By Andreas Butler
For Hometown News
The Daytona Beach City Commission voted unanimously to support opening the land at Tiger Bay State Forest to off-road vehicle use.
About 10 percent of the land will now be set aside for the use of ATVs, dirt bikes, motorcycles and four-wheel vehicles similar to the Croom Motorcycle Area in the Withlacoochee State Forest in Brooksville, Fla.
Also, street vehicles, such as jeeps, SUV's and trucks, are allowed to travel on forest fire roads and two track interior roads for recreational purposes.
Off-road enthusiasts are pleased and say that this could bring benefits to the area.
"It is a good use of the land that is hardly being used. Over the years so much land for off road vehicles has been lost. With 10 percent, it's not much but it helps. That makes about 1 percent of public land in the county for recreation vehicle use. Its also gives back an opportunity to residents who have paid for public land but haven't had access to it," Greg Gimbert said.
Mr. Gimbert represents a group of off-road supporters that pushed for the resolution.
In contrast, there are environmental groups that have concerns.
"We are concerned with the impact on wildlife, habitats and sensitive ecosystems. 50 percent of that land is swamp and wetlands. The rest is sensitive scrub. There are concerns with noise, soil, dry areas, rutting and plant damage," said Cathy Lowenstein, Florida Forrest Services.
Off-road enthusiasts argue allowing off-roading puts the land to good use, doesn't harm the environment and can bring an economic impact.
"They are saying that the land is environmental sensitive and this is not an activity for it. The land being allocated has been nothing but a tree farm for decades. DuPont and other companies have used it for years. There are companies logging the area which impacts the land more than us," Mr. Gimbert said.
Opponents argue off-road vehicle use can harm the environment with pollution, destruction of land and effecting wildlife.
"The problem is finding land for them to use that is not sensitive and not already being used by the hunters, bird watchers and fishermen. Even with 10 percent of 2,700 acres, we just don't have that land," Ms. Lowenstein said.
Mr. Gimbert counters that animals find ways despite people being there.
"As for wildlife, we have one of the richest and most fertile areas at our county landfill. There are many eagles, hawks, vultures and other birds there. At our beach we have seagulls, pelicans and other birds. They are doing fine with many people there impacting their habitat," he said.
Proponents also argue the economic benefits of off-roading.
"We can attract upper- and middle-income users and change the dynamics of vacations for the area. People use to come here for a week and make a daytrip to Disney in Orlando but now it's the other way around. You can also charge a fee for a sticker for use of the vehicles in the area similar to the one at the Croom Area in Brooksville. They disclose that they make $800,000 to $1 million in a good year. They are on the other side of the state in a remote area. We have a more attractive area. We can bring money and people to our hotels, restaurants, beaches and etc.," Mr. Gimbert said.