Update: College Withdraws Plans to Buy Park Land

Thank you, thank you, thank you for helping us save the Wickham Park scrub land. The newspaper article below published 9/24 states that the college has decided not to try and buy the land in Wickham Park. They have decided to just use the land they already have for their new buildings. I would suspect that this problem will arise again, so be prepared! The one thing I learned from this whole project is that what has happened to Wickham Park to-date is totally against what Joe Wickham wanted for the area. He wanted a conservation area, not a mess of county projects eating up the land!

Power to the people!

Here is the newspaper article -
Eastern Florida State College leaders have withdrawn a proposal to purchase 77 acres of Wickham Park to expand its operations. In a news release Monday afternoon, officials said they will instead construct new buildings on Melbourne campus property the college already owns.

“We’ve listened closely to the concerns expressed by some commissioners and others in our community and respect their views,” Eastern Florida President Jim Richey said in a statement. “As a result, we have decided to withdraw our proposal to purchase the park land.” He continued: “In the coming months, we’ll work to design a new plan to construct additional buildings on the existing Melbourne campus. Our goal remains the same: To best serve our students with new academic programs, including bachelor’s degrees in fast-growth job fields, in the years ahead.”

A FLORIDA TODAY request to interview Richey about the decision was denied on Monday; he is traveling to North Carolina to observe the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools accreditation process and cannot be reached by , Spokesman John Glisch said. phone The college had proposed building three new buildings on the land, which would serve programs in health sciences ; business; and science, technology, engineering and math, also known as the STEM topics.

At a Brevard County Commission meeting Sept. 17, elected officials voted to table the sale in order to seek more feedback. The land -- 77 acres in the northeast corner of the 391-acre park – would have brought $3.85 million. At the meeting, members of the public raised concerns to the commission about the project and its potential effects on residents of the community, as well as on wildlife in the park, including such threatened species as scrub jays and gopher tortoises.

To read the whole article - Click Here

Information About the Park and The Sale

First and foremost I am not a writer, so please forgive me for any mistakes I might make. This is strictly a "labor of love" about what is left of the natural parts of Wickham Park in Melbourne Florida.

This website has been created to try and save what is left of the natural scrub area in Wickham Park from destruction. Many do not realize there still is a section of the 391 area county park in Melbourne Florida which is a true Florida scrub. Once upon a time a fair portion of Florida was just scrub, I suspect that most of Melbourne once was just scrub land. Scrub is usually made up of sand, palmettos and pines. There are only a few acres left of scrub in Wickham Park. Most of the other originally allocated conservation scrub land which was there when the park was created has been built on by the county. It is now a college, senior center, equestrian center, county maintenance buildings, archery range, dog park, limited access picnic/walk area, schools and ball parks. You can see the difference just by looking at this picture. It shows what the park looked like in 1984 (already being cut up) and 2009 (it is even more developed now)

Click to enlarge -

The park was originally set aside as an area to protect and preserve nature in Brevard. It was named after a county commissioner who was concerned about the environment and wanted an area to protect nature and give the residents of Brevard County a place to go and enjoy the outdoors. His name was Joe Wickham and he has passed on; I have a feeling he is turning over in his grave seeing what the county has done to his beloved Wickham Park!

We can not take back the areas of Wickham Park already given up by the county commissioners for what I call "sprawl". Brevard county has already allocated a fair portion of the existing scrub for a community center (done deal), now they want to sell most of the rest to the local college. We the people can protest this travesty, but the wildlife who actually live there have no means of protest! I started seriously visiting the park in 2008. I had been there a few time before that, for GEOcaching and guided hikes. I wish I had been able to visit the park back when it was created, it had to be a real natural wonderland. Since 2008 I have recorded most of my hikes and also have taken numerous photos. The wildlife I have run across was always wonderful. This included beautiful scrub jays, the cutest rabbits you can imagine, mighty land tortoises, as well as other song and wading birds. I would see raccoons and opossums occasionally along the trails and sometimes a harmless snake. I always felt a certain amount of sorrow for them because some people allow their dogs to run without a leash and the feral cats they must be careful of. They seem to be holding their own against this small group of ignorant people, but now the mighty county wants to destroy them entirely! I have written editorials about this in the past, but it seems to have fallen on deaf ears. I could never figure out why people who love nature continued to turn their backs on the wildlife in Wickham Park. Well, now before it is terminal (can not turn back development), please nature lovers stand up and come to the rescue of the wonderful creatures right in the middle of Melbourne!

The scrubs are not only there for the wildlife, but also for everyone. People come from all over the country (some from all over the world) to GEOCache in Wickham Park (see my link if you don't know about GEOCaching). There is a large scout camp on the edge of the scrub which is visited by many, many scouts and their families each year. Those scouts venture out into the scrub to learn about nature - priceless! Many bikers use the trails to test their mountain biking skills. There are a number of running clubs and running students who use the trails to get their legs in shape on the sand. Many people exercise their dogs walking the trails crisscrossing the scrub. Once this area is gone, many of those visitors will also be gone! I do not know how much tourist dollars would be lost.

It maybe to late for the Community Center, but it is not to late for the scrub land being sold! You ask what can you do - well, here are some things -
• Write a letter to Florida Today in support of the wildlife
• Send an email to your or any county commissioner - tell them to not sell Wickham Park, but to have the college use the land they already own in Palm Bay
• Attend the meeting in Viera on Oct 8th at 9:00 - let them know how you feel
• Tell your friends and relatives to do those things

Here is a scrub jay and tortoise I came across in the scrubs of Wickham Park (click to enlarge) -

Please Sign These Petitions!

A number of petitions have been created which support not selling the land for development. Please consider signing this one (or better yet, print it and circulate it amongst your friends). Hopefully the county commissioners will see that many, many people in Brevard support the original desires of Joe Wickham to protect some of the wilds in our developing Florida! It is almost too late for Wickham Park, considering what they have done already, so please take the time to sign this online petition!
Click Here to Go to Petition Page

This is another petition which is accumulating quite a few signatures - consider signing it also -
Click Here to Sign It

Please also considering going to Florida Today's website to vote to keep the land from being sold. You can click below which will take you to a news article which has a place to vote on it (scroll down - look for "Poll Question").

Click here to vote

Thank you for interest and support!

County Commssioners

Here is a list of the current county commissioners and their email addresses. They are our public servants, so please take the time to drop them an email, write them a letter or even give them a call.

There is no reason for selling off land which makes sense. At the last meeting one of the commissioners brought up the fact that there is plenty of land in Palm Bay which the college already owns which could be used. Ask them why destroy a conservation area when there are other options!

Commissioner information webpage -
Click here to Link to their webpage

Brevard County Commissioners

District 1
Commissioner Robin Fisher
Email: D1.Commissioner@brevardcounty.us
Ph: (321) 264-6750
Fax: (321) 264-6751
Office/Mail Location:
400 South Street
Suite 1-A
Titusville, Florida 32780

District 2
Commissioner Chuck Nelson
Email: D2.Commissioner@brevardcounty.us
Ph: (321) 454-6601
Fax: (321) 454-6602
Office/Mail Location:
Merritt Island Service Complex
2575 North Courtenay Parkway
Suite 200
Merritt Island, Florida 32953

District 3
Commissioner Trudie Infantini
Email: D3.Commissioner@brevardcounty.us
Ph: (321) 952-6300
Fax: (321) 952-6340
Office/Mail Location:
1311 E. New Haven Avenue
Melbourne, Florida 32901

District 4 (Vice Chair)
Email: Commissioner Mary Bolin Lewis
Ph: (321) 633-2044
Fax: (321) 633-2121
Office/Mail Location:
2725 Judge Fran Jamieson Way
Building C Suite 214
Viera, Florida 32940
Note: Wickham Park is in her district and she is for selling the land

District 5 (Chairman)
Commissioner Andy Anderson
Email: D5.Commissioner@brevardcounty.us
Ph: (321) 253-6611
Fax: (321) 253-6620
Office/Mail Location:
1515 Sarno Road
Building B
Melbourne, Florida 32935

Commisioners Meeting About Selling Park

There will be a meeting of the Brevard County Commissioners on Oct 8th at the Brevard County Government Center, Building C 2725 Judge Fran Jamieson Way in Viera. It will be very helpful if a large number of residents show up to speak up against the sale of the Wickham Park scrub land. The meeting starts at 9:00 am, get there a little early to signup as a speaker. The actual subject about the land sale might not start until 10:00, so be patient!

The more people that show up increases the possibility of the sale being cancelled or at least put off is much more likely to occur. So, be there if you can!

Joe Wickham and Wickham Park

As I mentioned earlier, I believe that Joe Wickham is turning over in his grave knowing what Brevard County has done to his beloved Wickham Park. He never would have allowed the county to destroy the park the way they have over the years. I'm sure he would have been behind many of the projects which have taken place, just not in his park!

Here is an excerpt from a newspaper article dated May 1986 about Joe Wickham -
Wickham can be found most weekday mornings by 6 a.m. at his Wickham Construction office on Avocado Street in Melbourne. With the windows cracked and the white lace curtains billowing gently, he is at home on the phone with a caller who is either upset because he hasn't received his Social Security check or mad because a proposed zoo could take away part of Wickham Park.

The park is Wickham's pride and joy. It was another slightly under-the- table but good-for-the-people deal that probably wouldn't fly today, but there are a bunch of people who are glad it did when it did.

Wickham explains:
''There was a fellow selling lots in an old boom-time subdivision for $50. I had the commission take it off the market so the county could use it for fill dirt. Other surrounding land was added, some of which I bought out of my own pocket, and the next thing you knew we had a place for the scouts to come and camp.''
Wickham used his construction company equipment to clear the palmetto- covered site, devising a different type of blade so that bulldozers wouldn't pull down the existing trees. The lakes were cleared and sand was added to the bottom.

''It's a poor man's park. Anyone who lives here can make a couple of peanut butter sandwiches and bring the family out on Sunday afternoon and have a whale of a good time,'' said one well-wisher who stopped to say hello to Wickham during a recent visit to the site.

Wickham keeps his finger in. He admits he ''gave a little help to groups recently opposing a proposal to turn over part of the park for a zoo.

Interesting Articles and Links

Editorials that have been published in the opinions section of Florida Today-
Title: Wickham Park's nature, wildlife being destroyed
Published: 9/16/13 by Tom Choma
Click here to view it

Title: Consider other options for expanding college
Published: 9/16/13 by Carol Hamilton
Click here to view it

Title: County's proposed sale of park land troubling
Published: 9/20/13 by Robert Werdann
Click here to view it

Articles published in Florida Today-
Title: College expansion plans include acreage in Melbourne park
Published: 9/10/13
Click here to view it

Title: Commissioners seek feedback on Eastern Florida State College expansion
Published: 9/18/13
Click here to view it
Note: there is a place to submit a vote here - please do that

Some interesting links-
Channel 13 News Piece
Click here to view it

Video of Brevard County Commission Meeting 9/17/13
Click here to view it
Click on that and the video will skip to that segment of the meeting
Select full screen to see the video in full screen