Geneva Rural Heritage Resolution
Seminole County Recognizes Geneva
The Oviedo Voice - September 6-12, 2007
By: Karen McEnany-Phillips
On Tuesday August 28th Seminole County’s Board of Commissioners adopted a Resolution recognizing the village of Geneva’s rural and agricultural history as an integral part of the county, “with past, present, and future significance.” The Resolution stated “the Board applauds the community efforts of the village of Geneva to be recognized as a “Rural Heritage Area” with state and national historic preservation agencies.”
Community leaders on hand for the event were Geneva Citizens Association President Richard Creedon, GCA Vice-President Christopher Stapleton, Geneva Historical & Genealogical Society President Cynthia Simonton and GHGS leader Mary Jo Martin. Commissioner Brenda Carey read the Resolution that detailed the significance of many historic events, structures, and individuals of Geneva, the geographic significance of the waterways that have surrounded and supported it for generations, and the ongoing significance of preserving natural lands and rural character.
Richard Creedon thanked the BCC “…for your continued support to build our efforts to maintain our rural heritage.”
The basis of this resolution stemmed from research that identified thirty-nine sites dating from 500 BC to 1763, the Archeological Cultural Resources Study “documenting eight sites/structures eligible for the National Register and sixty additional sites/structures also eligible for the National Register as part of an area of historical significance. Additionally eighty-one sites/structures have been identified as ‘locally important’ sites including the Geneva Freshwater Lens known as the Geneva Bubble.”
The Resolution recognized that Geneva has “an ongoing and vibrant cultural heritage” documented by the Geneva Historical and Genealogical Society and the Geneva Museum of History and supported by many women’s, youth, church and educational groups and organizations some have been in existence for over a century.
The Board reaffirmed its continued support to preserve rural character through The Seminole County Natural Lands Program and the identification in 1991 of the East Rural Area. A 2004 voter referendum reinforced public support of future land use and the urban/rural boundary line with zoning designations in place today. The County officially recognized the diligent efforts of the Geneva community which at times seemed to be the only thing standing in the way of commercial re-zoning and urban sprawl, the nearby CR 419 eastern corridor being a prime example.
On behalf of the Geneva Historical Society, past President Mary Jo Martin said. “The Geneva Historical and Genealogical Society would like to thank you for recognizing the rural heritage that’s so important in our village and to thank you for your support in helping us maintain the integrity of the rural area for all of the citizens of Seminole County.” Mary Jo Martin’s husband Mal is Geneva’s historian and narrates the Annual Historic Bus Tour in early February that educates residents from about Geneva’s history past and present. Mal and Mary Jo have written several books about the history of Geneva, (http://www.usgennet.org/usa/fl/county/seminole/Geneva/) proceeds supporting the GHGS.
GCA Vice President Chris Stapleton who has been working on digital documentation of Geneva’s history also thanked the BCC. “I want to thank you for recognizing to celebrate the rural heritage-it’s rich, it’s living, and it’s ongoing. With your support with this recognition we can go on and help make “Geneva Island” the rich, educational asset for Seminole County, for future generations to respect, to understand, and to celebrate the rich and diverse cultural heritage that has gone on for over 100 years.”
Commissioner Carey added, “For those who have not been to the Museum, you should make the trip to Geneva, it has a wonderful Museum with lots of artifacts. I am a life member of their Historical Society and I encourage you to become members as well. The Geneva Museum holds a great bit of our history.”
Commissioner Carlton Henley closed with, “This group has certainly been dedicated to preserving and been persistent in their efforts to watch over the neighborhoods that they have. Unfortunately, probably too much of Seminole County has already been taken out of the rural area, but hopefully we will continue to preserve a portion of that element for future citizens to be able to enjoy. It will take diligence and perseverance to maintain those things that we value.”
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Our Rural Heritage
By Karen McEnany-Phillips
Welcome to Stetson’s Corner, where weekly we hope to share a bit of what is good about the Village of Geneva. This column is dedicated to a man who did the same – Deputy Sheriff Gene “Stetson” Gregory, who was killed in the line of duty July 8, 1998 in the place he was sworn to protect, but which could not protect him. Geneva will never be the same because of Deputy Gregory…it will be better.
“This group has certainly been dedicated to preserving and been persistent in their efforts to watch over the neighborhoods that they have. Unfortunately, probably too much of Seminole County has already been taken out of the rural area, but hopefully we will continue to preserve a portion of that element for future citizens to be able to enjoy. It will take diligence and perseverance to maintain those things that we value.”
Carlton D. Henley - Seminole County BCC Chairman 8/28/2007
It began quietly as many grassroots movements do, a small mission that achieved its first milestone on Tuesday August 28th, 2007. After many months of research, negotiation, and revisions Geneva leaders convinced Seminole County to pass a three point Resolution recognizing the village of Geneva as “an integral part of the rich, rural and agricultural history as well as the culture of the County with past, present, and future significance.” The Board of County Commissioners recognized the community efforts to “maintain a living rural heritage, while respecting private property rights.” The third point stated that the County “applauds the community efforts to be recognized as a Rural Heritage Area with state and national historic preservation agencies.”
Geneva Citizens Association President Richard Creedon and Vice-President Chris Stapleton thanked the Board and with Geneva Historical and Genealogical Society President Cynthia Simonton and past President Mary Jo Martin joined District 5 Commissioner Brenda Carey in the Seminole County Commission chambers as she read the Resolution Tuesday morning.
It’s like winning the Miss America title-the first few hours you are bathed in bliss at the honor and thinking about how all your hard work paid off. And then you think, now what? What’s next? So we should do the same as individuals and as a community. What does it mean to be a Rural Heritage Area and how do we use that to enrich our community and our sense of place? I encourage you to noodle around on the internet to see what other communities are doing.
A good place to start is nationaltrust.org. (you don’t have to type the www anymore!) Don’t be put off by the membership information on this site. They do depend on financial support but as you’ll quickly see there is a lot of fascinating information about rural communities just like Geneva. Click on Community or Advocacy and then on the Rural Heritage link and read about the projects, pilot programs, and initiatives in rural areas such as the “Community and Countryside Workshops” designed to assist rural communities in preserving rural character, revitalizing communities, and discussing land use and design. The “Barn Again” program is used to help farmers and agricultural groups preserve old barns by integrating them into modern agriculture production.
Read about the eleven most threatened historic sites and the twenty most threatened rural sites in the country-one is Hialeah Racetrack here in Florida. Many are from the Civil and Pre-Revolutionary War periods—it gives you perspective that if obviously historic locations are threatened, what about Geneva that is less well-known? Example: the Upper Piedmont of Virginia where George Washington farmed and Stonewall Jackson made his famous stand, was/is at risk from several huge development projects including: a Formula One racecourse, a 21,000 seat amphitheatre, a major thoroughbred racetrack, and here’s my favorite, The Disney Project-a new city with a 405-acre theme park at its center-$650 million dollars. Disney has apparently abandoned the project due to negative publicity for its image.
The Journey Through Hallowed Ground Partnership a non-profit public/private group is committed to preserving the 175 mile stretch from Gettysburg, PA to Monticello, VA which one historian noted "has soaked up more of the blood, sweat, and tears of American history than any other part of the country." The significance of this area is too immense to detail here but suffice it to say that in addition to being threatened by subdivisions (popping up in cornfields) from nearby Washington DC suburbs, newly widened highways, the Partnership was finally successful in narrowly defeating The Gettysburg Casino project. We chuckle and roll our eyes at that, yet think about Biloxi, Mississippi and Cherokee North Carolina-it has happened. The casinos certainly are employing people in a huge way on the Gulf Coast, an area that needs economic salvation. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder and precious land is in the crosshairs as communities try to balance historic preservation and economic development.
And so we are so fortunate to have leaders in our midst who have the vision to protect and preserve our Island of Geneva with an eye on the future and a hand on the mouse, integrating 21st century technology that will make our story accessible for generations to come. Geneva Citizens Association Vice President Chris Stapleton is leading the way in this effort and his words to the County Commissioners were moving: “I want to thank you for recognizing to celebrate the rural heritage -it’s rich, it’s living, and it’s ongoing. With your support with this recognition we can go on and help make “Geneva Island” the rich, educational asset for Seminole County, for future generations to respect, to understand, and to celebrate the rich and diverse cultural heritage that has gone on for over 100 years.”
We need you to tell us what you know that is good about Geneva! Please share your information, ideas and comments by calling 407-221-7002, via e-mail at email@example.com, (please put “Stetson’s Corner” in the subject line), or with a fax to 407-349-2800. Thanks!
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