Those of us who have called Citrus County home for more than a few years are nervously watching the landscape change.
That could be literal — a car wash where trees once stood — or something a little more esoteric. We feel a transition but can’t quite put our finger on it.
And that brings me to Magnolia Cemetery.
Magnolia is on State Road 44 near County Road 491 in Lecanto. It’s one of the oldest cemeteries in the county with burials including Civil War veterans on both sides of the fight.
Its origins trace to 1869 when a mysterious visitor from Kentucky committed suicide in a nearby hotel. The stone that marks his grave actually faces northwest where the hotel once sat.
I’m a cemetery person. I’ll be driving along a county road in the middle of nowhere and will stop at the local cemetery. Something about old and new gravestones, the inscriptions on some, the simple “born” and “died” dates on others. I search out families and, if unfamiliar with the area, try to figure out that community’s iconic names.
I’ve visited most cemeteries in this county at least once, including those that folks don’t even know exist. (One is hidden in plain sight.)
Cemeteries are sacred. They’re not to be messed with.
I wrote a story one year about a dispute among families about ownership of a cemetery. The man who claimed ownership was barring burial to members of a feuding family and the whole thing ended up in court.
Magnolia Cemetery is a plot of land with deep Lecanto history. For a hundred years it was surrounded by woods, rustic homes and farms.
In time, progress started to encroach on the cemetery. S.R. 44 was widened and then the C.R. 491 widening that totally exposed Magnolia Cemetery to the outside world.
If you’re somewhat new here, that wide-open valley on the east side of 491 was once covered in forest.
I took today’s blog photo a few months ago while strolling through Magnolia Cemetery. I came across this peaceful setting where someone had placed a bench seat to visit loved ones with picturesque woods in the background.
Those woods are gone. Rather than nature, what’s coming straight ahead is a Dan’s Car Wash and who knows what else. The county stripped all the beauty that surrounded Magnolia Cemetery for the sake of digging vast drainage holes to handle future development.
I try to picture how those families would react if they could see the cemetery’s surroundings today.
We’re talking a lot these days about vision and strategic plans. Past county commissioners are blamed for visions that didn’t turn out quite right (ask me about Ottawa Avenue) and praised for the ones that did (widening C.R. 486 before it was needed).
Vision changes over time. I wrote a little bit Monday about a developer’s plans for homes on the closed Pine Ridge Golf Club, and someone remarked it wasn’t fair.
Here’s how she put it:
“Those developers sold the original development plans to the county with their golf courses as ‘green spaces’ to get them approved and homeowners who purchased properties in golf course communities purchased with that similar green space mindset. It would be like purchasing a lakefront home and later the lake being filled, covered in concrete, and turned into a racetrack.”
And now you see the dilemma facing county commissioners every time they get a request to upzone or otherwise change a community’s traditional character.
It’s often difficult to anticipate whether something will work out or not. What I see out on C.R. 491 in Lecanto looks less like vision and more like hodge-podge planning. The original idea of a medical corridor wasn’t a bad one but look at it today. No medical corridor and a car wash coming in on the S.R. 44 corner.
I’m confident we have commissioners who are thinking more about the overall picture and not only what’s in front of them at the moment.
Just as our pioneers did.
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Mike Wright has written about Citrus County government and politics for 36 years.