In the last decade, Florida has had dramatic population growth. As the U.S. population ages, more older people are moving from the northern states to southern communities and Florida has been a major objective for many. While the growth in population has slowed the last few years, since 2000 Florida’s population has grown by 17%, well above the National average of 9.7%. Sumpter County in central Florida grew 75%, largely due to the expansion of The Villages retirement community. The Villages is a master planned retirement community, complete with nearly 40 golf courses.
Started modestly as a mobile home park in the early 1980s, The Villages was the fastest growing micropopulation area in the United States by 2008. Throughout the years, growth continued and the area expanded, which brings challenges as the changing land uses impact natural resources and the landscape.
Landsat scenes, acquired in 1984 and 2011, illustrate the growth in the community and the changes in land use patterns. Agricultural land has been replaced by over 40 golf courses, small water bodies (shown as black) have been converted to water hazards on the golf courses and some lakes have been drained to provide irrigation, and residential communities (very light tones) have grown around the golf courses. Local, state, and federal officials use the Landsat data to monitor the rate of development and the impact on resources as population changes affect land use.