Jan 28, 2013

Titusville, Florida Revitalization

The town of Titusville appears a little rundown, even sketchy, but I've found a thriving community beneath the facade. It's just a matter of time before the appearances catch up. Maybe a few grants, the right leadership, incentives and ideals could bring some revitalization to this former boom town where I expect at any minute to stumble upon a shoot-out or come across a dry gulch.

Global Outreach.  Prison Book Project.  A retired couple began passing out books to a local prison and now receives thousands of donated books from publishers that they mail out to prisons in all 50 states plus 35 countries. It's a slow process with just him and a handful of volunteers. Donate here.  Ray Hall retired to fish, bought a rod, then got into this book project.  He says he hasn't fished since.  Then he brought out the rod and reel still in it's packaging.  "See," he smiles, "I still think I'm gonna go fishing!"

Arts. An art community in Titusville is just waking up. Maxine Trainer came over from Liverpool and turned an old Firestone Tire store into the Stonefire Art Studio.  All the bay doors are wide open and anyone can wander in anytime. Musicians come to the front and jam anytime they want, people wander by to listen and many times these bands get placed in venues nearby.

Under privileged kids come by and show Maxine their art. When Maxine sees potential, she grabs them, tutors and mentors them, teaches them the business side and suddenly they have job offers. Local artists can put up a booth and sell their art. Maxine established Arts in the Garden, a non profit to help kids pursue art.....
  Maxine has been invited to exhibit for Prince Charles to support The Prince's Trust. Donate here to help her get there. This woman gives everything she has, she needs help with transportation to England. Maybe these folks are afraid she won't come back?

Religious Vitality. There's a church on every mile. Maybe more. I come from a deep South small town with way too many churches, but this town even beats my town. I picked the one that looked the most contemporary and checked it out. Indian River City United Methodist Church. These people are energized, prepped and reaching their community. I attended the 11 a.m. Contemporary service and enjoyed the band and choir with a vibrant mix of teenagers and adults. The preacher just oozes love for the community and, well, they have a coffee/juice welcome center in a gazebo outdoors.

Historical town revitalization. Caffe Chocolat, started by an older couple from up North, set up shop 10 or 20 years ago and began making their own chocolate here. Caffe Chocolat now has the chocolate factory, coffee bar, restaurant and catering. Rumors indicate they will restore the upper third level of this historic old Walker/Washington Hotel building into a bed and breakfast. I went by and had their organic almond butter dark chocolate. Incredible! 

Sunrise Bread Company also moved into the historic area close to 20 years ago, providing whole wheat and gluten free alternatives, wifi and cozy seating.  I had a bagel breakfast here and an afternoon snack here so I could use the wifi and get some work done.  Excellent experience.  I had the Double Whammy muffin -- chocolate, chocolate and a little more chocolate, wonderful.  I topped it off with an iced raspberry mocha and called it the Triple Whammy.

But I ask, 20 years? Two revitalization projects in 20 years? Why so slow? The entire block should have been revitalized by now. What's the hold up?

Space Exploration. Titusville has a long history of supporting NASA. I met a man who claims he was the voice of the countdown for several years in the late '60s and early '70s. And you know what? He did sound familiar, melodic, calming. I should have asked him to countdown for me! I walked through the space memorial park, facing NASA's twin towers across the river and read the granite memorials containing years of glory days. I saw this from 1961 and got chills.
“Look across the Indian River... it is from the tract of land east of Titusville that United States will fire its hopes toward the moon... from now on, Titusville will be known as space exploration headquarters.”
Sidenote: It is from that land tract I will be deep in the bowels of NASA Tuesday and Wednesday for the #NASASocial, culminating with the launch Wednesday night where I will be at its foot, my hair singeing. {girly squeal}

Imagine the people and the vibrant community that came together to dedicate that memorial! And a couple of generations later, the world yawns at Titusville. The world stops for gas in Titusville, looks around, locks their doors and thinks “this must be the bad side of town.” But it's not. These people are good people and they're coming back.

Outdoors Enthusiasts.  The beautiful Max Brewer Bridge takes me over to the Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge within minutes.  (catch a great sunrise and sunset from the top of this bridge, btw)  The refuge was instituted by NASA and their need to preserve the area around the launch pad, now the area is a huge marsh full of threatened or endangered wildlife and a pristine, quiet beach, home to surfers, sunbathers, fishermen and, shhhhh, a top-secret, totally illegal nude beach.  But you didn't hear that from me.

I was here at the tail end of a birder's festival or something.  I snapped a few pics of white pelicans and the Florida Scrub Jay. There are a few outfitters in Titusville, a fly fisher shop and a few kayak providers.  I got my kayak from Kayaks by Bo.  Where I come from?  Bo is a name you can trust. 

So as I begin to depart Titusville and focus on NASA, I am a little sad.  I need more time with the great folks of Titusville.  I need to order a few bars of soap from the soap maker and get some furniture from one of the local artists.  I need to sit and hear some more blues on a sunny Sunday afternoon.  I definitely need more chocolat!  I want to walk the bridge at sunset. I want to watch the white Pelican a bit more. I want to try the rock shrimp.  If I, a visitor to Titusville, have such dreams, imagine what the residents dream!

So I leave you with a Ronald Regan quote that is SO totally Titusville!
There are no great limits to growth because there are no limits of human intelligence, imagination and wonder. - Ronald Regan
Yes, I have a Reagan quote for any situation.
PS.  I love you, Maxine!   I have this little piece of art I've been working on........

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