Born in 1964, and growing up here in Stuart and Sewall’s Point, one thing I certainly had in my childhood was freedom. Freedom to roam. Freedom to explore. Freedom to get into trouble, or decide not to….Freedom to ride my bike. Freedom to climb trees. Freedom to read a book on an empty lot. Freedom to build forts. Freedom to catch butterflies, and to jump in the river with my friends with our clothes on if we wanted to….
I moved to Sewall’s Point from St Lucie Estates in Stuart, in 1974. I was a 10-year-old child with my parents, and siblings. This area was still “small” not developed widely until the 1980s. Certainly, Sewall’s Point did not look as undeveloped as it did in the above photo from the 1950s—- before the “Bridges to Sea” were built, but it was certainly less developed than it is today. In fact, as a kid, I thought the entire pennisula was “mine, and we kids often played in the old, falling apart estates of an another era long past, most famously, the old “High Point Rod and Gun Club.”
The demolition of this building is what set my mother, Sandra Thurlow, on her path to write her book on Sewall’s Point (Sewall’s Point, a History of a Peninsular Community on Florida’s Treasure Coast.) In fact, it was the Sewall’s Point Commission in 1986, that “ordered the demolition,” as she states it, “of the lovely old home that stood on a bluff overlooking the St Lucie River…”
This event spurred Sandy Thurlow, “housewife,” on to become, as she calls herself, “the self-appointed history lady,” over time, writing four books on Sewall’s Point, Stuart, Jensen, and the House of Refuge on Hutchinson Island. She has educated and inspired thousands of people and won state awards. Now that I think about it, she became an “activist for history!”
Ironically, as the old adage says, “history repeats itself,” and I now find myself writing and having become a “self-appointed river activist” for the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon, spurred on also by its destruction.
There is always a silver-lining, isn’t there…? And when I was comparing the photographs “of old” with some below taken “today,” I noticed that one thing in Sewall’s Point still stands tall: many of its incredible trees. In fact, an arborist last year told me that Sewall’s Point is one of the only communities on Florida’s entire east coast, that still has much of its “native hammock” in tact.
Last night at a Sewall’s Point commission meeting in 2015, as a commissioner myself, I lost my composure. I think really for the very first time, ever….And although I consider myself, yes, rather intense, I pride myself on NOT losing my composure.
In discussion of pursuing policy making it tougher for residents and businesses to “hat wrack” (severely cut) or remove a tree without a permit, in one second of time, “I lost it.”
I lost it when I thought I was going to lose my fight. A fight I have been working on in the Town of Sewall’s Point for six and a half years. In the end, some miracle occurred and the commission directed the town manager to “look into it,” if nothing else, for the hardwoods or especially large-caliber oaks, many hundreds of years old…
I am embarrassed by how I acted. I even apologized. I think it is because protecting this place is in my blood and because when I was a kid I thought it was “mine….” and you know what? In way it is. It is all of ours.