Thornby book gets third printing, invite to author's fair
By Erika Webb Hometown News Jan. 18, 2013
Take a paralegal with a penchant for old stuff, such as a "Hitchcock phone." Try to squelch her curiosity. Threaten to pave over history. She won't be daunted. She'll write a book. Sandra Walters and her husband, Roy, moved to Stone Island in unincorporated Enterprise in 2001. They were tired of the crowds, congestion and concrete in Orlando. They wanted to live on the water and keep their boat easily accessible. What happened hearkens fond memories of Nancy Drew mystery books. Only this was real. Ms. Walters, who said she doesn't particularly like mysteries, traveled along Lakeshore Drive on her way to and from Interstate 4 during the time her home was being built. Her attention was drawn to a piece of property thick with "old Florida" shrubs, live oaks, magnolia and cypress trees that had been there for centuries. She saw a structure back there, too. "I saw this old, ratty-looking thing back there," she said "Old houses have always intrigued me." So she poked around on the property, wondering why, who and how.
Oh boy. The Story of Thornby, "a non-fiction account of local history and politics," is what came out of Ms. Walters' excursion onto that tangled, rundown property situated on the shores of Lake Monroe. But she didn't merely sit down at her computer and explore history. She became part of it. And any good historic account includes battles. In 2000, concerned residents of Enterprise formed a non-profit preservation group and called it The Enterprise Preservation Society. Their concerns stemmed from rapid development happening all around their small community. They didn't want strip malls, parking lots and condominiums erasing the area's rich history. Established in 1841, Enterprise, like most river-bank villages in the steamboat era, was once a boomtown itself.
But its roots go even deeper. University of Florida researchers have found evidence of a native settlement along the lake 6,200 years before present time, according to the website, oldenterprise.org. Ms. Walters said the grassroots group, Friends of Thornby, organized in 2001, "sprang out of the Enterprise Preservation Society," which she said, "can't get too political because it's a registered non-profit." She and others had figured out things were destined to get political. By then Ms. Walters had explored the
40 acres of pristine woodlands and wetlands, 1,000 feet of which stretched along the lakefront. She had seen the Notice of Public Hearing sign portending a change in land use, from residential to commercial, and she had talked to people in the area. One had spent time at Thornby as a child. Another revealed an Indian midden remained there. Someone else told her there was a bald eagle's nest on the property. Her lengthy career as a paralegal taught her facts, not emotions, lead to effective rulings. In the group's view, an effective ruling would be to preserve nature and history. "It helped to understand how facts are all important," Ms. Walters said. The ensuing nine-year battle with local governments, including Volusia County and the City of Deltona, started with 13 people, not one of who had ever gone toe-to-toe with officials over anything like this. "You see articles about how this group's fighting this and that group's fighting that. We were learning along the way," Ms. Walters said. "Except for the planners who helped along the way, we were really seat of the pants." Thornby was at one time owned by a wealthy doctor from New York. The modest house and surrounding land were a winter refuge for his family. Eventually it became the home of Doris Faber, a caretaker for the doctor's wife. Talking to Ms. Walters, one gets the impression that Ms. Faber's memory compelled the group to fight nearly as much as the stoic trees had. Ms. Walters said Doris Faber became a local legend as she kept house at Thornby. She was tasked with getting it ready for the family when they wanted to visit. That left a lot of unattended hours in between. "She wasn't a saint but she was a down-home, good-old-girl, very religious and always cooked on a wood-stove," Ms. Walters said. "She had a daycare, a petting zoo and informally adopted one or two children to live there with her." Following Ms. Faber's death in 1989, Ms. Walters said the Thornby heirs decided it was time to do what they wanted to do. What they wanted to do was annex the land into Deltona for development -- condos, a shopping center and other brick and mortar moneymakers. The details are in the book, but the group did endless homework and attended countless meetings. Both council and commission were repeatedly divided, but the Friends of Thornby managed to gain a majority ruling for preservation in the end. "I was in the fight, and there was so much paperwork involved with saving Thornby and having it be what it is today," Ms. Walters said. Nothing about the book-writing process was fun, she said, until the end when she felt "relief." The book, now in its third printing, is available at area book stores, including Family Book Shop and The Muse in DeLand as well as at the West Volusia Historical Society and online at amazon.com, barnesandnoble.com and thestoryofthornby.com. Ms. Walters has done presentations for the Daughters of the American Revolution, West Volusia Historical Society, American Businesswomen's Association and she's been invited to be part of the Lake Helen Author's Fair March 9. "If I had just said, oh, nice park, and walked away it would've nagged at me forever that I didn't tell the story of what we did," she said. "I always thought I'd like to be a writer. Thornby got me to do that." So, like any good story the book has villains and heroes. It has arson. It has hurricanes, "political chicanery" and even "nasty T-shirts." Also, like any good story, it has a happy ending. Ms. Walters said she has even found a soft spot in her heart for one elected official in particular, sort of. Another hallmark of a good read are lessons we carry away. The Story of Thornby contains tips for other groups who seek to preserve, in addition to grander lessons about working through opposition and listening. Sometimes, when we really listen, we learn from things we deem disposable, like trees and voices of the past, as they echo through people who aren't ready to let them go. "I wrote this book because so many people see and enjoy Thornby Park, who don't know how it came to be there," Ms. Walters said. "I wanted people to understand how it's there and what it took. Every time I drive by that park I think, I can't believe we did this."
Published in the Daytona News-Journal AREA AUTHOR Dec. 30, 2012
Name: Sandra Walters Residence: Enterprise
Book info: “The Story of Thornby,” Blackwyrm Publishing, 359 pages, $29.95 large-format paperback with 44 full-color photos
Summary: The book documents a true “David and Goliath” story — the well-publicized, local grass-roots fight by a group of ordinary people who took on Volusia County's largest city in 2001. The eight-year struggle to save the historic Thornby property on Lake Monroe included arson, hurricanes, political chicanery, personal attacks and 11 public hearings. The book features lots of local history, as well as a section of tips on how to successfully “fight City Hall.”
Author bio: Since moving to Florida from Pittsburgh in 1971, Sandra Walters has lived and worked as a paralegal all over the state. The Thornby fight was her first foray into politics and the workings of government. It taught her more than she ever thought she could learn about what goes on behind the scenes. Now retired, Walters uses her time for community causes, as well as enjoying hiking, bicycle riding, reading and traveling with her husband.
Available: amazon.com and barnesandnoble.com, as well as at Family Book Store, West Volusia Historical Society and The Muse Book Shop, all in DeLand, and Barrel of Books and Games in Mount Dora
The City Observer July, 2012 The Story of Thornby
Lake Helen resident Betty O'Laughlin didn't plan to be part of a book when she spoke at a Deltona city commission hearing in 2004. After all, as a Sierra Club member, she was used to speaking out about inappropriate development at public hearings all over the county. What she didn't know then, was that the pristine piece of old Florida known as the historic Thornby property -- the subject of a planned land use change that would squeeze hundreds of condominiums onto its wet, wooded landscape -- was special.
In 2001, "Save Thornby" became the rallying cry that awoke and united the once-famous Central Florida community of Enterprise. As most West Volusians know, Enterprise on the St. Johns River was Volusia's first county seat. After the Civil War and into the early 20th century, Enterprise was a hub for steamship travel to and from Jacksonville and site of the prestigious Brock House Hotel. It was a prime winter destination for thousands of tourists, from regular folks to the rich and famous like Harriet Beecher Stowe and Grover Cleveland, who enjoyed its mineral springs, massive trees, sparkling lakeshore, hunting and fishing. When Enterprise lost the county seat to DeLand in the late 1800s, however, hard times began. Citrus freezes and the decline in river travel settled Enterprise into a sleepy existence. The once "Happy Little Town" on the north shore of Lake Monroe (as described by an 1891 Jacksonville newspaper) was off the radar screen for most -- but not for everyone.
Enterprise's rebirth as an involved, spirited town began in 2000, when the Thornby property,its heart both geographically and historically, was under threat. Its 40 waterfront acres had been owned by Dr. and Mrs. James H. Glass from Utica, NY, who enjoyed it as their winter home for many years. After their deaths, a local resident named Doris Faber, who had been much like a surrogate daughter, was allowed to stay on. "Miss Doris" as she was widely known, opened her home and heart to hundreds of local kids over the years. Raised in the Florida Methodist Orphanage, she loved people, especially children. In return, the kids got to be part of days at Thornby filled with animals, gardens, fruit trees, springs, ancient oaks and plenty of "tough love." It was a magical experience that many still recall fondly.
After Doris Faber's death, the heirs of Dr. and Mrs. Glass, who lived in the New Jersey area, wanted to sell the land and the 80-year old home; however, they decided that its county allowed land use of one residence per acre would not provide them with adequate profits from a potential developer. They hired a lawyer and began lobbying Volusia County to change the land use to a more intense build-out. When the county refused, the owners annexed the property into the city of Deltona in 2001.
Thus begins the next part of Thornby's story. When the "Friends of Thornby" grassroots group of Enterprise and Deltona residents took on the challenges of opposing a drastic land use change, we had no way of knowing that the struggle would consume nine years, 11 public hearings, and four elections. Along the way, we encountered arson, hurricanes and political chicanery. There were personal attacks against us, and elected officials who supported us, on websites and even on t-shirts.
The story of Thornby has a happy ending. Today, Thornby Park stands where we argued against strip shopping. Oak, cypress and magnolia, some estimated to be 300 years old, grace the land on which it was once proposed to hold 250 condos, a swimming pool and a clubhouse. The remains of an Indian midden and an old railroad spur dot the peaceful, green woods. And Betty O'Laughlin was one of hundreds of ordinary citizens whose efforts made it happen.
I wrote "The Story of Thornby" for several reasons: to prove that you CAN "fight city hall;" to document the "David and Goliath" story that led to Thornby Park; to provide tips for those who might face their own land-use battles; and to share our area's rich history with those who want to know more.
More details are on my website: www.thestoryofThornby.com, where the book can be purchased online. It's also available at The Muse Bookshop, Family Book Store, and the West Volusia Historical Society gift shop, all in DeLand and all listed on the website.
Sandra Walters, Enterprise, FL
The Town Crier
Volume 29, Issue 12
America Business Womens Association,
Deltona Chapter Newsletter
Program Speaker Sandra Walters, author of
The Story of Thornby: How Ordinary People Took on Government, explained the process of citizens going up against Deltona City Hall to save a property for environmental purposes from high density development. The area is 40 acres, including 7.5 acres of wetlands, 1000 feet from Lake Monroe with Magnolia and Oak trees that are at least 300 years old. It took The Friends of Thornby group over 11 public hearings, and new mayor and city council, and 9 years to convince politicians to protect the area instead of developing the area into condominiums. It was sold to the City of Deltona for 3 million dollars and now boasts a park for the handicap & non- handicapped children alike. It is only 1 of 10 in all of Florida and the only 1 in Volusia County to provide this type of facility. They hope to build nature trails, a children's garden, & a water taxi service to downtown Sanford in the near future.
'Thornby' story offers 'lessons' for activists along with Enterprise history
By Mark Harper , Staff Writer - March 10, 2012 12:15 AM
Residents Roy and Sandy Walters pose at the entrance of Thornby Park, in Deltona, where they plan to build a community gazebo. (N-J | Peter Bauer)
ENTERPRISE -- "I used to be normal," Sandra Walters muses in the introduction of her book, "The Story of Thornby: How Ordinary People Took on Government."
That was before she got sucked into a community effort to protect one of Enterprise's gems - a piece of land facing Lake Monroe that appeared destined for the kind of development that could dramatically change its old-Florida character.
To boil down the Enterprise story into a few sentences would not do the story justice. But what was the Volusia County seat from 1854 until 1888 became a rural outpost that would eventually be threatened by the development of Deltona around it.
The Thornby property - including a house built by Dr. James Glass on 80 acres where today Providence Boulevard meets Lakeshore Drive - became a symbol for saving Enterprise.
Each time the land's owners came up with a new concept, condos, apartments and a restaurant, Walters and other Enterprise residents who had formed the Friends of Thornby group would fight it.
And, in short, the Enterprise activists won. Deltona and Volusia County agreed to buy the property and transform it into a park, keeping its character largely intact.
Walters wrote a book detailing the history of the property and the fight to save it, including "lessons" to would-be activists. It was published late last year by BlackWyrm Publishing, Louisville, Ky.
"It was an incredible undertaking on her part," said Cindy Sullivan, chairwoman of the Enterprise Preservation Society. "It's got such historical significance and it's something that shouldn't be lost."
Walters, in an email interview, said two things were particularly challenging about the book: Writing the truth about onetime foes of Enterprise who have turned out to be friends and nailing down the history.
"The finished work had to be an accurate record of events," she said. "This was tough because many older records of Enterprise history were contradictory and because I wasn't living here in the 1990s when a lot of pivotal events took place that set the stage for the clash over the Thornby property. I interviewed a lot of the people involved, but naturally memories had faded in some cases."
"The Story of Thornby: How Ordinary People Took on Government" is available online at thestoryofthornby.com, the Family Book Store, the West Volusia Historical Society and the Muse Book Shop in DeLand. Sandra Walters will be presenting at the historical society, 137 W. Michigan Ave., DeLand, at 7 p.m. April 17.
Same church, different pew
Letter - From the April 30, 2012 issue by Sandra Walters
As a Floridian with a second home in Teton County, Idaho -- we bought an existing home -- I read your words with interest (HCN, 3/5/12, "The Zombies of Teton County"). In my "real life" in Florida, I am a land-use activist. What does that mean? Our county council members would probably say it means that I pop up and mouth off every time a property owner wants to change the comprehensive plan to increase the density allowed on his or her property.
If one substituted "rednecks" for "Mormons" and "swamp owners" for "farmers" in your article, it would pretty much mirror what we, too, are living through. One particularly egregious change would have allowed hundreds of condominiums on a wet, pristine and historic property, rather than 20 single-family homes. Citizens fought for nine years to keep the land use intact. When we were successful, I wrote a book about how the grassroots prevailed.
The point is that ordinary people can win these fights. Just don't expect it to be easy, cheap or fast.
Book by Enterprise resident Sandra Walters
recounts story of Thornby.
Book-signing at The Muse Book Shop 1-3 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 28
IMAGE COURTESY SANDRA WALTERS
PHOTO COURTESY SANDRA WALTERS
By Pat Andrews
BEACON STAFF WRITER
posted Jan 23, 2012 - 5:26:48pm
The story has it all — from arson to archaeology, from politics to personal passion, from developers to determined conservationists — as The Story of Thornby: How Ordinary People Took on Government unfolds.
Enterprise resident and Thornby supporter Sandra Walters wrote the book. She will appear for a book-signing 1-3 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 28, at The Muse Book Shop in DeLand.
Walters was one of the activists who fought for Thornby to become a passive park instead of being developed into a huge townhouse complex.
Thornby came to be when James Glass bought 80 acres in Enterprise on the shore of Lake Monroe in 1917. It came to be called "Thornby" for a friend of the Glass family, Jennie A. Thorn.
"Utter silence reigned," Walters wrote. "On the property then, as now, are flora and fauna that provide lessons about Florida's past — live oaks, slash pine, back gum, southern red cedar and southern magnolia trees, cabbage palm, wild blueberry, sparkleberry and more."
The property had been home to Native Americans, and is the site of a midden — an Indian dumping ground and a treasure trove for archaeologists. The property is also believed to include the site of Fort Kingsbury, built during the Second Seminole War, 1835-42.
The book contains this history, plus the history of Enterprise — the founding of Florida United Methodist Children's Home, the Brock House Hotel, the steamships that called on the port, and more.
Walters had planned to recount just the fight for the Thornby property, which began around the year 2000, but that seemed like stepping into the middle of the story. She had to explain why so many people are passionate about Thornby and Enterprise, she said.
Though the property was annexed into Deltona, "It is historically Enterprise, and should be Enterprise," Walters said.
There would have been a nice view of Lake Monroe from the development, "once they knocked down a few hundred trees," Walters said.
The land isn't even suitable for development, she added.
Along with stories of the earlier settlers, the book tells the story of the local people, members of the Enterprise Preservation Society and Friends of Thornby — people like Mark Matzinger, Larry French, Bob Sayre, and political figures such as County Council Member Pat Northey and Deltona Mayors Dennis Mulder and John Masiarczyk.
Why did Walters write the book?
"Everyone should know how it became Thornby Park, and how many people worked so hard to bring it about," she said.
In 2009, the City of Deltona purchased 38.2 acres of the remaining Thornby property for use as a park and all-inclusive playground for $3 million, half of that paid by the county's Volusia Forever program.
The story includes Walters' own evolution into an activist, and the lessons she learned.
Read more about the book online at www.thestoryofthornby.com.
PUBLISHED IN The ORLANDO SENTINEL - June 7, 2014
Proud of Thornby
The article "Playground will offer fun for kids of many abilities" in Thursday's Sentinel states that the playground at Young Pine Community Park will be Central Florida's first inclusive playground.
The playground at Thornby Park in West Volusia Countywas Volusia's only "boundless" playground when it opened in 2011.
The nearly 40-acre Thornby property on the St. Johns River was once slated to become a condominium development, until local citizens rallied to save it from a drastic land-use change.
The result is a beautiful and popular playground that eliminates barriers for children with all kinds of disabilities: physical, sensory, cognitive and developmental. We in Volusia, which is certainly part of Central Florida, are justly proud of our park and playground at Thornby.
Sandra Walters Enterprise