Martin County

Saving Special Places • Building Better Communities

Advocating for Martin County

1000 Friends Enthusiastically Endorses the Loxa-Lucie Headwaters Initiative

Since our founding in 1986, 1000 Friends of Florida has included protecting critical natural lands among our top priorities. While we are a statewide organization, we have also devoted particular attention to defending the environment and quality of life in Martin County, the home of our late co-founder, Nathaniel Reed. So we are especially pleased to endorse the Loxa-Lucie Headwaters Initiative, with its goal of creating a permanently protected corridor of almost 70,000 undeveloped acres between the sources of the Loxahatchee and St. Lucie rivers.

This critical corridor is facing increasing development pressure as the population of Martin County continues to grow. Acquiring land or development rights from willing sellers for conservation will safeguard habitat for plants and wildlife, enhance outdoor recreational opportunities for county residents and visitors, and prevent sprawling development. It will improve water quality, reduce flooding and lessen saltwater intrusion into groundwater. It will maintain a connection between two popular public recreation areas, Jonathan Dickinson and Atlantic Ridge State Parks. It will preserve the green gateway along Bridge Road to Hobe Sound and Jupiter Island. These and other significant benefits will help protect Martin County’s rural character, healthy economy and high quality of life for future generations.

There is a laudable history in Martin County of successful privately led conservation efforts, epitomized by the Reed Family. We salute the Guardians of Martin County, The Conservation Fund and the Treasured Lands Foundation for upholding this tradition through the Loxa-Lucie Headwaters Initiative. We believe this effort not only deserves enthusiastic private support, but also matching funding from federal and state programs, including Florida Forever, with corresponding goals.

Please see the December 21, 2022, letter of endorsement.

Rural Lifestyles Amendment

In February 2022, the Martin County Commission gave preliminary approval in a 3-2 vote to a Rural Lifestyles amendment to the county’s comprehensive plan. The amendment called for allowing a quadrupling of development density on at least 132,000 acres of rural and agricultural land outside the county’s urban services districts. 1000 Friends of Florida President Paul Owens testified against the amendment.

In April 2022, a few days before the amendment was scheduled for final consideration by the Commission, the Treasure Coast Newspapers published an op-ed from Paul Owens outlining the reasons why 1000 Friends opposed the amendment. When the amendment was taken up by the Commission, members voted to postpone any action on it.

In September 2022, the Commission took up a revised version of the Rural Lifestyles amendment, restricting the higher development density to property adjacent to the urban services districts. Supporters of the amendment said it would reduce the eligible property to about 12,000 acres, or less than 10 percent of the original impacted area. It passed on a 3-2 vote. 1000 Friends will continue to follow developments on this issue closely, and to advocate measures to protect Martin County’s environment and quality of life.

Advocating for Martin County
Jupiter Island Listening Sessions

1000 Friends of Florida continues to engage with our members in Martin County by holding listening sessions in Jupiter Island to hear directly from residents about current growth and development trends in the area. Most recently, we met on January 5 where President Paul Owens and Policy and Planning Director Jane West provided a preview on the 2022 Florida Legislative Session, as well as information about proposed developments in Martin County.

January 5, 2022: Click here for a copy of the January presentation, and here for a video link to the recorded discussion.

May 19, 2021: Click here for a copy of the presentation, and here for a video link to the recorded discussion.

Please note that audience questions were not picked up by the microphone but are summarized either in caption form or repeated by the presenter. If you would like to be notified of future sessions, please email Haley Busch at for more information.

Since its inception, 1000 Friends of Florida has been actively involved in promoting smarter growth and protected natural areas in Martin County. Not only does this help enhance the quality of life for residents of the area, but it also protects significant natural lands key to guarding the region’s drinking water and sustaining the iconic Everglades.

Over the years, 1000 Friends has advocated for compatible development in urban areas and the protection of rural lands. 1000 Friends has helped Martin County develop and maintain its award-winning comprehensive plan and urban services boundaries, and ensure that sprawl does not encroach from Palm Beach County to the south. To assist with community visioning, 1000 Friends undertook the Martin County 2070 project discussed below.

To accomplish its goals, 1000 Friends focuses on planning to help guide the location and timing of new development, education to help the public play an active role in shaping the future of their community, and advocacy to ensure that proposed plans and development projects follow the principles of smart growth.

Martin County 2070

Martin County 2010 Base Line
Martin County 2070 trend
Martin County 2070 Alternative

The 2016 study, Florida 2070/Water 2070, reveals that if Florida does not change the way it develops, by 2070 more than a third of Florida’s lands could be paved over, with development-related water demand more than doubling. A more sustainable alternative shows that if Florida follows compact development patterns and increases the amount of land conserved, it will save 1.8 million acres of land from development and conserve an additional 5.8 million acres of natural and agricultural land, while still accommodating the same growth in population. Using more compact development patterns and a modest 20 percent increase in water conservation will reduce water demand by more than a quarter in 2070 but, given many areas of the state are already experiencing water shortages, this is clearly not enough. What are the implications of Florida 2070/Water 2070 for Martin County?

1000 Friends of Florida and The Guardians of Martin County held a day-long workshop, Martin County 2070: Planning Today for a Better Tomorrow, on October 12, 2018. More than 60 planners, developers, conservationists, citizens and other parties convened to address how to create a more sustainable future for Martin County. A follow up workshop, Martin County 2070: What’s Next?, was held on November 28, 2018.

Martin County in 2070

Martin County in 2070

Check out the report, Planning Today for a Better Tomorrow: Martin County in 2070, the presentations given during the two workshops, and the final report, Martin County 2070: What’s Next?

These events were sponsored by the Community Foundation for Palm Beach and Martin Counties and the Curtis and Edith Munson Foundation.

Martin County 2070: Planning Today for a Better Tomorrow

Presentations from the October 12, 2018 workshop:

Martin County 2070: An Overview
What are the findings of Florida 2070/Water 2070 and what are the implications for land development and water demand in Martin County? Check out the Martin County 2070 Handout. See Maggy Hurchalla’s comments on Martin County 2070. 


Paul Owens, 1000 Friends of Florida, President

Conservation and environmental crises
What are the causes and the extent of the environmental crises in Martin County and the Indian River Lagoon? What efforts are meeting these challenges?

Clay Henderson, Institute for Water and Environmental Resilience, Executive Director

John Maehl, Martin County, Ecosystem Restoration and Management Manager

Wayne A. Mills, Ocean Research & Conservation Association, Inc., Chairman

Planning for change
The only constant we can count on is change. From sea level rise and climate change to changing preferences of residents, planning needs to respond to evolving public needs. This panel will discuss community engagement strategies for community planning, legal tools to address climate change, and future agricultural practices.

Marcela Camblor, Marcela Camblor & Associates, Inc., Principal

Erin Deady, Erin L. Deady, P.A., Attorney and Principal

Gary Ritter, Florida Farm Bureau Federation, Assistant Director of Government and Community Affairs

Martin County 2070: What is in the Plans?
What are Martin County’s current long-range land use, water resource and transportation plans and can they be adapted to promote greater sustainability?

Nicki van Vonno, Martin County, Director of Growth Management Department

Sam Amerson, Martin County, Director of Utilities & Solid Waste

Terry Rauth, Martin County, Director of the Public Works Department

Growing inward
Environmental challenges force us to think critically about how our communities grow and change. Infill development and urban redevelopment are ways to grow without invoking some of the environmental challenges posed by other development types. What are the challenges and opportunities of growing in our already developed areas?

Kev Freeman, City of Stuart, City Development Director

Tim Hernandez, New Urban Communities, Principal

Thomas Hawkins, 1000 Friends of Florida, Policy and Planning Director

Where do we go from here? A Facilitated Discussion
What have we learned from today’s panels about the long-term challenges from growth facing Martin County’s environment, economy, and quality of life? What additional information, and additional resources, do we need to lay the groundwork for better policies and programs? What can we do to educate county residents and galvanize elected officials to respond?

Martin County 2070: What’s Next?

1000 Friends of Florida and The Guardians of Martin County co-hosted the evening workshop, Martin County 2070: What’s Next?, on Wednesday, November 28, 2018. We thank Tom Lanahan and Kim Delaney of the Treasure Coast Regional Planning Council for facilitating this event. Here are links to the PowerPoint presentations and final report:

Martin County 2070: What’s Next?, 1000 Friends of Florida President Paul Owens

Effective Citizen Engagement, 1000 Friends of Florida Planning and Policy Director Thomas Hawkins

Martin County 2070: What’s Next? Report