Starkey Ranch exemplifies a new model in greenfield development. Wishing to avoid conventional land development practices that too often have resulted in placeless strip-center shopping and tract housing, the Starkey family donated a large portion of their ranch land to create a permanent wilderness preserve. They then engaged a design team, Dix.Hite + Partners, that embraced their vision: to develop an adjacent master-planned community that honors the land’s history, connects people to nature, and creates a sense of place celebrating a ranching character.
The landscape on this 2,500-acre community utilizes a palette that is 95% native and, with the exception of turf, is entirely xeric. The open spaces throughout the community treat stormwater, provide habitats for wildlife, and offer relaxing vistas and trail views for the community. Native plant mixes respond to their environmental factors of light, shade, and water. Boardwalks and pedestrian bridges float through the landscape exposing users to natural ecologies without causing disruption to the land.
In place of the traditional master amenity area, a series of well-connected parks and open spaces each serve a role to the community and provide unique experiences. The parks at Starkey Ranch compose a cohesive series of context-sensitive open spaces, honoring the land’s history, connecting people to nature, and creating a sense of place. Like a ranch, each park is multi-functional and designed in response to the land. Each park tells the site’s history, respects the surrounding wetlands, increases tree canopy on the former farmland, and protects habitat for native wildlife. The parks provide space for families to gather with neighbors, play with their children and pets, celebrate special events, and appreciate natural Florida. By creating multiple spaces throughout the community, rather than one amenity, the system of parks at Starkey Ranch encourages these activities to take place.
by Kody Smith, PLA
Kody Smith is a partner and studio leader at Dix.Hite + Partners. He joined the firm in 2013 and has over 6 years of public and private design experience. His primary focus on large scale master planning projects, trails, and parks stems from a passion derived by an intense respect for people, their culture, and the environment in which they live. He finds great inspiration and pride in working on inherently flexible projects that improve the quality of public spaces used by a variety of people in a variety of ways. For the past 5 years, Kody has acted as project manager and designer for Starkey Ranch, an award winning, 2,500-acre master planned community featuring an industry leading park and trail system. Kody is a registered landscape architect in the State of Florida, having lived and practiced in Central Florida since 2008.
OUTSIDE Collab focuses on the intersection of academia, industry and government in order to shift the Florida landscape towards more sustainable landscaping. It provides a forum for collaboration, the sharing of best practices and showcasing innovative projects and trends. Through a unique, collaborative, virtual platform, we will unravel the issues, define the most relevant topics and build a strategic framework to advance sustainable landscaping in the State. You can learn more and register now at outsidecollab.com.