I havent asked about?
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LS: I cant think of any thing. I was kind of letting you lead the questions.
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WM: Okay. Well Im about satisfied with the questions. And Ill just say thanks for taking the time to talk with me. And I always remind people that the information youve shared with me is going to be deposited in the Special Collections of the University of South Florida Library to be available for future research. We need your permission for scholars to have access to this. Ive got a release form that Ill have to ask you to sign.
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LS: Okay. And that will be after we look at the transcript and get it corrected?
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WM: Well, you can sign it now or you can sign it when you return the corrected transcript. Which ever suits you better.
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LS: Yeah. Ill sign it, maybe when we look at the transcript and get the corrections on it and sign it then.
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WM: Okay. I can do that.
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LS: Okay. Ill be happy to sign it. I just will, to sign it at that time.
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WM: Also Ive been photographing everybody that Ive interviewed, so can I take your picture?
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LS: Sure.
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WM: Okay. Well, let me turn this thing off.



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C O P Y R I G H T N O T I C E T h i s O r a l H i s t o r y i s c o p y r i g h t e d b y t h e U n i v e r s i t y o f S o u t h F l o r i d a L i b r a r i e s O r a l H i s t o r y P r o g r a m o n b e h a l f o f t h e B o a r d o f T r u s t e e s o f t h e U n i v e r s i t y o f S o u t h F l o r i d a C o p y r i g h t 2 0 0 7 U n i v e r s i t y o f S o u t h F l o r i d a A l l r i g h t s r e s e r v e d T h i s o r a l h i s t o r y m a y b e u s e d f o r r e s e a r c h i n s t r u c t i o n a n d p r i v a t e s t u d y u n d e r t h e p r o v i s i o n s o f t h e F a i r U s e F a i r U s e i s a p r o v i s i o n o f t h e U n i t e d S t a t e s C o p y r i g h t L a w ( U n i t e d S t a t e s C o d e T i t l e 1 7 s e c t i o n 1 0 7 ) w h i c h a l l o w s l i m i t e d u s e o f c o p y r i g h t e d m a t e r i a l s u n d e r c e r t a i n c o n d i t i o n s F a i r U s e l i m i t s t h e a m o u n t o f m a t e r i a l t h a t m a y b e u s e d F o r a l l o t h e r p e r m i s s i o n s a n d r e q u e s t s c o n t a c t t h e U N I V E R S I T Y O F S O U T H F L O R I D A L I B R A R I E S O R A L H I S T O R Y P R O G R A M a t t h e U n i v e r s i t y o f S o u t h F l o r i d a 4 2 0 2 E F o w l e r A v e n u e L I B 1 2 2 T a m p a F L 3 3 6 2 0

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Land Use Oral History Project Patel Center for Global Solutions University of South Florida Interview with: Ms. Laura Starkey Interviewed by: William Mansfield Location: Odessa, Florida Date: August 9, 2006 Transcribed by: Wm. Mansfield Edited by: Laura Starkey & Wm. Mansfield Audit Edit by: Kyle Burke Audit Edit Date: January 23, 2008 WM: We always put a label on the disc by saying: This is Bill Mansfield, from the Starkey, here in the offices of the Starkey Ranch in Odessa, Florida on August 9, 2006. Ms. Starkey, we always get people to start out by having them state their name and tell us when they were born and where they were born. So let her go. LS: Okay. My name is Laura Starkey. I was born on December 12, 1965 in Tampa, Florida. WM: Okay, and how would you describe your current occupation? LS: My current occupation is two fold. At this moment I have half time work for Flatwoods Adventures, which is my Da tourism business. [See J.B. Starkey, Jr. interview with Bill Mansfield 8 9 Which is developing an institute f or the conservation area of the ranch, as we head down the road with our plans. WM: Could you um Well I guess um explain what you do for the Flatwoods Adventures and then the development institute? LS: Okay. For Flatwoods Adventures twoods full time, for about two years, having left my teaching job to come help my Dad look at the option of converting Flatwoods Adventures into a non profit business. We looked at that project, that option for a bout six months and decided that it was not the best plan for Flatwoods Adventures at this time. WM: Uh huh.

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2 LS: At that point I stayed on board, on salary you know, on staff, to increase marketing and business development. Just to help with smoothing o ut some of the business elements of it and kind of overseeing the business side of things, in an effort to get it to where it is closer to solvent. with it you k now the people that come out here. But from a business standpoint, it has really not been so hot. project. LS: Uh huh. LS: The conservation project is part of Starkey Ranch, the Starkey Family or Starkey Land Company. Well, Starkey Land Company is the land holding company, which owns the ranch, which basically is made up of family members. In general we just refer to it all a s Starkey Ranch. But as far as our plans for the future go, we are going to be developing portions of the remaining ranch in mixed use, traditional neighborhood design developments, little pods of neighborhoods, a town center, a district park, different t hings like that. process the Development of Regional Impact process. And part of that project, that overall plan for the remaining ranch is to keep a chunk of about rough ly a thousand acres in conservation. And alongside of that conservation area, we want to develop an institute which will, most likely, be a non profit organization which will encompass the eco tours, that type of educational element as well as possibly a research facility for one of the state universities. Ah a place for people to explore the interface between man and nature as well as continue our being a part of the living history of this area. WM: Uh huh. es of that, just as we are with the that institute is going to look like and how we are going to go about making that happen. WM: Your father said that you were devel oping what? the Longleaf or was it Greenleaf? LS: Longleaf.

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3 WM: The Longleaf area and you had to go through the DRI Development of Regional LS: The Development of Regional Impact. WM: Tell me about that process. LS: Okay. Longleaf is separate from th e DRI. That was done by my brothers. [Trey and Frank]. [See Frank Starkey interview with Bill Mansfield 8 24 06] completed and they hav e someone, a developer who is finishing the construction of the second half of the whole project. That is separate living there, mowing their lawns and everything. the ranch, the remaining part of the ranch. WM: Okay, tell me about that then. LS: Um well the DRI is a statewide permitting, required permitting process for any it would be more responsible and more profitable but also have more options to do a of pieces. mostly opposed to reactionary, defensive decision making. So the DRI process w as a decision that we made oh gosh two years ago now. could you explain what you mean by that? LS: Responsible in forms of more you know environmentally sensitive areas and beautiful pristine areas of the going keep in conservation. To be able and be responsible and manage that land as well as preserve it um f responsibility that we felt. Financial responsibility, in terms of doing things that took into consideration the needs of all of our family members with our varying ages and life stages and financial needs. The

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4 generations from now. [What will be] the best, [most] responsible use of this property. Not only for ourselves, who have been stewards of it for the last sixty some years, but also for future generations. So for this whole area, looking at this whole region as well as this most immediate area. Also, [I am referring] responsibility in terms of social responsibility, in terms of creating a place that twenty, fifty, a hundred years from now, that is gonna be a place that people ly did a good de sac subdivision that could be God knows what fifty, a hundred years from now. envi ronmental responsibilities? LS: Yes. WM: Okay. (Office Assistant delivers coffee to Mansfield and takes a request for coffee from L. Starkey. Mansfield & Starkey briefly discuss the temptation to nap after lunch) WM: But anyhow, you need to face the economic realities, but you also want to do the right thing environmentally? LS: Uh h uh. WM: How did you how do [you] know what to call it, environmental awareness, and social responsibility? What brought about that, that way of thinking? How did that evolve? you know overly polished about it, but we just I ah think a lot of landowners, ranchers [and] farmers would agree, that as farmers or ranchers, people that are in agriculture business, taking care of the land is just a natural thing that you do. And land mana gement here, we grew up knowing what land management is about. From controlled burns of the flatwoods areas since we were kids. My granddad and dad have always done that; for certainly as long as I can remember. For the last thirty years, anyway, they have done controlled burns, and just being concerned about the crops, which are the cattle as well as the grasses and the pasturelands, and all of those things. So it just was a natural fit, literally. Being a ranching family, maybe we have it in our genes.

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5 definitely a pretty sentimental bunch with the property. coffee arrives) So um not so sentimental that we are not realistic as well. I think our generation, myself and my sister and my brothers look at t ranching. So what does that mean? Do we hire out ranching for the next few generations? Do we go against what you know our parents raised us to be who and what we wanted t o be. of the American dream. Not that bettering yourself means not becoming a rancher, but none of the four of us happened to really be drawn, professionally, to ra reality. WM: Okay. I seem to remember in the newspaper that after your grandfather passed away, you all had to sell some of the land to pay the estate taxes. LS: Uh huh. WM: If I recollect, the newspaper said that at that point ranching was a real economic liability. Is that [accurate]? LS: Yeah. The issue is ah part of it happened when Granddad planned for the future by putting the top half of the ranch into the wilderness park. WM: Uh huh. LS: That you know cut o ur ranching area by half. [Though] most of that land was not cleared for pasture, a lot of it was woodlands. And then having to face the estate tax, we did have to pay in cash. His estate was valued in land; therefore we had to liquidate. And [we] were abl e to put that thirty five hundred additional acres by selling it to the DOT, who needed it for mitigation, [and so we] were able to add it to the parkland. So, in effect, we were able to add to the parkland and having to do a couple of other sales other small developments on the fringes, we were able to pay off the estate tax. [my brothers, or my Dad] would probably know. A certain number of hundred of acres

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6 are needed per head of cattle, in order to be viable as a business. So after all of these sales, initiated by the sales to the wilderness park, due to A) wanting to protect it for future uses, future conservation as well as B) having to pay off all that estate tax. The end result, we have to have a smaller space and that becomes unviable as a ranch. Now, another possibility would have been to buy other property and continue ranching. Again it comes back to what the current generation really wanted to do with t heir lives. Did we really want to continue into the ranching business? his cattle herd to a family that is [ranching]. [They have] a large spread and this ranch is a s atellite location for them, [and they] continue to be a ranching family. WM: Okay that clarifies things. LS: Okay. WM: Ranching is pretty demanding and a risky enterprise. I can see how you might want to think about doing something else. e got bad years. And the value, in this area, has become higher for the land itself than the cattle business. LS: Right. Exactly. WM: So you came here f ull time to work with the eco tourism? LS: Uh huh. WM: Tell me about what you how you all set the eco tourism up. Your father mentioned looking at another ranch, or another eco tourism enterprise. LS: Uh huh. WM: So tell me what you all did to adapt S tarkey Ranch for eco tourism? Not to adapt [the ranch] but to prepare it [for eco tourism]. LS: Well I think he did his got the idea through a conference or workshop he had gone to and saw a coupl e of other

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7 building these buses, adapting them into tour buses. Then he hired a woman, Rhonda, beginning. Since the year prior to opening [of Flatlands Adventures] to the public. She helped him develop [the tours] She has experience with eco tour ism as well as some related fields so she was highly qualified to come in and help develop this. She worked with Dad. Dad went around with a tape recorder and drove through the ranch, talking into the recorder about things that he knows about and wanted to explore you know wanted to present more of. [She helped him] develop the route. They looked at how to they added the information, the knowledge, and the educational pieces that needed to be in there for all of the different ecosystems so that [it containe d] family and [community] history as well as the environmental education. So they developed this tour script and they hired five part time tour guides and trained them over several months. [They] worked really hard on training these women. [They] all turn recently retired] but three of them are still with us. One of them that retired was here (WM and LS discuss whether the telephone call will be answered.) So they hired the staff and started marketing it through different areas. You know, got some area media coverage. [We] joined some different associations, worked on the oduced brochures. attention, when it first started out as a brand tour in But, of course, you have to continue that [sort of publicity] and it costs money. You have to spend the money to make the money. So we kept spending the money and spending the money, and people were sta rting to come in, but because it was such a new project and a new concept for this area, and not highly replicated around. There were some other businesses to learn from and other people to learn from, but there was an awful lot of um Hindsight is twenty twenty. I was here when they first opened, working part time in the gift shop, so I was around for the first year or so, before I got busy with my own career and graduate school. I saw it, somewhat at the ground level seven years ago. And then coming back two years ago and looking at the non profit option, we could look back and say that we should have gone non profit from the beginning. But seven years into it, it was a little too late to try and shift gears and change direction from a for profit business to a non profit. It is such a work culture change, if you know what I mean.

PAGE 9

8 So we could have gone non thought was that this could be someth ing that actually brought in a little bit of cash flow for the ranch. That was his original thought and that was his reasoning, I think, behind not going non profits for the orchestra and the master ch orale and other arts organizations. We all know non profit is tickets for a non profit. But anyway, he was still thinking that it could be an economic answer, for the ranch. dreams, the answer to encroaching development on a cattle ranch. S o I think a lot of times people get the impression [that] is out there that eco tourism is going to solve the think that was going to ever be a possibility. I think h e was just hoping that it could be one thing to bring some attention to this property and be able to share this property with other people, at the same time bringing in some money and helping us out economically. WM: Kind of like another crop, so to speak ? LS: Exactly! Diversifying your crops. WM: What changes have taken place in eco tourism, here at Flatwoods Adventures? What changes have you made, or seen in the past seven years? horseback activities. We added it and then we changed our business format where we contract it out, instead of working together and doing the overhead. We changed it to where we simply to answer the phones Business wise we worked out the best way to do that. Programming wise, people love because it is high (laughs) WM: We can edit that out if you want. LS: Yea [its] okay. But you know, its um As far as the public goes, they love the horseback rid ing and having a petting zoo, and We rent [it] out for private parties a

PAGE 10

9 come out October through May [on] the Saturday night closest to the full moon. We have barbecue, we have campfires, w e have hayrides, optional horseback riding. We have folksingers around the campfire. Families come, couples come. [We have] groups, birthday parties, seniors, singles groups you know single individual people come. I uh an amazingly popular e vent. WM: Uh huh. hour buggy tour, that we started out with several years ago is essen tially the same thing who have been on it once, will want to come back and do something different. WM: Uh huh. LS: The problem is that there are a few of us that would love to come back time and again and bring our friends and relatives that are visiting. But for the most part, once So when it comes to education, most people, not all of us, but most people just want to hear it one time. (laughs) LS: Exactly. Exactly. WM: Well tell me about the educational aspect of it. Have you worked with the school systems? LS: Yes! We are an approved field trip site for Hillsborough County; I believe Pinellas County and Pasco County. So we have school groups from north Pinellas and north Hillsborough, primarily, and west Pasco. Logistically we have within a short driving distance so the school buses can get to and from in time. But during field trip season, [in the fall and in the spring] post booked five days a week, double bus the afternoon for non school groups. teacher at Tarpon Middle School who wrote a curriculum book for gra de children a book called A Land Remembered written by Patrick Smith. If you Have you read it?

PAGE 11

10 resting. We sell it like hotcakes at our bookstore. Children read it as part of their state curriculum, of state history. I believe eighth grade is the year they go through state history. So it is part of their history and we do A Land Remembered tour for kids that are reading that book in their school. grade curriculum book on A Land Remembered really excited about maybe developin g more stuff with us. WM: Uh huh. educators in the area. Ah e I want to mention. We have seniors groups that come out. We work with tour operators to get groups out [to the Ranch]. ot to pay attention to primarily [business], first and foremost at this point. Because Dad you got to love him has been pouring so doing that after seven years. [You could] ah I feel like my job is to make sure we do everything we can to get away from that dependence on his checkbook. So [with] the tour operators and the school groups you have the same overhead of running a bus with a group of six people you know tourist, people that pick up a brochure at their hotel and come out. To have four or six people on the bus is the same overhead as having a group of forty kids or you know twenty adults. WM: U h huh. things like that are ways that marketing and business direction to go to keep the place a float. WM: Well have you worked with the school systems? Have you gone to them or have they come to you?

PAGE 12

11 LS: We usually we do some direct marketing. They come here, in terms of the tours. We don WM: I know, but in terms of scheduling. Side 1 ends; side 2 begins. LS: In terms of getting them scheduling We usually send out notices, with like, summer programs and that type of thing. During the summertime we get lots of su mmer day camps or summer camps that bring their kids [of information] out to the schools. At this point that has pretty much gotten enough you know rolling with it as much as we did a couple of years ago. I know two years ago we were sending out letters to the schools, but [now] if we have to raise the price we might send a letter out saying what this here are the prices. But, that element, getting the school groups out here. Now they are booking as soon as they get their budget. do got enough going with it with the school groups. LS: Uh huh. WM: What about environmentalist groups, like the Audubon [Society], or the World Wildlife Fund? Have you worked with them? LS: Uh the um list of important birding areas. The local Audubon Society group comes and does an annual bird count. One of our tour guides is an avid Audubon member and leader in the area. She usually brings out Audubon groups, different chapters throug hout the area. So, Audubon, definitely. goodness various different things. But you know the ones that have groups in the area do get out here. WM: What kind of permitting process did you have to go through for the eco tourism? What ah county and state agencies did you have to deal with for that?

PAGE 13

12 that question intelligently. Rhonda and Dad would be the ones to ask. LS: (Laughs) Tell me about that. out and collecting information, collecting ideas, meeting people, making contacts, networking and have started this strategic plan of the prelimina ry mission statement and Essentially the idea of it is to have two prongs to it. One prong will be land m anagement; the other prong will be people experiencing nature. If you think of it as the two prongs being man or humanity and nature, both take care of each other. There is sort of a symbiotic relationship between you know humanity and nature. In this day and age and in this area, specifically, nature really depends on humanity to take care of it. is to be said in itself. But, in this area we have to [for example] take the control burns into things. So, humanity, in this area has to take ca re of nature and nature takes care of humanity institute will have the two prongs of that relationship, with nature being taken care of through our land management plan, w hich will include exotic weed control. Invasive as the world gets smaller. Control burns; managing pasture lands if they want [it] to stay in pasturelands, restoration o f certain habitats, that type of thing. Other elements of that would be a biological research station, which would also be feeding into the bigger the element of taking care of nature. ity Stewardship Organization, or CSO. There is a group out in Arizona called the Sonoran now.

PAGE 14

13 ] you have a developer. Generally those two groups have been diametrically opposed and in conflict with each other. But there are a lot of developers who really want to be conservationists. There are a lot of conservationists and environmentalists who are realistic about um that development is going to happen, so therefore it is those two groups that are willing to elopment that is conservation oriented, they have and going to visit those proj other TND [Traditional Neighborhood Design] New Urbanist type of projects around. New Urbanism is an area that is beginning to embrace conservation development more of seeing those two philosophies join together. know people that are other landowners that are going through DRI. Specifically developers that are conservation oriented [and] seeing other projects where people are successfully using green designs, green engineering, conservation oriented development. Housing projects as well as non profit organizations, institutes and land trust areas, where rring with conservation easements on the natural parts of the development. ah other projects that are doing similar things to what we are doing. WM: Now have these been r was it New Mexico? LS: Yes. There um I know Spring Island, is um a conservation develo pment out retirement settlement, second home, higher end you know minimal housing type. Like one house on a big conservation lot. Maybe [there are] thirty six homes o n this island. I set up what they call a land the Spring Island Trust, or the Spring Island Institute, an organization that oversees the land management and involves the community members in preserving, conserving their island, their space. Prairie Crossing is another project up in Illinois, just north of Chicago, which is probably

PAGE 15

14 h our outside of Chicago. You can get there in forty a train stop. know 150 years ago, before it became farm land, it was prairie la nd. Which as far as natural prairie land, to [being] farmland, which was very intensive and degraded and destroyed the prairie grasses and the prairie eco system. Now so they are taking the housing area and restoring it back to prairie grasses. [They are] using old seed banks [to restore it]. Amazing stuff that they are doing. Of course they had a different set of habitats. They have a diffe rent set of economic WM: Uh huh. lots of collecting and sorting out and taking bits from the way they are doing their structure and organization here and how they are doing their land management over there and how they are creating their [land] institute over here. So, [in] taking all th LS: Exactly, yeah. WM: What kind of I mean how have you been received with this in the local area? I know with real estate prices just going up and up and up, are people resistant to this notion? Are they in favor of it? What kind of response have you received? Because there are s o many people that are here that have been here for a long time. There are many people that are here, that are moving here every day. Flatwoods Adventures has an interesting opportunity or interaction with the public because across the yard over here at our offices, Flatwoods Adventures, every day we But we have interaction, daily, with [the] public in this a lot of times the first thing

PAGE 16

15 I find [this] interesting, because when I get into conversation with them [and ask], Trinity was a cow pasture about twenty minutes ago (laughs). I mean literally, it was just a few years a go that it was a cow pasture, like they are looking at here. It looked exactly r home. There is a real I think the public is somewhat conflicted about their feelings. They move out here because they want the green open space. Yet, they are a part of the market that is pushing the green space out. So and then they find themselves fe eling conflicted ambiguity, so I find myself a little conflicted with th at attitude. But to be fair, a lot of times when I can say and I can they like it here. So but I so we have had some ne gative reaction to early announcements of plans for who have raised their families h ere. [People] who are not from here but have been here But when you sit down and talk to them and explain just some of the basic issues that are a decisions]. [There has been] years and years of process to get to this point and its still When you sit and talk to someone about just a few of those issues they start nodding their ah about [our decision]. Of course there are still a few people who are pretty hard core about core and when I tell them the whole story, they do soften up about it. WM: That is one of the contra dictions because people want to live in the country and when they move to the country LS: They are part of the disappearance of it. WM: Yeah, they help destroy the country. But what about real estate people or developer people? How do they feel about this controlled growth that you are advocating?

PAGE 17

16 LS: Um as I just did about the everyday public coming in, from my living or working with Flatwoods. I think Frank can tell yo u more about what the business world of developers and real estate people are feeling about it [See Frank Starkey interview with Bill Mansfield, 9 24 06]. I hear bits and pieces of people who say they are looking forward to having more real estate options and some alternatives to the same old conventional um stuff, that you see in terms of developments, the same old subdivision format. WM: The sprawl complex? conserva wn in south Hillsborough County and they were farmers and were glad to see the development, because that increased the value of their land. Which gave them more leverage when borrowing money, but also gave them, when LS: Oh, yeah. inhibiting what he would do with his land. I think property rights is the term he used. LS: Yeah. WM: He said, g up in arms, literally, over property What do you see t in place, but do you foresee happening? I guess you can [show] me a best case scenario and a worst case scenario.

PAGE 18

17 LS: Happening with this ranch? WM: Around here, yes. LS: Hmm Best um something really unique. A place that really develops into and grows into being some really charming and beautiful and warm neighborhoods. A lot of beautiful trees and some pasture land views, and wooded areas that are kept and an area where people are ab is my home where I raised my children This is where I grow old with my partner, my ook at. And they can hear crickets and frogs at night and [can learn] not [to] be freaked out by snakes and raccoons running through their back yard. WM: (Laughs) to my coffee shop and walk my kid to the park to play ball and then walk that way and go case scenario. And healthy habitats in the woods that we keep. And some place that is an example, a replicable model, a place that people from around the country can use as an example of a place that did it right. A family that made some hard choices but took a road of integrity and made something really beautiful, and contributed [something that will last] to the seventh generation! (laughs) WM: Okay. That sounds good. LS: Worst case scenario is um always win you know you Hopefully we can get the numbers to match up whe re we can do a green design and do it right, because the market will demand it. Market demand will pay for it. I think our world e energy efficient and alternate uses of our materials and resources. It will happen. But, in the meantime, will the timing be right when it comes to us having to make the numbers work? We could miss it by five or ten years, and what have we got? WM: I guess the worst case scenario would be you stocking shelves in the Wal Mart in Starkey Plaza.

PAGE 19

18 LS: (laughs) Hopefully not Wal Mart. At least Target. (laughs) WM: But either you pay for [development] up front, by doing it the smart way, or you do it the c heap way and end up paying for it down the line. LS: Right. What kind of I mean are you aware of any kind of pressure from real estate people or development people to sell out? To go ahead a nd turn it over to them for a quick profit? LS: I think my older brother Trey fields most of those calls, but I know Frank gets them [my brothers] get calls weekly, w But you know forthright with our decision making and proceeding with our plans that some pressure, but mostly in the form of offers and you know. WM: What about the county? I remember reading about the Tourism Development Council (TDC) in Pasco County. What county agencies or what kind of support did you receive from county agencies, and I guess support or advice or (unintelligible )? LS: Well we work a lot with the county because of the permitting and were hoping to get a district park on part of property as part of our plan. We would like to see happen for our neighborhood and the surrounding neighborhoods and the county needs one in this area county because we have been working them for years. SWIFTMUD S outhwest Florida Water Management District we work hand in hand with them on a lot of things. Of to answer a lot of questions to them about our application. So those certainly the county and the Water Management District with right of way things and things like that. Other than that I would have to refer that to Frank to answer that better. He is more in that realm.

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19 WM: Well, shared with me is going to be deposited in the Special Collections of the University of South Florida Library to be available for future research. We need your permission for scholars to have access to this. LS: Uh huh. LS: Okay. And that will be after we look at the transcript and get it corrected? WM: Well, you can sign it now or you can sign it when you return the corrected transcript. Which ever suits you better. and sign it then. WM: Okay. I can do that. ll be happy to sign it. I just will, to sign it at that time. picture? LS: Sure. WM: Okay. Well, let me turn this thing off end of interview


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