By Ellin Goetz, YES Conservation Collier Chairperson
I’ve been a small business owner and lived in Naples since the mid 80’s. With the special “quality of life” we enjoy here, it’s no surprise that so many others have discovered Collier County. I’ve witnessed conversion of our once wild lands into development, threatening the balance of the built with the natural world. Change is inevitable, but we need all the tools available, so we maintain our specialness. This balancing act is really what led me with others to find a fair way to preserve land where we live, and to spearhead the initial 2002 Conservation Collier campaign, when a majority of voters first approved what is now a wildly successful public program.
Conservation Collier purchases our most environmentally sensitive land from willing sellers to protect drinking water quality, preserve important wildlife habitat and provide recreational opportunities. It has established 21 preserves that safeguard over 4,300 acres throughout this place we call home…and includes a management fund in perpetuity to take care of the lands and make sure we can access them safely.
Nothing is more important to our economy and life than having clean water to drink. According to Collier County, 21 of our 57 water bodies are impaired. Wetlands cleanse and purify water, and Conservation Collier lands like Freedom Park prevent fertilizer runoff, toxic waste, and chemicals from entering our water supply. Freedom Park’s wetlands absorb excess nutrients before they enter the Gordon River, preventing what might contribute to harmful red tide and blue green algae blooms.
Land conservation provides a low-tech, less expensive, and effective natural water purification solution. Preserving areas that protect water quality, aquifer recharge, and flow-ways also helps reduce flooding and protect the county’s highest quality and least expensive sources of drinking water.
The recreational and health benefits of Conservation Collier became apparent earlier this year during the unprecedented shut down of our beaches and parks. Conservation Collier funded preserves like Freedom Park, and the Gordon River Greenway remained open, offering opportunities for safe social distancing with a much-needed outdoor reprieve for all of us!
We are again asking for support for Conservation Collier by voting YES on re-establishing funding: to continue a 1/4mil ad valorem property tax for another 10 years. Property owners will pay $25 a year for each $100K of value, just as we all did over program’s first 10 years. One reason it’s been so successful is the transparent Conservation Collier process: land nomination, ranking, fair market value appraisal, and purchase: with oversight by a citizen committee in a publicly accountable manner.
Because of all these benefits we’ve garnered support of friends and neighbors, businesses and environmental groups, including an endorsement by the Naples Daily News. I’m urging you to join us to vote YES to safeguard our drinking water, beaches and waterways so together we leave future generations a legacy of open space preservation.