On June 6, 2005, Sprawl-Busters updated the battle against a Wal-Mart superstore in Titusville, Florida, where residents had been locked in a struggle to keep the supercenter out of their community. The Tanglewood Homeowners Association and other area residents fought the retail giant for months and as of May 9, 2005, Wal-Mart finally conceded and rescinded their offer on a 96 acre piece of land located at the corner of Interstate 95 and S.R 406 (Garden Street) in Titusville. The fight from residents against a new super-store less than 5 miles from an existing location was for many reasons, including a dislike of the company’s business practices, the location of an elementary school directly across the street, and the fact that the proposed site would cover the recharge area for the local water supply. The individuals who spearheaded the effort were Lisa Smith and Arlynn Baker. One resident wrote to Sprawl-Busters, “Both did an excellent job and the residents are forever indebted to these women for their persistence, dedication, sacrifice, and vision.” This week, the other shoe dropped on this proposed Wal-Mart site. The land that was threatened by Wal-Mart is now going to become the citrus state’s newest nature preserve. According to WESH TV, Smith and Baker fought this project so their kids would not be endangered by Wal-Mart traffic in front of their school. The land Wal-Mart wanted was once an Atlantic Beach, and is an important recharge area for the town’s drinking water wells. The state’s land preservation agency, Florida Forever, has voted to purchase the disputed property, protecting it forever from development, and Wal-Mart.
As the TV station said, this site is now off limits to companies like Wal-Mart, “All because two mothers refused to give up and refused to be intimidated by red tape or corporate lawyers.” “This is a perfect example to people elsewhere that, you know, it does look like a mountain, but take one step at a time,” Smith told the TV news. Another Wal-Mart has sunk below the waves, a casualty of local citizen opposition. Developers would do far better, and save time and much money, by meeting with residents first, and when the neighbors say a project is too big to be acceptable, or that a Wal-Mart store five miles away will do, to move on to another location where people are more enthusiastic. The Florida Division of State Lands has primary responsibility for the Florida Forever land acquisition program, the world’s largest conservation land buying program. The State of Florida has protected over 535,643 acres of land with $1.8 billion in Florida Forever funds through December 2006. Since its inception in July 2001 through September 2006, the state’s Florida Forever land acquisition program has been extremely successful. The program has protected over 231,730 acres of Strategic Habitat Conservation Areas, 374,890 acres of habitat conservation areas, and over 580 listed species locations of 190 different species, 513,050 acres of ecological greenways, 68,260 acres of under-represented natural communities, 54,540 acres of natural floodplains, 530,550 acres important to significant water bodies, 5,060 acres of fragile coastline, 236,210 acres of functional wetlands, 524,846 acres of significant groundwater recharge areas, 30,130 acres of land to support priority recreational trails, and, 268,330 acres of sustainable forest land. If Wal-Mart really wanted to be a “green” company, it would stop trying to develop sites like this one in Titusville, and use its philanthropy to help establish entities that would buy up environmentally sensitive lands threatened by companies like Wal-Mart. Readers are urged to call Wal-Mart stores at 479-273-4000 and ask to speak with their Environmental Protection Department. When they say they have no such Department, say,”That’s why I’m calling.” Then ask them to help set up a land preservation agency like Florida Forever in the state where you live.