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                                                                                   HSWCD Office Grand Opening!!!

A group of people gathered for a ribbon-cutting ceremony, celebrating an event with confetti in the air.
Ribbon Cutting Ceremmony May 23 2024













By:Linda Chion, HSWCD Staff Writer

The Hillsborough Soil and Water Conservation District has a new home in its first-ever standalone location, making use of the former Springhead firehouse on Coronet Road in Plant City.

There, at the May 23 ribbon-cutting with the Greater Plant City Chamber of Commerce, chair Ryan Gill and executive director Joe Walsh highlighted the district’s “dollars for dirt” initiative as they welcomed attendees on behalf of the five-member board of supervisors.

“This has been a long time coming,” Gill said, about the special district’s new home, in a county owned building. “I speak on behalf of the board when I say that this is an idea that we’ve had since taking office, that we wanted to have a brick-and-mortar office. It took a lot of loopholes and jumps and everything else to make this happen, but now we’re finally here.”

Hired in December, with a background in biology, marine biology, aquatic ecology and Everglades restoration programs and projects, Walsh took on the herculean task of transforming a vacant, roughly 3,000- square-foot building into the new headquarters for a special district charged with helping agricultural producers and land owners improve their soil and better manage their water.

“This is the mission we’ve had for nearly 78 years, since our founding by legislative action,” Walsh said. “The scope of activities has expanded to take in all kinds of environmental issues, but at the core we’re the only county level agency that’s focused on improving soil and water conditions on rural lands.”

Walsh said he is determined to refocus all energies on that mission, in a “dollars for dirt” push to ensure local agricultural interests get their share of federal and state technical assistance. In working as well with other like-minded agencies, the aim is to promote best management practices. “Whether you’re in agricultural production or just a rural landowner, we’re here to help with a wholistic approach to soil and vegetation management and pest control,” Walsh said.

Toward that end, HSWCD’s new home in eastern Hillsborough County, at 4503 Coronet Road, is a great fit, Walsh said, as it sits off a well-traveled road among acres of farmland in the outer edges of rural Plant City. Along with a small kitchen, restrooms and two office spaces, the facility houses three garages, which offer a wealth of possibilities.

“The fire truck bays, with many electrical drops, provide a great venue, and an opportunity to stage indoor and outdoor multimedia events,” Walsh said. “The setting is good for everything from science projects for kids, to demonstrations and workshops for agricultural producers.”

As a special district with county funding, Walsh said he is thankful for the assistance he has received from county officials, who helped ready the historic, 50-year-old firehouse for its new tenant. The significance of this tenancy was not lost on Congresswoman Laurel Lee, who through an aide presented a letter of support, written on behalf of Florida’s 15th Congressional District, in time for the May 23 ribbon-cutting.

“The opening of this building exemplifies your commitment to protecting valuable natural resources and supporting the agricultural practices of landowners in our community,” Lee says in her letter. “Your dedication to preserving soil, water, and air resources, protecting wildlife, and organizing outreach activities to educate the local community about conservation issues does not go unnoticed.”

\HSWCD is a special district charted under Florida Statute 582, and as such is governed by a board of

five elected supervisors. The state legislature in 2022 amended the governing charter to the effect that only farmers, ranchers and individuals with a demonstrated background in agricultural production can qualify to run for the volunteer position.

Elected to their current seats are Chairman Gill, Vice Chair Adam Young, Treasurer Robert “Myke” Morris and Supervisors Christopher “Bear” McCullough and Mark Proctor.

The Hillsborough Soil and Water Conservation District (HSWCD) is at 4503 Coronet Road, Plant City. Call: 813-707-1652. Email:

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