Category Archives: History

No Fertilizer in This Wonderful 1925 Aerial, St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon

Ariel 1925, SLR/IRL courtesy Archives of Sandra Thurlow as shared by Higgins Engineering WPB.

I have shared this 1925 aerial previously, but it is worth sharing again. What a wonderful photograph of a healthy confluence of the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon!

Every time I see it, I see something new.

I see the white sands of the newly dug St Lucie Canal, today’s C-44 connected to Lake Okeechobee,  in the far middle distance; I see dark, prevalent natural vegetation; I see an undeveloped Sailfish Point, Rocky Point, Manatee Pocket, Sewall’s Point, and Stuart; there are a few roads, but no airport; no spoil islands along Sewall’s Point; there are no “bridges to the sea; ” I see shoaling, as the St Lucie Inlet had been opened/widened not too long before ~located just around the left hand corner of the photograph; I see beaches at Hutchinson Island with beautiful coquina sands that had not been “re-nourished;” I see lush seagrass beds, the nurseries of life,  cradled against the shoreline; I see Paradise…

What would we do as far as development in this paradise, if we had it to do all over again?Or would we do just the same?

How we develop lands,  of course, affects the health of surrounding waters. Today, what can we do to reinvigorate our rivers, our paradise? How can we help bring back the seagrasses especially? Well, we can do a lot.

Think of all the lawns that would be in this photo today!  All the development, and how when it rains everything on our streets, parking lots, and lawns  runs into our drainage  systems and into our river.

Yesterday was June 1st, the beginning of rainy season. The beginning of fertilizer restrictions that were especially inspired for the entire Indian River Lagoon by the work of Sewall’s Point, the first to have a strong fertilizer ordinance,  in 2010. I am proud of this and thank my fellow commissioners of that era.

Do what you can by not fertilizing your yard this rainy season, and if you haven’t considered changing out your yard to a more natural, Florida Friendly landscape, perhaps begin the process.

Every little thing we do, counts. And the more we do, the pressure we can put on the “big polluters” to do the same.

______________________________________

BE FLORIDIAN program: “Saving Florida one lawn at a time”: http://befloridiannow.org/quick-start/

IRL Fertilizer Ordinances: https://sites.google.com/site/fertilizeruseintheirlwatershed/fertilizer-ordinances

Florida Friendly Yards: http://fyn.ifas.ufl.edu

Fertilizer Ordinances Martin County:https://www.martin.fl.us/sites/default/files/meta_page_files/Martin%20County%20Fertilizer%20Ordinance_FAQs.pdf

History of St Lucie River/IRL, development of canals, and Lake Okeechobee connection: by Bud Jordan, Rivers Coalition:
http://riverscoalition.org/reports-info/st-lucie-rivers-decline/

The Long Forgotten Wetlands of East Ocean Boulevard, SLR/IRL

 

 

4th Street/East Ocean Blvd 1957, Stuart, Florida, Arthur Ruhnke. Courtesy archives of historian, Sandra Henderson Thurlow.  
“See that white strip just below the wetland? That is the extension of Flamingo Drive that skirts the pond behind the old car wash. They just dug a retention pond and conducted the water to it. All of that pineland is covered with condominiums today.” (Cedar Point, Vista Pines, and Kingswood)~ Sandra H. Thurlow


__________________________________________________

Today we drive over the Indian River Lagoon and St Lucie River surrounded by “civilization,” and forget that once it was once a wetland and pine forest full of wildlife. In the course of a lifetime, these things are long forgotten.

The above 1957 photograph hangs in my brother’s law office. When I visit him, I find myself staring at it for long periods of time. It is one of those rare photos that really puts things into  perspective. The road construction through the wetlands, (note it going through the pond, and pine forest) was all taking place around the same time that the “Bridges to the Sea,” from Stuart to Sewall’s Point, and Sewall’s Point to Hutchinson Island, were completed. It’s amazing to see what the landscape once looked like. The road in the photograph, Fourth Street, was renamed “East Ocean Boulevard” in 1960, and is a major thoroughfare to the  beaches today.

Jenny, Todd and I 1973, alligator in background.
I remember early East Ocean Blvd, although it was already quite changed by the time I was born in 1964. My family lived at 109 Edgewood Drive in Stuart, a short distance away from these wetland ponds under development. I recall Scrub Jays in our back yard and feeding them peanuts. By 1974 the family moved across the river to Sewall’s Point “growing and improving” with the changing landscape.

By 1979, when I was fifteen  years old, riding my bike over the bridge to Stuart to work at the Pelican Car Wash, the beautiful wetland pond had been relegated to a retention pond for run off.  Over the next two decades, you didn’t see wetlands and ponds anymore, or wildlife, just condominiums, office buildings, and shopping plazas. The state four-laned East Ocean Boulevard and built higher bridges to the ocean too.

Believe it or not, the pond in the aerial is still located behind a gas station that used to be the car wash. It is not even a shadow of its former self. Two days ago, I drove by and noticed that there was an extensive algae bloom in the pond backed up to the  parking lot and gas pumps; the water reflecting a sickly shade of green.

I sat there thinking about the long forgotten pond in the middle of East Ocean Boulevard in the photo I love in my brother’s office, wishing the developers had figured out a way to go around the pond. As the shortest distance between two points, over time, is not always a straight line.

East Ocean Blvd 1957, courtesy historian, Sandra Henderson Thurlow

Flamingo and retention pond at Flamingo and East Ocean 2017, once a wetland.
Google map of East Ocean Blvd. through what was once wetland and forest, 2017.
1940s Dept of Agriculture photographs of Martin County showing wetlands. Courtney Todd Thurlow and UF archives.
Overlay 1940 aerials over Google map today, Todd Thurlow.
USDA History of Wetland Development in Florida: https://www.nrcs.usda.gov/wps/portal/nrcs/detailfull/fl/newsroom/features/?cid=stelprdb1252222

Bridges to the Sea, Luckhardt Vignette TCPalm Series: http://archive.tcpalm.com/news/historical-vignettes–martin-county-bridges-and-bridge-tenders-ep-306449407-342336761.html

Governor Rick Scott Signs Negron’s Senate Bill 10 in Clewiston? SLR/IRL

Sweet!

Today, May 12th, at 9:45 A.M. Governor Rick Scott is scheduled to sign Senate President Joe Negron’s “Senate Bill 10” in of all places Clewiston. Clewiston is “America’s Sweetest Town” and the headquarters of U.S. Sugar Corporation…

According to the article in the Glades County Democrat announcing the signing: “Earlier this week Senate Bill 10, a move to secure funding for a water storage reservoir south of Lake Okeechobee was approved. In its amended form, Senate Bill 10 became a measure that we in the Glades could stand behind. The bill no longer stated that additional farmlands be taken out of production but rather the state would utilize the property that it already owns to create a reservoir with a much smaller footprint.”

Full article: (http://gladescountydemocrat.com/lake-okeechobee/governor-rick-scott-set-sign-sb10-clewiston/)

Although I am scratching my head, you know what? Sometimes you just have to be happy for what you get, no matter where you get it. I am tremendously thankful to Governor Scott for signing the bill ~ although I do wish he had decided to sign it in Martin County since we’ve worked so hard to get it.

When I read the announcement officially last night, it got me thinking about Clewiston before I went to sleep. It brought back memories of 2013 and famed paddle boarder Justin Riney’s idea to hold the Sugarland Rally in Clewiston on September 1st, 2013 to unite the movement.  This was one of the early rallies for the river during the devastation of the “Lost Summer.”

Since Governor Scott is going to sign in Clewiston I think it’s a good time to walk down memory lane and be proud of how far we’ve come and to get ready for how far we have to go! The point of the location of the Sugarland Rally was to “meet halfway.” Hopefully Governor Scott is thinking the same, in that Joe Negron helped us meet half way and we are all thankful.

Now let’s remember the past, enjoy today, and then take it to the finish line!

 

“The Sugarland Rally will unite the east and west coasts of Florida in a peaceful, historic demonstration to speak out against the pollution of our estuaries from Lake Okeechobee discharges. We support both immediate and long-term solutions, but ecosystems and communities along the St. Lucie and Caloosahatchee Estuaries are in crisis. We cannot afford to wait for ecological and economic collapse. We urge all stakeholders–especially local, state and federal governments–to act immediately. We chose Clewiston as a central location to unify east and west at Lake Okeechobee, the source that is polluting our estuaries, and because we believe Florida’s sugar industry can be part of the solution. Please don’t misinterpret our intentions–we are NOT holding a rally at Clewiston to protest or point fingers at “Big Sugar.” It’s quite the opposite, actually. We invite Florida’s powerful sugar industry to join us in crafting an immediate solution to the ecological and economic crisis caused by discharges from Lake Okeechobee.” (Press release from Justin Riney, Aug. 2013)



SUGARLAND RALLY 2013

164

Maggy Hurchalla, Comm. Taylor, and Mayor Roland
Don Voss!
Nic Mader, Jenny Flaugh and the River Kidz
267.JPG
Eve Samples of TC Palm and Don Voss with crowd

_NIK4990Y35s8T142140259133367b2e03f1945d15e65859eb345d86 2

Press release on Sugarland Rally from 2013, in Clewiston, Justin Riney: http://www.supradioshow.com/2013/08/justin-riney-sugarland-rally-unite-east-west-coasts-florida-sup-radio/

9:35 am JTL

Watching Over His “Legacy of Beauty,” Mr Jack Crain’s Orange Avenue Peacocks, Ft Pierce, SLR/IRL

Peacock sitting atop wall, Orange Avenue, Ft Pierce, Florida. 5-8-17, JTL
Crain Building Orange Ave, Ft Pierce, home of the peacocks
Orange Avenue, Ft Pierce

I love Ft Pierce. Every time I’m there I feel like I see a good friend I haven’t seen in awhile: “Old Florida.”

Not only does Ft Pierce have a rich history, a great revived downtown, sit along the beautiful Indian River Lagoon, offer a river and sparkling beaches not contaminated by Lake Okeechobee discharges, the city just has so much CHARACTER.

Yesterday was an absolutely gorgeous day and as I drove past the iconic Crain house on Orange Avenue, decorated with special tiles and styles, my eyes locked with a peacock. I was captivated and pulled over my car to take a look around. Numerous birds crossed the busy street, jumped in the large oak trees, loudly calling to their mates. The busy cars darted around corners, merging off US1, and then stopped politely and patiently as the peahens, especially, decided if they really wanted to cross the road.

It was quite a sight.

I winced a couple of times thinking this was the end for one or more of the birds, but somehow there was a consciousness, an awareness, and the dance between the cars and the peafowl appeared almost scripted, as if a greater power were watching, maybe even  intervening…..

“This is awesome,” I thought. Just how did this come to be, I wondered. I saw CRAIN on the eccentric, large building where the peacocks were gathering. I knew of the gentleman because I had actually called once years ago to inquire about the birds….But who was he really? When I got home and researched, this is what I learned:

Jack Crain’s obituary photo, St Lucie County.

Jackson Crain, Obituary, Legacy.com

Fort Pierce, FL

Jackson Crain, age 90, of Fort Pierce, Florida, passed away at his home on October 17, 2016.

Jack was born in East St. Louis, Illinois, and has been a longtime resident of Fort Pierce. Jack attended school in St. Louis before serving in the United States Army for a brief period of time. After being discharged he went to work for the railroad in Missouri. While in Missouri, Jack met Mary Lee Steinhoff, whom lived next door to his aunt. He married her February 9. 1952. After moving to Orange Avenue in Fort Pierce, Florida, Jack opened Buccaneer Building and Tile Company, and American Travel Agency, which he opened and operated along with his wife Mary Lee for 29 years. Jack also served as a Scout Master for the Boy Scouts of America.

Jack was a member of St. Anastasia Catholic Church, and had an affinity for peacocks and peahens, which he raised at his home on Orange Avenue. He also enjoyed coin collecting, traveling, and collecting knives, swords, fine art and paintings from around the world. Jack and Mary Lee traveled around the world nine times.

Jack was the devoted and loving husband of Mary Lee Crain for the past 64 years; beloved brother of Margaret Ray of Enterprise, AL, Dorothy Cardinale of St. Charles, MO, Hazel Dalton of St. Louis, MO, and Richard Berthold Crain of Orlando, FL; and many nieces and nephews.

Full obituary: http://m.legacy.com/obituaries/tcpalm/obituary.aspx?n=jackson-crain&pid=182002295&referrer=0&preview=false

Thank you to Mr Crain for watching over your legacy of beauty that makes Ft Pierce an even a cooler place. I promise to be careful when I see one of your birds crossing the road!

A peahen

Link to me trying to video peacock: (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QtAEZKzdT-0)

Amusing articles of interest about the Orange Avenue Peacocks:

Ft Pierce Net: http://fort-pierce.net/fort-pierce-residents-urge-city-to-put-up-peacock-crossing-signs/

TC Palm: http://archive.tcpalm.com/news/fort-pierce-woman-says-fecund-peacocks-damaged-her-roof–photo-gallery-ep-384925179-344403612.html

Other:

PeafowlWiki: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Peafowl

City of Ft Pierce web site: http://www.cityoffortpierce.com/224/About-Fort-Pierce

St Lucie County Historical Society: http://www.stluciehistoricalsociety.net

He Shall Be King Again! The “Silver King” Tarpon of the St Luice River, Indian River Lagoon

Tarpon Fishing, Kent Hagerman 1893-1978. Courtesy, Sandra Henderson Thurlow.
Fishing map of McCoy Bros. SLR/IRL date unknown, notice the extensive tarpon fishing grounds,  Thurlow Archives.
IMG_8848.JPG
Tarpon on the line!  Dave Preston

If we look into the mirror of history, we begin to see…

We begin to see how we destroyed one of the most famous and beloved inland fishing waters in North America and how we learned to do better.  And if we are able, in time, not only to do better, but to return “health and glory” to the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon, it should be the tarpon, not the sailfish, that becomes our symbol, our king.

The first formal fishing club documented in Stuart was the 1916 St Lucie River Tarpon Club. The late 1800s and early 1900s were an era of great fame for the St Lucie River, build upon President Grover Cleveland and other presidents fishing trips to the area. Yes, the St Lucie was known as the “Fishing Grounds of Presidents.”

Ironically, at this same time, the Commercial Club, that evolved into today’s Chamber of Commerce, was promoting not just Stuart’s remarkable fishing, but also enthusiastically encouraging and awaiting the completion of the St Lucie Canal.

SFWMD canal and basin map. C-44 canal is the canal most southerly in the image.

“Once the muddy water flowed into the St Lucie River, they began to realize that the canal was not the blessing they envisioned,” writes Sandra Henderson Thurlow.  Historian Alice Luckhardt more directly notes, “at one time tarpon were often caught in the St. Lucie River, but “disappeared” from those waters soon after the opening of the canal system to Lake Okeechobee in 1923.”

Ingeniously, and with more insight,  in the years following the loss of tarpon and other river fish as seen in the McCoy map above, the ocean-going sailfish was marketed to replace the tarpon and become “the most prized fish of all…” as well as in time the symbol for both the city and county governments.

The magnificent Silver King? Just a dying memory, or no memory at all…

By the mid 1930s the Chamber of Commerce began publishing the “Stuart Fishing Guide.” In 1941 the largest sailfish run in Florida’s history occurred off the St Lucie Inlet. Remarkable! More than 5000 sailfish were caught in a 90 day period. “Thousands were slaughtered only to be dumped in the river, carted off by garbage collectors, and used for shark bait.” Stuart as the Sailfish Capital of the world was affirmed, but as my mother states, if “Stuart’s fame was to endure, so was the need for conservation of the species.”

The idea for conservation/protecting the industry had been in the works, the Sailfish Club had been talking about it and a few sailfish were returned to the ocean….  But after the sailfish run of “41, the idea of an organized conservation effort was solidified, and Sailfish Club of ’31 updated their charter in “41 “to further and promote sports fishing and conservation in the waters of the City of Stuart and Martin County.” Visiting sportsmen were awarded and inspired to work for the most coveted bronze, silver, and gold lapel pins based on the size of the sail they caught and released, not killed.

This is a great story, but what of the tarpon?

I can see his giant, ancient, dorsal fin rising from the waters of a healthier St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon. For me, no fish will ever compare. As we restore our rivers, it is he who shall be KING! 🙂

Close up of solidarity fish on Florida’s Capitol steps, Clean Water/Amd. 1 Rally 2-17-15.) (JTL)

FWC Tarpon: http://myfwc.com/research/saltwater/tarpon/information/facts/
Tarpon Trust: https://www.bonefishtarpontrust.org/tarpon-research

*Thank Thank you to my mother, historian Sandra Henderson Thurlow, whose work in Stuart on the St Lucie served as the basis of this blog post!

Link to 2016 unveiling of Silver King by sculptor Geoffrey Smith: (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bBwR1iHV3e8)

Vintage Catch and Release pin designed by the late Curt Whiticar.

Dave Preston of Bullsugar and Silver King, 2017.