Today I am the guest speaker for the Indian River Land Trust’s inaugural meeting of the “Ladies of the Lagoon.” And yes, I too am a founding member.
This is a particular honor for me as the land trust is located in Indian River County two north of my home county of Martin. Over the years I have gained a particular admiration for Indian River County in their independent nature and their ability to say, “no.”
In 2008 as the Great Recession hit with terrible intensity and unemployment rose and real estate prices fell, the Indian River Land Trust said “no” to more development and destruction of habitat along the Indian River Lagoon. In the depths of the recession they saw an opportunity and in 2009, long before the river movement began in 2013, the IRLT board decided to make purchases along the Indian River Lagoon its #1 priority. And in a short four years since that time they have raised unbelievable amounts of money, applied for grants, and have acquired eight major shoreline properties as shown in the map above: Coastal Oaks Preserve; Lagoon Greenway; Bridge View Parcel; Bee Gum Point; Winter Beach Salt Marsh; Quay Dock Kayak Launch; Pine Island and the Toni Robinson Waterfront Trail. Amazing!
The non-profit Indian River Land Trust was founded in 1990 by local artist and environmentalist Toni Robinson. As she is quoted in Vero Beach Magazines’s November 2013 issue: ” We saw the threat of “concrete canyons” drawing closer to the Treasure Coast.” (http://www.indianriverlandtrust.org/cfiles/home.cfm?csintro=yes)
The main impetus for this was the seemingly “doomed fate” of the long standing tourist attraction, McKee Jungle Gardens, to become a shopping center. Mrs Robinson and her comrades in arms would not have this and the Indian River Land Trust was born. McKee stands today as a symbol of what local people can do to mobilize– rejecting the “inevitable,” and thus protecting, and saving, beauty, history, and nature, for today and generations to come.
Although the northern part of the Indian River Lagoon in Brevard County lost the most seagrass during the super, secondary and brown tide of 2011-2013, according to Dr Eddie Widder of Orca, Indian River County proper has lost 32,000 acres of seagrasses. A tremendous loss. (http://floridaswater.com/itsyourlagoon/), (http://www.tcpalm.com/news/2013/mar/26/seagrass-die-off-one-of-major-issues-addressed/)
As state and federal agencies document the seagrass loss as a “mystery” and are scrambling for answers, we know that there are multiple problems causing the destruction of our beloved Indian River Lagoon.
It is a no-brainer that long term development of shoreline habitat, perhaps the hardest to undo, is certainly in the top two. The population along the 156 mile lagoon has slowly gobbled up, and filled most every shoreline “lot” with a beautiful home, torn down native vegetation, installed sprawling turf grass that comes with fertilizer, pesticides, seawalls and no where for wildlife to live.
Kudos to the quiet “Campaign to Save Our Indian River Lagoon” of the Indian River Land Trust!