DISCOVER THE SECRET PATH TO A PIONEER PAST:
Friday, March 19, 2004
Teaching history with a little flair
By JAMES MILLER
Sporting a traditional Timucuan Indian headdress on his freshly shaven head, James Blowe helped bring to life Wednesday a replica of a Timucuan village for a group of 95 fifth-graders from Lake County who were visiting the Pioneer Settlement for the Creative Arts in Barberville.
"It's very important that kids learn what history is, and how things were done and why things were done," said Blowe, a 46-year-old volunteer who often demonstrates traditional woodworking at the settlement, a sort of living-history campus here in Volusia's northwestern corner.
On Thursday, Blowe and others who try to preserve Florida history at the arts settlement got a little help from Volusia County taxpayers.
One of the settlement's projects was among 14 the County Council funded as part of its annual ECHO grant process. ECHO is short for a 20-year, taxpayer-funded project passed in 2000 to support environmental, cultural, historic and outdoor recreation projects.
Last month, a nine-member advisory board approved awards for projects totaling $3.4 million.
Due to nearby residents' concerns about one of the projects -- a skateboard facility in Tuscawilla Park just south of International Speedway Boulevard in Daytona Beach -- the council voted to pull it temporarily from among the award recipients. The $150,000 for the project will be held in an account until the city decides whether to move forward.
Another project, News-Journal Center in Daytona Beach, had already been approved for $2.4 million over four years. It received $600,000, making the total outlay for this year's program about $4 million.
For the other projects, the council's stamp of approval means a green light to get started.
The arts settlement, for example, will use $90,720 to augment its campus with 10 buildings from an early 20th-century compound built around the former Strawn citrus grove and packinghouse in DeLeon Springs.
The buildings, to be relocated, will be used for such things as a livestock barn and a citrus industry photo exhibit, said the settlement's grant writer, Monso Tatum.
"We were very pleased, to say the least," he said.
But just because the 2004 grant awards are more or less complete, it doesn't mean the end of this year's work on ECHO. The council also agreed to set up a workshop to discuss possible tweaks in the program. No date was set.
Councilmen Frank Bruno and Jack Hayman said they hope to see the application process, which some say is discouragingly complex, streamlined in coming months.
"I just don't want to make it so difficult that a vast section of people who really are deserving don't apply; that's just not fair at all," Hayman said.
Councilwoman Pat Northey said she wants to see the bar raised for award recipients.
Currently, advisory board members score the projects. Each project's scores are averaged and all available money is disbursed to those with the highest rankings. This year, the arts settlement was in a three-way tie for third, while two Lake Helen projects -- an equestrian park with a trailhead and an arts center for teens -- took first and second.
Northey said she would like to see a off score established so no project that scored less would receive funding.
"My question is, should some projects be funded?" she said. "I guess I'm looking at things that have regional influence rather than an influence for just one location."
Northey also advocates setting aside perhaps $1 million in ECHO money annually for a countywide trail network.
Advisory board Chairman Charles Matousek said he knows there will be plenty to talk about in coming months.
"I'm pretty happy with how it turned out," he said. "We've made some progress, but we can always make the process better."