I felt pretty good this morning when my friend Phyllis mentioned she’d seen my letter to the editor published in the Ocala Star-Banner. Not that I’d been published, but that I had an opportunity to make a comment in a public forum about one of my pet peeves: the rampant overdevelopment of Florida.
A couple of decades ago we had a real rash of sinkholes around Ocala. At Forest High School, a sinkhole opened up under one of the wings and forced us into split-sessions while they stabilized the thing. Lake Ollie, the favorite campus hangout, was a sinkhole. Over at CFCC, about the same time as the famous Winter Park sinkhole, a whole swarm of sinkholes opened up on the west side of campus near the Interstate. Several opened up in the Interstate itself. We had one serious rainstorm in 1981 when several hundred sinkholes appeared in Central Florida.
Here in the Ocala Highlands, where there are no surface streams, sinkholes are triggered by too much water or too little water in the Floridan Aquifer. As water levels rise suddenly, they push against the limestone above, weakening it. As water levels fall suddenly, they no longer provide support for the limestone above. And two of the quickest triggers for sinkhole development are tied directly to new development: drilling new wells and changing the surface flow of water, especially by channeling it into retention ponds. Why this state has such a love affair with retention ponds, I’ll never understand. So, take a karst (limestone etched by water) plateau such as I live on, add a few hundred houses going up all around us, and what do you get? More sinkholes!
Rather than our water management districts concentrating on buying up river floodplains, I’d like to see more effort put into preservation of karst recharge areas. If we don’t preserve the land on which the rain falls and replenishes our water supply, we’re up for some real trouble in the future.
Why do I know all this? I wrote the book on it. Seriously. Have a look.