News Section: Environment
Sierra Club Opposes Robinson Expansion Deal to go Before BOCC Today
MANATEE – The local chapter of the Sierra Club has come out against a deal to expand Robinson Preserve that would give a foundation "naming rights" for the expanded areas and its facilities, arguing that while such a cooperative effort might be beneficial in some ways, it is being moved forward without proper public input as part of the process. Part of the concern has come from the vague language of the deal and uncertainty about the foundation' s relationship with the Mosaic Company and its various interests, who the group fears may seek to benefit associating their name with a positive ecological effort in the area.
In a letter to the BOCC (see full letter below), Sierra Club Manatee/Sarasota Executive Committee member Robert Fellman told members it would “not be reasonable to name part of the facility after entities whose discharges into the air, surface and groundwaters of Manatee County lead to environmental damage and whose stewardship of the land and wetland areas of the county is questionable and, in the eyes of many of the citizens of Manatee County, unsound.” The Board is scheduled to vote on a draft agreement in today's meeting, but Sierra Club hopes they will hold off in order to receive public input and revise the language contained in the draft.
Re: Robinson Preserve Expansion
I refer to the action that was initiated at the August 21, 2012 Regular Meeting of the Manatee County Commissioners, Agenda item #47. In this action Mr. Charlie Hunsicker moved to direct the County Staff and County Attorney’s Office “to negotiate a cooperative agreement with the Conservation Foundation of the Gulf Coast (CFGC) for the expansion of the Robinson Preserve, and to present such agreement for consideration and approval at a future meeting.” I understand that a draft agreement has now been prepared and that the approval of the agreement will be placed before the Commissioners for action at the forthcoming meeting on October 30, 2012.
The interest of the public coincides with this approval and I wish to voice an observation relating to the implementation of the agreement which I believe cannot proceed without a significant clarification.
Section 1.7, Recognition, of the agreement states that, “The parties acknowledge that the Foundations will receive naming rights for their contributions to the Project, which may include naming rights to the Expansion Property or facilities, signage featuring its logo and public relations promotions.”
While I do not disparage public and private cooperative investments for the public good and I see value to the public in the expansion of the preserve, I question whether naming rights such as outlined in the draft agreement (ref. Section 1.7 above) should proceed without the participation of the public.
Robinson Preserve and its expansion, is and will be elements of the conserved environment within Manatee County. The Preserve stands as an outstanding contribution to the ecological endowment of Manatee County and the expansion, which may include an environmental education center, will stand as a focus for the County’s ongoing conservation and preservation efforts. It is probable that school children will brought to the center on field trips, scouts, youth organizations and churches may utilize the center to further educational and or stewardship objectives. It is likely that seminars and other public ecological events may be staged or in some way may incorporate the Robinson Expansion into the agendas for their activities.
Given then the probable educational role that the expansion will play, it will not be reasonable to name part of the facility after entities whose discharges into the air, surface and groundwaters of Manatee County lead to environmental damage and whose stewardship of the land and wetland areas of the county is questionable and, in the eyes of many of the citizens of Manatee County, unsound. It is not reasonable to interject commercial interests into public endeavors, especially into educational resources potentially directed at young people.
Thus I propose that the matter of naming rights be made subject to the review, comment and consideration of the public. Such naming should be made a matter for Commission approval based on their consideration of the input of the public. The draft agreement needs to be modified.
Very truly yours,
Executive Committee Member,
Manatee-Sarasota Group, Sierra Club
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