Building Bridges, St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon

"Bridges to the Sea," Stuart to Sewall's Point to Hurchinson Island and the Atlantic Ocean, 1965, Rhunke Collection, Thurlow Archives.
“Bridges to the Sea,” Stuart, to Sewall’s Point, to Hutchinson Island and the Atlantic Ocean, 1965. Rhunke Collection, Thurlow Archives.

Since the 1960s, I have seen many bridges destroyed and rebuilt, right here in Martin County. They are symbolic of our history, our accomplishments, and our struggles.

I may be making this up in my memory, but I think I recall my parents driving me over the Palm City bridge when I was a kid and it was made of wood. The clunk of slow-moving, heavy car,  over the uneven planks was somehow comforting, like the rhythm of a familiar horse. But times change, and bigger and “better” bridges are built…

The best bridge summary of Martin County I have ever read was written by local historian, Alice Luckhart. You can read it here: (

The “bridges to the sea,” from Stuart, to Sewall’s Point, to Hutchinson Island–over the St Lucie River and Indian River Lagoon were built in 1958. Sandra Henderson Thurlow, in her book, Sewall’s Point, The History of a Peninsular Community of Florida’s Treasure Coast, discusses how the relative isolation of Sewall’s Point ended in 1958 when, two “bridges to the sea opened.” For 10 cents, one could come to Sewall’s Point, and for  25 cents, one could go all the way to the ocean. The tolls were removed in 1961 and the bridges formally named in 1965: “Evans Crary Sr,” and “Ernst F. Lyons”– going west to east.

I am almost sure, I also remember, my mother, or some history person, telling me “they” did not name the bridges right away as it was a political “hot potato.” Perhaps in the beginning there had been controversy regarding building the bridges and certain people did not want their names associated with them until the political fumes dissipated and settled upon something else? Perhaps I am making this up? Like my fuzzy romanticized memory of wooden bridge in Palm City?

I don’t know. But what I do know, is that bridges allow us to cross over, to get to the other side.

I am trying to build bridges to send water south to the Everglades and save the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon. This means working with the sugar industry; the South Florida Water Management District; the Governor; the state and federal Legislature; the Army Corp of Engineers; the County; and most of all the people who live along the Treasure Coast.

I must admit, jokingly, sometimes I feel like “jumping off the bridge.” But I won’t. With your help, I will rebuild it; make it higher, more beautiful, and less damaging to the environment. And hopefully, in the end, we will all be inspired!

10 thoughts on “Building Bridges, St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon

  1. Jacqui, The Palm City Bridge was replace just about the time we moved here. It was always stopping traffic with some kind of breakdown in the old wooden bridge. The “straw” that got the camel and the DOT to move was when a baby was born on the Palm City bridge because the bridge wasn’t working. I told that story some years later and a women came up and introduced herself. She was the baby born on the Palm City bridge. Maggy

    Date: Wed, 11 Feb 2015 13:50:31 +0000 To:

  2. That is what One Florida Foundation is trying to do too. I agree with this approach. Until we start working together to find solutions nothing will be fixed. Just my opinion and I have been attacked for it… But I think this is the only way. Sorry …… Now I will go back to keeping my mouth shut.

  3. J: Your description of the old Palm City bridge sounds like the old Jensen Beach bridge. It was wood plank and opened by turning rather than raising. Driving across sounded like ca-clunk ca-clunk-….. I lived in Jensen Beach for 6 months during the winter of 1945 at what are now the Poinciana Cottages, just south of the Environmental Center which, in 1945, was the Elementary School. Chas

    1. Chas, I had no idea you had seen the Jensen Beach area in 1945. No wonder you fight so hard for the river. I would have loved to have seen it then. I have read about the incredible fishing. I bet the Poinciana Hotel was classic — and really, it still is. Thanks for writing!

  4. Hi Jacqui,
    Great blog on the bridges. One bridge however that should not be built is over a route known as 1C. If allowed, this bridge will cause irreparable damage to the most environmentally sensitive section of the North Fork of the Saint Lucie River. It will also go through a state park! There are other routes according to the City of Port Saint Lucie’s own studies that are not only far less damaging to the environment but also significantly less costly to build. This is a terrible precedent and threatens all Florida state parks. State and Federal law mandate that building through a park is not allowed when there are other prudent and viable alternatives available. We are confident that the Corp of Engineers will not approve the permit and that the two local environmental groups who filed a lawsuit against the federal agencies providing much of the bridge funding will prevail. If you are a concerned citizen who believes that parks should remain parks as promised, please let you legislators know. Join the fight to MOVE THE BRIDGE AND SAVE THE PARK.

  5. There is a Lagoonfest at the Ted Moorhead Lagoonhouse in Melbourne on March 7—-11am=10pm. Notice the bridge in the upper part of the picture. Notice the white calcium causeway. The few remaining ,healthy grass flats are protected by such calcium on causeways, over time the acids in the water wear the calcium out and constant removeing it by removeing crabs–clams oyster,fish etc. will e eventually be the end of the remaining grass flats unless something is done.

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