Orange County Green PLACE Program: Impact Keeps on Growing
Orange County leaders and community partners created the Green PLACE (Park Land Acquisition for Conservation and Environmental Protection) Program a little over three decades ago as an initiative to preserve, enhance and restore environmentally sensitive lands. The program has accomplished a great deal since its inception, playing a critical role in showcasing Central Florida’s diverse natural beauty.
Preservation of environmentally sensitive lands is an important tool used by federal, state, local and private organizations to sustain ecosystem diversity, enhance air and water quality, reduce flooding, mitigate catastrophic wildfires, protect wildlife and plants, provide nature-based recreational opportunities, and expand wildlife corridors that are crucial to the survival of species such as the Florida black bear and the Florida panther.
Together with partner agencies, Orange County has preserved over 23,000 acres of natural lands, with the Green PLACE Program managing approximately 5,100 acres. Land management activities include prescribed fires, invasive species management, restoration, forestry management, and wildlife and vegetation monitoring.
“Protecting our natural resources, especially as we continue to grow as a region, benefits us with cleaner air, lakes, and rivers and leaves a legacy for future generations,” said Orange County Mayor Jerry L. Demings. “We can all be proud of the accomplishments of the Green PLACE Program, one of the County’s most impactful conservation initiatives.”
In 2021, the program obtained financial support in the amount of $100M from the Orange County Board of County Commissioners (BCC) to make significant progress toward the goal of preserving an additional 23,000 acres of environmentally sensitive lands by 2030.
Last year, these resources were used to acquire nearly 40 acres while also evaluating hundreds of additional properties for acquisition in the coming years. In addition, Green PLACE successfully managed its properties and met its annual goal of burning 980 acres and maintaining more than 30 miles of trails. It also managed invasive species on its properties and continued to collaborate with Orange County Capital Projects Division on the design and construction of amenities that will enhance the visitor experience.
“The Green PLACE Program’s team of environmental professionals manages the complexities of land identification, evaluation, acquisition, planning, restoration and management with professionalism and conviction,” said Mayor Demings, “and their hard work helps ensure a better future for all of us.”
In order to support program activities, Orange County hosts various outreach and volunteer-driven events aimed at educating the community and enhancing the Green PLACE environmentally sensitive lands. These events help increase public awareness about the program and expose the public to a variety of nature-based recreational opportunities these properties offer.
“We’re fortunate to live in region with a diversity of landscapes, and we want our residents and visitors to be aware of the many opportunities we all have to enjoy nature by walking, kayaking, observing wildlife, going horseback riding or just relaxing in our Green PLACE properties,” said David Jones, Manager, Orange County Environmental Protection Division.
For more on the Green PLACE Program, Orange County’s natural lands and more, go to Natural Lands.