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Stop Sprawl
1998 Sierra Club Sprawl Report: 30 Most Sprawl-Threatened Cities

Ten Most Sprawl-Threatened Medium Cities
Number One: Orlando

For the last quarter century, Orlando has been synonymous with one of the biggest entertainment industries in the world: Disney. For families across the country and around the world, Orlando and its custodial industry is a must-visit. Perhaps no city in America, and maybe even around the world, markets itself more as the answer to family-friendly growth than Orlando.

Unfortunately, Orlando has paid a price for its success - unfettered sprawl. Surrounding the world famous Disney World entertainment resort are all the signs of poorly planned suburban development - strip malls, traffic congestion, low-density housing.

The population of the area, both in the city and surrounding counties, has been on a steady climb upward for years. The population of metropolitan Orlando jumped 54 percent between 1980 and 1990, and another 28 percent between 1990 and 1996. The land area of Orlando has also ballooned over the years: 68 percent between 1990 and 1996 alone.

"The region's low-wage, tourism-driven economy has created a real estate environment where cheap land is far more important than commuting time. To get the prices they seek, developers have to move farther out every year ("Habitat Ripe for 'Tour de Sprawl')," Christine Shenot, The Orlando Sentinel, 6/27/98. This trend is driving Orlando's housing density down precipitously, meaning driving times get longer, more land is swallowed up by development and quality of life disintegrates.

But Orlando's growth in recent years has not just lowered the quality of life for the people who live there. It has placed in danger central Florida's unique environment, which has long provided habitat for a number of rare species. Between 1982 and 1992, the amount of open space lost to development increased a dramatic 57 percent.

In June, the local Sierra Club hosted a "Tour de Sprawl" 30 miles outside downtown Orlando at a 560-acre rural area called the Lake Wales Ridge. This undeveloped area represents the front line in the war between conservationists and developers. Nearby, two new subdivisions are transforming the area. Stopping new development in Lake Wales Ridge, home to a number of endangered and threatened species, including the Florida scrub jay and the gopher tortoise, has become a top priority for local grassroots conservationists.

Read the Report | Clickable Sprawl Map | Sprawl-Threatened Cities


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