Over the summer, Marion County is presenting the State of the County report. The first presentation was held on Friday, July 8 at the Circle Square Cultural Center. Horse Farms Forever® attended to be on the lookout about any potential projects that may affect horse farms, primarily in the Farmland Preservation Area (FPA). Three additional presentations are planned throughout Marion County.

Highlights included the state of the economy, future improvements to transportation systems, a countywide broadband research study, and improvements to public services such as law enforcement, fire rescue, animal services, and Blue Run Park.

Commissioner Zalak focused on the growing economy and tourism. In 2010, there was a 14.4 percent unemployment rate. “Times were tough,” he said. However, with the County’s focus to grow the economy over the past 10 years, the unemployment rate is now about 2.8%.

Balancing growth is important to the County, while also growing the economy. Approximately two-thirds of the County is protected from urban development between the Farmland Preservation Area and the Ocala National Forest.

The County’s tourism industry is also growing with the opening of the World Equestrian Center and the FAST Aquatic Center.

“Great venues like the World Equestrian Center have made Marion County as a destination on an international stage,” said Commissioner Zalak.

Marion County is also becoming a logistics hub due to its central location in the state and I-75. The tax revenue from the buildings helps keep the County’s property tax rates low.

Commissioner Zalak also reported that Marion County is being considered as an ideal location to site a 120-bed Veterans’ Nursing Home; funded through the Florida Department of Veterans’ Affairs (FDVA) and the U.S. Department of Veterans’ Affairs. The County is home to more than 45,000 veterans. About 650,000 veterans live within a 75-mile radius of the site.

Commissioner Curry presented a summary of the County’s Litter Task Force to help change the mindset of people negatively impacting our community and scenic roadways. The task force is tasked with coming up with a plan that the community can implement. The County spends over $900,000 picking up litter every year and nearly 84 percent is thrown intentionally.

“We are better than this,” said Commissioner Curry.

Commissioner Michelle Stone presented an update on affordable housing and the Commitment to Zero plan to help improve transportation safety.

Commissioners Jeff Gold and Kathy Bryant also presented summaries on fire rescue and law enforcement infrastructure improvements, and the County’s $2.5M in park improvements at Blue Run Park near Dunnellon.


County Commission Chairman Carl Zalak, III, presented the report along with fellow County Commissioners and staff. Photos courtesy of Marion County

Broadband Feasibility Study

Commissioner Michelle Stone also presented the Broadband Feasibility Study to research the need for high speed internet county wide. The County is partnering with Televate to conduct the study, which will help determine where new or improved broadband services are needed. The County is also partnering with the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity (DEO) for the Broadband Speed Test to help develop Florida’s Broadband Availability Map.

For the Broadband Survey, there is an eCheckup to share what type of internet service residents currently have. For the Broadband Speed Test, the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity (DEO) has a link to take an internet speed test.

Attend a Presentation

Three more presentations of the State of the County are planned:

  • Wednesday, July 27 at 7 pm, Salt Springs, VFW
  • Tuesday, August 9 at 1 pm, Del Webb Spruce Creek, Ballroom (Only open to Spruce Creek residents.)
  • Thursday, August 18 at 7 pm, The Villages, Mulberry Grove Recreation Center

It is the vision and mission of Horse Farms Forever to inspire conservation of horse farms through education, awareness and idea exchange so as to preserve natural pasture land focusing on horses and their habitats, to protect soil and water on which they depend, and minimize land use conflicts
in Marion County, Florida.

We are watchful of government and others to preserve and protect horse farms and farmland for future generations - especially in the Farmland Preservation Area. We are neither anti-growth nor anti-development; we encourage urban growth to remain inside the Urban Growth Boundary.

Horse Farms Forever® is a Florida not-for-profit corporation registered with the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services as a charitable organization and approved as a tax-exempt 501(c)(3) corporation by the Internal Revenue Service. Horse Farms Forever® does not have a political mission. Our status as a 501(c)(3) charitable organization does not allow us to participate or intervene in political activities. The organization will neither advocate on behalf of political candidates nor advocate for the passage of legislation.