If there is one huge amusement park around the world that gets people buzzing it is Disney World, but why is so much of the park’s land undeveloped?
Disney World currently has just over 24 square miles of its 40 square mile park as undeveloped land, which is roughly 60 percent of the total size. Disney World has left these areas of its land undeveloped either for future building projects or simply for environmental conservation and protection.
If you have ever been to Disney World, then you will know that it is not just big - it is massive! This amusement park is like no other in the world and it is considered to be an iconic part of American culture. For this reason, millions of visitors flock from all over the United States and the world to experience the magic of ‘The Happiest Place on Earth’. With that being said, attempting to cover the entire park in just a single visit is easier said than done, as its total landmass is larger than 40 square miles! This is an insane amount of space for just a single amusement park, which is why so many people are wondering why so much of the park has been left undeveloped. To help you understand this further we are going to take a closer look at how much undeveloped land Disney World has in more detail.
After decades of working as an official for Disney Parks, I have had an extensive amount of experience surveying the corporation’s properties and allocating space for their development projects. My experience has left me with in-depth insight into the amount of undeveloped land in Disney World and how the corporation intends on using this land.
Table of Contents
Undeveloped Land In Disney World
When most people visit Disney World, they understand that they are in a huge amusement park but most fail to recognize just how big it actually is. The total size of the park is roughly 40 square miles which is bigger than the size of some of the largest cities on the planet. The difference, however, is that Disney World is not actually a city with living inhabitants but merely an amusement park.
Disney World was first opened in 1971 at which point it became an instant phenomenon. Families from all over the world came to experience the park and it is as popular now as it ever has been. Although this park was opened half a century ago, it has not lost its touch by any means and although there have been competitive parks that have tried to rival the success of Disney World, it still to this day holds the title for the largest amusement park on Earth.
With that being said, Disney World’s apparent size is actually a little bit misleading, as the majority of the park is actually undeveloped land. As of now, the amount of development at Disney World just covers 16 square miles of its total size - with 24 square miles being relatively untouched. This has left many Disney World enthusiasts wondering what Disney intends to do with the rest of its empty space. At the end of the day, an additional 24 miles of Disney World fun and entertainment sounds too good to be true.
Unfortunately, that may partly be the case. While Disney does own a considerable amount of undeveloped land, the reality is that a large portion of this land will continue to stay exactly as it currently is - undeveloped. While this is sad news for those of us that were hoping to see an extension of the largest amusement park on the planet, Disney does actually have honest intentions with how it plans to use its undeveloped land. Let’s dive right into exactly how much undeveloped land is in Disney World.
At the moment, Disney World currently has more than 50% of its entire amusement park classified as ‘Open Space’. At first glance, this is shocking to so many visitors, as it begs the question of what the corporate giant actually intends to do with so much open space (as they put it).
To some people’s surprise, Disney World has actually set up its entire open space area and 50% of its park to be under some level of environmental protection. This is highly admirable considering how much ecological value the state of Florida has, which puts Disney in a position of environmental accountability and responsibility.
This entire open space area which is nearly 13,000 acres of land will be under Disney’s protection. The corporation will utilize some aspects of the environment in a sustainable way but the majority of it will remain in its natural and untouched state. Here is a breakdown of how Disney World will use its open space.
The world is currently in the midst of a transition to sustainable living - with global warming in full swing and environmental disasters becoming more and more prevalent, there has never been a more important time to protect our planet.
Luckily, Disney is on board with this progressive change that society is going through, which is why they have set up a massive portion of Disney World to be used specifically for conservation.
Disney World currently has 38% of its entire park established for development use, which ranges from things such as rides, roads, and hotels. However, the largest single use that they have for their park is actually conservation land. Conservation land makes up more than 32% of the entire park!
The State of Florida is home to one of the world’s largest wetlands - the Everglades, which is an extremely vital habitat for so many species. In addition, there is a lot of biodiversity in the state that is also under some form of threat from habitat destruction caused by pollution and development.
Disney World took the initiative on this front by establishing so much of its massive park to protect the beautiful nature of the State of Florida. This entire section of the park is under strict ecological protection which will stay permanently under a zero development regulation.
Water, Resource Management, & Recreation
The rest of the open space area of Disney World is currently allocated for Water, Resource Management, and Recreation.
Given that Disney World is such a huge park, it is of no surprise that the amusement park needs to have a substantial amount of resource demands in order to function. A lot of these demands are met from resources that are brought into the park but some of them are actually met from within the park itself.
While the majority of the recreation that occurs at Disney World happens at its inner park with the rides and entertainment, there is a section of the park that is established for a more natural type of recreation. This outdoor recreation area in combination with the resource management sections of the park occupies just under 14% of the total size of the undeveloped land.
The massive amusement park also has a lot of water that is located in its open space. In fact, water actually makes up more than 5% of the entire park. Disney World has decided to keep this area of its park exactly the way it is with water preservation as a focus.
These areas are not technically set up as ‘Conservation Land’ by Disney but they are under some form of environmental regulation and protection. They are utilized by the park in a way that is sustainable and non-abusive to the ecology of the area.
While the majority of Disney World’s undeveloped land is set up as open space, there is another portion of the total area that is classified as ‘Undeveloped Uses’. This section of Disney World currently takes up just over 10% of the total amusement park.
While Disney World does have some small functions for this area, the truth is that we still do not know what the long-term goals for this section of the park will be. The exciting thing about this is that there is the potential for the park to expand here (in theory).
If you think about it, 10% of Disney World’s 40 square mile size could potentially mean as much as 4 additional square miles of fun and entertainment for visitors to explore. While this is all speculation as of now, the potential is certainly there. Here is a closer look at Disney World’s ‘undeveloped uses’ area in more detail.
You may be surprised to find that roughly 5% of Disney World is actually set up for agricultural use.
The corporate giant has decided to utilize some of its massive park for growing food. This makes sense considering that one of the park’s most valuable undisturbed resources is its fertile soil.
While this agricultural section of its undeveloped land could have easily fallen into the resource management part of the park, Disney World has actually left its agriculture use to be flexible for alteration in the future.
At the moment, Disney World plans on leaving its agricultural area as it is, but if they decide to utilize it for future development, they have every right to do so.
Disney World’s final section is simply classified as ‘Undeveloped’. This part of the park is also roughly 5% of the total size and its final use is still to be decided.
The park may decide to use this section to expand its entertainment or they may use it to build additional hotels or parking.
Disney has intentionally left this area of its massive park untouched to be used in a versatile way - in case they need to prioritize it for the park’s functionality. While the idea of more rides being added does sound great, it is probably best not to get our hopes up.
About THE AUTHOR
Brittany has been in the land business since 2020 when the world was starting to shut down because of COVID-19. Since then, we’ve sold to dozens of people from ATV weekend warriors to camping enthusiasts to retired truck drivers. Our inventory spans mostly in the western United States. We’ve been trained by experience, land acquisition courses, and hundreds of hours meeting with county assessors and clerks, zoning officials, realtors, and land investors. We’ve answered hundreds of questions from people regarding the buying and use of land.Read More About Brittany Melling