Horse Country Prevails, Coastal Connector Project Halted
Preserving and protecting the natural resources in Marion County, which is famous for its flourishing equestrian industry, is a passionate commitment shared by the entire team at Ocala Horse Properties.
The recent opposition was voiced by Ocala residents in reaction to the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) proposed Coastal Connector, which threatened to cut through the heart of horse country. Ocala Horse Properties (OHP) banded together with other concerned citizens and Ocala farm owners to raise their voices at the county and state level.
Thankfully, our combined voices were heard and as of August 31st, FDOT and Governor Rick Scott’s office released an official statement and letter abandoning the Coastal Connector project! “At this time, the Department has determined that the best approach to addressing traffic issues in the area is to abandon the new corridor concepts that were preliminarily discussed in the new planning studies.”
Please click here to read the attached letter for the full statement.
An Idea Takes Root
A positive by-product of the Coastal Connector resolution was that Ocala leaders and farm owners identified the need to protect our land by educating top officials. Ocala’s thriving horse industry has a massive impact on our region’s economy, attributable to the abundance of our area’s mineral-rich soil.
Ocala is home to some of the best natural resources for breeding and training horses. Marion County is recognized alongside Lexington, Kentucky, and regions in France and England for mineral-rich turf, rolling topography and moderate climate. The combination of these natural resources is a trifecta for this region’s equine industry, which generates billions of tourism dollars and provides over 20,000 job opportunities in the region.
Rob Desino, Matt Varney, OHP and several influential landowners have been at the forefront of educating our local and state leaders in the urgency of protecting our land. From this concerted effort, Horse Farms Forever has taken root.
Horse Farms Forever was founded by OHP, Tom Grabe, Bernard Little and Paul Kaplan with a focus on the conservation of horse farms through the following initiative:
“Our mission is to inspire the conservation of horse farms through education and awareness so as to preserve natural pasture land focusing on horses and their habitats, and to protect the soil and water on which they depend while minimizing land use conflicts in Marion County.”
Horse Farms Forever is a not-for-profit corporation registered with the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services and is currently seeking to be registered as a 501(c)3 with the IRS. This grassroots effort aims to provide long-term protections of our gorgeous Florida horse country.
Amy Agricola, who has resided in Ocala for nearly 2 decades, has joined the organization as Executive Director, and offers a wealth of knowledge in the equestrian world and as a champion of environmental protection in Marion County. Amy has also recently joined the real estate team at Hudson Phillips, OHP’s new luxury residential division.
Amy’s first priority is to work with local officials to continue to educate our community on land preservation and to develop a land management plan for Marion County. This will bring great synergy between OHP, Hudson Phillips and throughout the community on behalf of Horse Farms Forever.
OHP will continue to be at the forefront of land preservation by lending our collective voices to champion this cause.
When asked about their cause, the Horse Farms Forever Board expressed the following mission, “Horse Farms Forever will work to inspire conservation of horse farms through education and awareness so as to preserve natural pasture land focusing on horses and their habitats, to protect soil and water on which they depend, and minimize land use conflicts in Marion County, Florida.
“We have come a long way in a very short period of time and that is something to celebrate! With that said, there is still a lot of work to do to continue to protect our Horse Farms Forever!”