Drainage of Witham Field, Stuart

Images below from Todd Thurlow’s “East Ocean Blvd. & Dolphin Drive 1940, 1958 time capsule flight” reveals the drainage of  Witham Field in Stuart, Florida.For some reason as I drive around, I am preoccupied with drainage. Over-drainage that is. I always remember my father’s high school farmer friend Mr Haddad saying to me: “Jacqui, we spent one-hundred years taking the water off the land and we’re going to spend one-hundred years putting it back on…” 

I have been wanting to write something about Stuart’s Witham Field for a long time.  I have flown out of it for years, Ed and I going up to take photographs of the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon. What a surprise when I finally figured out the ditch behind Ed’s hanger is part of the remains of Willoughby Creek! Aggg!

The land Witham Field sits upon was ditched and drained long ago and parts of the land the airport sits on held the headwaters of Willoughby Creek.

If you’re ever driving east past Witham Field on Monterey Road (714) at Kingswood Drive you’ll notice a fairly wide ditch. This ditch bends east, widening, and then getting skinny again, eventually going under St Lucie Boulevard, and then dumps into the St Lucie River.

-Screenshot of Google Maps showing canal along Monterey and Kingswood Drive dumping to the St Lucie River then turning right to gold course.Another canal goes all along the airport behind the houses on St Lucie Blvd. until the Sailfish Sands golf course. Curving around St Lucie Boulvard, which becomes Indian Street, one will see a restored fork or section of Willoughby Creek and next the bridge going over Willoughby Creek itself. This is the bridge where people often observe manatees.There are more ditches that are off Dixie Highway that lead back into the airport that one cannot see from the road.

-The surrounding lands, especially ponds around Willoughby Creek, once drained into Willoughby Creek. These ponds are long gone and the runoff waters have been directed into small reservoirs and ditches. Thankfully, Martin County has worked hard to improve the water quality in this area.

Below: Martin County completed a storm water treatment area and native plant storm water treatment area for Willoughby Creek in 2020. (Image MC)

It remains rather amazing to look back and think on what these lands in the “middle of town” used to be. Large ponds surrounded by wetlands, scrub habitat, and certainly areas of tall sand and slash pine.

Watch my brother Todd’s time capsule flight below to view old Stuart including the lands where the Witham Field sits. Once an oasis for birds, deer, gopher turtles and other wildlife, today it seems like it was always an airport. It wasn’t. 

To see the area of Witham Field go to 2:29 in video if you see it below, if not   CLICK HERE.

-Ditch on Monterey (714) and Kingswood  -Ditch/Canal on Kingwood -Ditch/Canal coming from Kingswood to St Lucie River. Water looks pretty gross.  -Other side of St Lucie Blvd. Outfall into St Lucie River. It’s at a speed hump. -Part of restoration of Willoughby Creek on Indian Street. This goes much further back.

-Not a great photo but you see the manatee sign at bridge over Willoughby Creek on Indian Street. The manatees love it here where it is warm and they are protected.

5 thoughts on “Drainage of Witham Field, Stuart

  1. Great job, Jacqui, Dec.18, 2022
    That little bridge was called Bruner bridge.
    When I was with mom or dad Bruner he’d told me about the bridge when he was county commissioner. Mom Bruner always called it Bruner Bridge when we crossed over. How beautiful life must have been growing up in their generation.
    Jac we’ve been fortunate growing up here too.
    Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!!
    With love,

    1. Becky thank you for sharing that the name of the bridge over Willougby Creek is/was named as Bruner Bridge. The Bruner family is so much a part of the history of Martin County. Maybe someone can put up a sign? Mr (Sr.) Bruner was one of the people who started Florida Oceanographic. He would love all those manatees in there. Maybe “Bruner/Manatee Bridge!” could be the name on the sign? We are lucky to have grown up here in this wonderful place we must continue to care for, improve and protect God’s creatures that once ran/swam freely on/through it! Love you Becky! Merry Christmas.

  2. Oh, Jacqui, your article really hit home for me. When I was nine we moved from extreme South Dade county to Stuart, where my Dad bought two houses—one for us, one for Grandma—at the dead end of 10th Street where it abuts Monterey Road. But back then there was no Monterey Road—it was all airport property surrounded by those creeks and ditches. Krueger’s Flower Farm and cattle bordered the northwest side. Dad kept his plane near the Civil Air Patrol hanger, and I logged many hours flying over the area with him. As kids we spent all our spare time– from dawn to dusk– in those ditches, creeks, and on airport property—building forts, playing chase, collecting critters. Such a fun childhood! We dodged rattlesnakes, caught guppies and turtles, fed the scrub jay family, and watched quail and gopher tortoises. When the “Airport Bypass” aka Monterey Extension was built, we watched in sadness as our critters were all displaced. The scrub jay family disappeared, and we knew things had changed forever.

    1. Oh Tara! What insight your story is! Thank you. I too remember when there was no Monterey Road where there is today along the airport. We used to have to drive through Stuart to get to US1 and just about everything else. Roads and development always comes over wildlife and we are paying for it now and will continue to when our grandchildren and theirs only have “virtual reality” to see a scrub jay or a fresh water turtle in a creek. I really appreciate your telling your family story. Can you believe their were flower farms and cows in our lifetime! Love to you for the holidays and I so appreciate you and now even more knowing you are partly a pilot! 🙂

      1. Yes, so sad but true, the loss of so much wilderness. We spend a lot of time driving out to places like Dupuis to see the birds and critters. I’m thankful for the effort to save our wild spaces. Martin County historically tried to conserve more than most, but I worry for its future.

        I don’t think I’ll ever be a pilot 🙂 but I enjoyed being Dad’s copilot! You get a unique perspective of our world from above. The cattle at Krueger’s farm often broke through the fence and wandered on the runways. Dad got stuck a few times having to circle around or land somewhere else while they tried corralling them back! Can you imagine that now?

        Wishing you and your sweet family a wonderful holiday season and Happy New Year!

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