Old County Road 50 in Clermont between North Hancock Road to the west and CR 455 to the east is a winding, two-lane road that runs more-or-less parallel to the newer State Road 50.
At one time, Old C.R. 50 was the main route between Clermont and Winter Garden. In those days, black Model Ts must have chugged along the curvy path following a route sketched out not too long before by horses and wagons.
|An old car on a new road|
Passengers would have passed by a scattering of wooden, two-story homesteads owned by families tending small herds of cattle and groves of citrus trees. A driver might have waved a friendly hello as he passed by a homemaker picking vegetables from the kitchen garden.
|Cattle enjoying a surplus citrus snack|
But those times are long gone. These days, slick sedans and extended cab pickup trucks make fast work of the curves and hills on Old C.R. 50 as they zoom by one planned residential community after another. There’s nobody around to wave hello to, even if one was willing to turn off a car’s thermostatically controlled air conditioning system and roll down the window, because tall privacy fences or a development’s perimeter walls shield most homes from prying eyes.
That’s what happens to open land. Time goes by and property that once nurtured a family’s hopes and dreams gives way to progress and the reality of living a long life. Homesteaders get older and can no longer take care of the animals and crops as they could when they were young. Children grow up and move away to pursue their own dreams.
|Over time, open land often gives way to development|
Without anyone left to tend the fields or maintain groves, land is sold off to developers who divide it into minuscule lots. They install “improvements” and “amendments.” Well-lit paved roads appear where cattle once grazed. Lavish clubhouses, golf courses and playgrounds replace fruit trees, vegetable gardens and rope swings.
Although I understand and accept the inevitability of transition, that doesn’t mean I have to like it.
Whenever I drive along Old C.R. 50 between Clermont and Winter Garden, I take it slow. This is my time to imagine what life was like in the past and to savor the few spots along the road that remain undeveloped.
As I turn off North Hancock Road onto Old C.R. 50, I absorb the view of the beautiful hillside to the north. Cattle still graze on that lovely acreage dotted by small ponds and picturesque sheds. Less than a mile to the east is a homestead on the south side of the road that still operates as a working grove and cattle ranch. I’m sure the house and barn have seen better days, but the buildings still manage to put their wooden arms around a family and embrace their dreams.
|Old homestead in forefront. New housing development in the distance|
I’ve noticed only one other property on the road that operates as an agricultural-based homestead, and recently I saw a “For Sale” sign posted there. I can’t fault the people for selling. I know all too well how much work it takes to maintain large parcels of agricultural land. No matter what crop you’re raising, farming is a tenuous business. I also understand the pressure of rising land values pitted against an increased tax burden and a diminishing desire to work as hard as one could when age was not part of the equation.
Clermont is not unique. Every town has its own form of Old C.R. 50. Remnants of lives once lived differently than they are today are scattered along many town roads throughout the county, across the country.
For me — a driver passing slowly down a pretty road — all I can do is appreciate what remains of a scenic route. It’s not about whether one type of lifestyle is better than another or questioning whether developing farmland is good or bad. The object for me is simply to be aware — to breathe in the beauty of the past while it’s still here to appreciate.
I like to compare my trips down Old C.R. 50 to inhaling the fragrant scent of orange blossoms. Both provide a stimulating hint of times gone by. Both are too sweet to ignore.
|The sweet smell of orange blossoms fades as time transforms more and more groves into residential or commercial develepments|