Editorial: Lake Louise

How would you like to be this county resident surrounded on all sides by new city zoning?

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Posted April 29, 2022 | By Bebe Yonge Roberts

My thoughts on the matter—the matter being my homestead (a total of two acres)—and growing up in Ocala in a different time, watching it change from a small town into a busy metropolis. 

I was fortunate to have grown up in an area of Ocala just outside the city limits named Lake Louise Estates, or better known as “Chip’s Field” (named after my brother). It was a place to meet up and hang out as teenagers often do, but it was also my field. I grew up wandering down to the pasture to bridle my horse for a ride. I would play all day in that field with friends. We’d dig foxholes and never worry about what time it was or what we needed to do—just to pretend and be kids, that was all that was on our agendas.

The woods were thick with blackberries in the summer and we had to be careful because there could be snakes, big cottonmouth moccasins that lived near the pond, a.k.a. “Lake Louise,” sometimes Coral snakes too. 

My brother and I would take walks to find Gopher tortoises by finding their dirt piles. The field was cut and baled for hay for many years and they grew watermelons down by the pond. This helped keep the growth under control, lessening the chance for wildfire, as well as providing the perfect prairie-like habitat for much of the local wildlife. 

Just last summer, I was in the pool and heard the Pileated Woodpecker as he flew across the sky above me. We now have wild turkeys that roam in the early morning in search of bugs for breakfast. Red Shouldered hawks glide high above in search of food. Mockingbirds. Cardinals. Swallow Tailed Kites. Many other indigenous birds, so vital to our landscape soar above the field at various times of the year. 

The lots of county resident’s back up to land recently annexed into the city limits and zoned for up to 18 units an acre. [Alan Youngblood/Special to Ocala Gazette]

Needless to say, I was very lucky to grow up with so much unspoiled nature surrounding me. It has made a lasting impression on my view of Ocala and protecting native Florida, much of which I have seen disappear at an alarming rate. 

Now, I come to the issue of development. Florida is such a unique place, but as it has been developed over my lifetime, I have watched thousands of acres of land be stripped of its flora and fauna, simply to build more shopping plazas, gas stations, housing developments and roadways, leaving no room for even our state tree, the Sabal Palm, to flourish amongst all the concrete. All for the sake of “progress.”

I know that development is inevitable, but as we learn more about the necessity of keeping green spaces for us as well as the animals, we should be paying closer attention to making sure every proposed development follows the protections for the environment “to a T.” I feel very strongly about this. 

We should require developments with many of these native Florida plants and animals to cordon off a large portion of land so the wildlife in Florida can stay “wild,” as well as encourage others to recognize that they are protected. 

From what I’ve read, Florida has been relocating Gopher tortoises due to development, and there are so many requests that they need more habitats in which to place all of them. Marion County would be a perfect venue for them to come home to. 

This would mean a great deal to me and my family, especially my late mother, Nancy Yonge, who spent 63 years living here and raising our family, teaching us all to appreciate and live in harmony with all that nature provides. 

I know her spirit still soars above our field today, just like the Red shouldered hawks have for time immemorial. I hope to keep it that way. 

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