'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.