An open letter to the citizens of Martin County
May 5, 2017
I’m Knight Kiplinger, and I’ve lived most of my life in and around Washington, D.C., where my family has practiced economic journalism since 1920.
But I also have roots here in Martin County, where three generations of Kiplingers have vacationed for more than six decades. My grandfather came to Stuart for a brief vacation in 1952, was instantly touched by the beauty of the region, and within days had purchased Bay Tree Lodge, a 1909 landmark estate on Sewall’s Point. This is where our family comes throughout the year to refresh our spirit.
We have had the privilege of getting to know many wonderful people in this community and actively supporting our civic institutions, especially our county libraries and nonprofits in historic preservation and the arts.
My Kiplinger forebears were 18th century German farmers who immigrated to Pennsylvania and then to Virginia to Ohio, in search of fertile land and religious freedom. Land seems to have a genetic pull across the generations, because my grandfather loved beautiful, productive land, and so did my father, and so do I.
As landowners in Maryland and Martin County, the Kiplinger family has always put our land to use in ways that are most suitable to their location and natural traits, as well as the needs of the surrounding communities at a particular time.
We manage our land responsibly and wait patiently—sometimes for decades—until the next appropriate use emerges naturally, reflecting the changing economics, demographics and environmental interests of the community. Open lands we once owned in Maryland and in Martin County are the sites today of vibrant local businesses and beautiful new neighborhoods, some of which we designed ourselves. We have also donated or sold at a discount numerous properties for public use.
For the past 37 years, we have engaged in agriculture here, too, on a large tract of land in Palm City—almost 3,400 acres lying just west of Martin Downs, between the Florida Turnpike and Interstate 95. There we created an environmentally advanced citrus grove that grew superb oranges and grapefruit for the fresh-fruit market, including export to Japan. But when a “perfect storm” of natural crises—citrus canker, freezes, hurricanes and, finally, a disease called greening—decimated the Indian River citrus industry, we began leasing our land for vegetable farming and cattle grazing.
We have left a large part of the land in its natural state–prairie grasslands dotted with marshes, saw palmetto and stands of slash pines and cabbage palms, our state tree. It is this distinctive Florida ecosystem that suggested to us a name for this special property: Pineland Prairie.
Today we are beginning a process, in collaboration with local government and civic leaders, to envision a new future for this large, centrally located tract. We’ll be considering new land uses that will preserve important open spaces, help improve water quality in the region, and create innovative, sustainable neighborhoods, with jobs and homes to accommodate the county’s moderate growth in the coming decades.
In the coming months, I will be reaching out to our community for everyone’s ideas. I’ll sit down with civic and government leaders, business owners, and citizens who are especially concerned about growth and environmental issues. I will invite them to describe their personal priorities for Martin County’s future and to suggest ways that this land can help meet our county’s needs.
For more information about Pineland Prairie, my family’s commitment to Martin County, and this outreach process, please explore other parts of this web site, and use the “Contact Us” tab on the Home Page to keep in touch.
I appreciate your interest, and I look forward to sharing news of our work as it unfolds.
— Knight Kiplinger
Sewall’s Point, Florida