Volusia County embraces plans to upgrade area

plan

The County Council viewed proposals for a central lawn, shaded promenades, an open-air arena and outdoor stage.

A conceptual plan unfolded at the Sept. 20 County Council meeting of an enhanced Volusia County Fairgrounds that would serve as a bustling hub of local history, agricultural exhibition, conservation education, entertainment and sporting events. 

Located on State Road 44 just east of DeLand, the fairgrounds is the site of the annual Volusia County Fair & Youth Show as well as a weekly farmers market. The adjoining Agricultural Center is home to the University of Florida IFAS-Volusia County Extension, where faculty experts serve as a source of support for family health and nutrition, youth development, Florida-friendly landscaping and economic stability for the county’s agricultural industry.

On Tuesday, Sept. 20, the County Council was asked to share in the dream of an improved fairgrounds that would include everything from a unifying green core or central lawn, shaded promenades, an open-air arena and outdoor stage to rain gardens, a walkable perimeter and erection of an early Florida village and Volusia Forever conservation center. It was all part of a nearly 400-page master plan for the fairgrounds that was publicly unveiled Tuesday.

“Those ag activities are really important,” Dr. Brad Burbaugh, director of the county’s Resource Stewardship Division, told council members during Tuesday’s presentation. “But I think there’s an understanding that we could be so much more. And that’s why we’re here today.”

One of the proposals is an early Florida village.

One of the proposals is an early Florida village.

‘Deserves our investment’

Earlier this year, the council agreed to earmark $750,000 in federal COVID relief funds to improve the fairgrounds. The question was how best to use the money. So the county commissioned a team from the University of Florida’s School of Architecture to develop a master plan for the site.

The process began earlier this year with interviews with county staff, the Fair Association, Farm Bureau and the Cattlemen’s Association. There also was a public meeting in June and a community survey that generated more than 300 responses. The University of Florida team also conducted a detailed site analysis. The results were presented Tuesday to a warm embrace from council members. 

“I’m extremely pleased,” said Councilwoman Barb Girtman. “This is a central point for our community – for our county. It deserves our investment.”

The sentiments were echoed by County Chair Jeff Brower. “What this does is makes the fairgrounds the centerpiece of our county, which it should be,” said Brower. “It makes it more valuable to our community. It will draw more events.” 

walkable perimeter

A walkable perimeter also is part of a nearly 400-page master plan for the fairgrounds that was unveiled Tuesday.

The council unanimously green-lighted the first phase of the enhancements –basic infrastructure needs such as road and drainage improvements utilizing green infrastructure approaches, solar-powered exterior lighting, landscaping and signage designed to set the stage for what comes next.

“We do have a plan for those phase one improvements that we would like to move forward on because we believe those are foundational to bringing the infrastructure up to where it needs to be in order to move to the next step,” said Burbaugh. 

The next steps will include seeking grant funds to support the improvements needed to enhance the facility. 

“This has to continue. This has to go on,” said Brower.

The master plan can be viewed at : https://bit.ly/3LClNdx

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