By Alisha McDarris
For Hometown News
TREASURE COAST --The future of the Indian River Lagoon could be in the hands of voters this November and local environmental professionals want them to head to the polls educated.
That's why voters are invited to Indian Riverside Park on April 16 to participate in a discussion about local waterways and what they have to do with November's ballot.
Local organizations are offering a free public forum on the Water and Land Legacy Amendment that will be up for a vote this fall.
Sponsored by Treasured Lands Foundation and Martin County Taxpayers Association, the event aims to raise awareness about the amendment and will offer an opportunity for residents to learn and ask questions of many knowledgeable local environmental experts and elected officials.
Representative Patrick Murphy, Mark Perry of the Florida Oceanographic Society, Stuart Mayor Troy MacDonald and Eric Draper of Audubon Florida are just a few of the individuals who will be present. They will discuss the amendment, what it says and means, and how it will impact life for local residents.
Chuck Barrowclough, executive director of Treasured Lands Foundation, said the point of the forum is to educate voters early so they can vote with confidence this fall and to give them an opportunity to help secure financial resources to protect local areas.
"This is an opportunity for us to be proactive," Mr. Barrowclough said.
The amendment, if passed, would direct one-third of existing state revenues from fees on real estate transactions, also known as doc stamps, to purchasing land in the name of conservation. It would provide $10 billion over the 20-year life of the amendment.
"It's part of our long-term vision," Mr. Barrowclough said. It is a vision that is one step closer to fruition now that the amendment is on the ballot after a year and a half of petitioning.
He and the amendment's partners have already begun forming a strategic acquisition plan to determine priorities that include public benefit in addition to conservation. The funds would be used to pay off the debt of things already purchased by Florida Forever that used to be funded by doc stamps, land acquisition and restoration and everglades restoration.
Mr. Barrowclough urges residents to attend next Thursday's forum -- at a park that exists thanks to Florida Forever -- to learn and take action.
"Our quality of life really revolves around the estuary," Mr. Barrowclough said. "It's very important for us to learn those connections between land and water."
The forum takes place on April 16 at 2 p.m. at Indian Riverside Park in Jensen Beach.