Located on the northern shore of the picturesque St. Johns River and incorporated in 1993, the City of DeBary is a young city with a close-knit community citizenry. The City is known for its warm and friendly hometown atmosphere. DeBary’s “A” rated schools, the low ad valorem rate and overall safety contribute to making it a great place to live, work and play. With a wide variety of new and traditional living accommodations attracting a diverse population, its quality core values are integrated into everything the City does, which fosters a well-rounded lifestyle.

City leaders are creating a dynamic, multidimensional community while maintaining a small-town atmosphere and quality core values. They achieve that by incorporating innovative concepts that assimilate DeBary’s unique business, recreational and environmental assets. Their focus is to create a mixed-use Main Street concept with opportunities for living accommodations and small specialty businesses such as restaurants, taverns, coffee shops, bakeries and salons.

The Main Street will also serve as a focal point for communitywide events and festivals, strengthening the downtown through increased business and resident interactions. DeBary’s business-friendly government policies and loyal, proud customer base, along with a rising income level, create a strong and sustainable small retail and specialty-focused business environment. This environment was evidenced by the fact that nearly 100% of DeBary businesses survived the challenges that small businesses faced in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.

To integrate the business environment with its quality lifestyle, DeBary created a Transit-Oriented Development (TOD) overlay to provide multimodal opportunities. The recently approved mobility plan offers the flexibility to develop the appropriate transit enhancements in the TOD. The mobility plan will allow the City to create sustainable mobility and build trails, sidewalks or other options that a truly multimodal community embraces. For example, business and residential developers in the TOD are required to build trails in their community that link to the already established trails in DeBary.

Uniquely, DeBary incorporates another treasure: ecotourism. The City has thousands of oak trees and an extensive park system. DeBary can offer residents and visitors various ways to enjoy its 300 days of sunshine. Within minutes of the SunRail, residents and visitors can enjoy fishing, boating, disc golf, camping, kayaking, canoeing, parks and biking and walking trails. Twelve parks include Gemini Springs and a world-class disc golf course. They have cultural arts facilities and programs as well as recreational programs.

DeBary is a cycling mecca. The three major regional trail systems – the St. Johns River-to-Sea Loop, Heart of Florida Loop and the Florida Coast-to-Coast Trail – converge at one point: at the future DeBary Main Street. Residents and visiting bicyclists can ride from DeBary to St. Augustine, St. Petersburg or Titusville. Its unique location, combined with the focus on trails, earned DeBary the Florida Bicycle Association’s 2020 Bicycle Friendly Community award.

The City is partnering with the Aquatic Preserve Alliance of Central Florida on a Florida Forever acquisition to add a 170-acre riverfront park, which includes a two-mile berm around the property bordering the St. Johns River. The City’s goal is to turn the berm into a bike and walking trail, navigating through moss-laden oak woods and connecting with the trail systems in the area. In addition, the property will provide a location for passive recreational activities, nature trails, picnic areas and fishing and lookout areas for family enjoyment.

The Aquatic Preserve will help establish the only state-operated Freshwater Research and Education Center on the property. This center, the only state-operated freshwater research center, will help improve water quality, preserve the river’s natural habitat and educate future generations of conservationists. The Florida Forever Board of Trustees approved the project and has moved into the project’s purchase phase.

The next year will undoubtedly be transformational for DeBary and reflect its slogan: DeBary, Naturally. More than you imagined!

By Carmen Rosamonda

Carmen Rosamonda is the City Manager for the City of DeBary. The City of DeBary, population 21,973, is located in Volusia County.