Sometimes looking back makes you wonder if you are going forward…
The hand written corrections and typewritten format on the document really bring it home:
Paragraph two: “The lake has been and is being degraded. Poor land and water management practices in the drainage basin threaten to further degrade and destroy the lake’s indispensable values. This was recognized as early as 1971…”
I found this tiny Florida box turtle in December of 2021 while I was out in my yard. It was so small, I was nervous to let it walk back into the wild – but I did. I couldn’t believe it was so small -just a tad larger than a silver dollar. I immediately realized, “box turtles are breeding in our yard!” Over sixteen years, I have seen adult box turtles occasionally, but not often, maybe once every five years. As box turtles wait until their late teens to reproduce and can live to the ripe age of eighty, I imagine box turtles lived at Riverview before Ed and I did. But I like to think that Ed and I helped them recently -have this baby- by naturalizing our yard.
Last night I was reading and it made me think about the baby box turtle…
In his best selling book, Nature’s Best Hope, A New Approach to Conservation That Starts in Your Yard, Douglas W. Tallamy writes about the population demise of the Eastern Box Turtle – there are six types in North America. The one I found was a Florida Box Turtle. Tallamy discusses a better wildlife future if we all would offset the “isolation” of our modern (large lawns and ornamental landscaping) and “create connectivity.” This is not a difficult thing to do. By “shrinking our lawns,” and adding more native, and thus wildlife valuable landscaping, we create connectivity, like wildlife corridors -giving the box turtles and other wildlife a large area to live and breed- rather than thinking they can live and breed endlessly on a sterile postage stamp.
I have written many times, that Ed and I stopped fertilizing in 2008, and then slowly expanded our planting beds, adding more native plants. By 2018 we had no grass, added rocks for walking paths and native plants for a butterfly garden. This has really paid off as far as bringing more birds and wildlife! It’s more healthy. No fertilizer. No pesticides. Considerably less watering. And now a baby box turtle!
This 1950’s Aurthur Ruhnke Sewall’s Point aerial from my mother, Sandra Thurlow’s book of the same name, reveals the peninsular Sewall’s Point landscape between the St Lucie River/Indian RiverLagoon of the 1950s before major subdividing. Other than the naive people, Sewall’s Point’s first residents settled in the late 1800s when Sewall’s Point was a natural coastal landscape, and on higher ground, a hardwood hammock. Today, practically no natural landscape is left. Hundreds of wildlife habitat acres developed, now filled with sterile, water demanding lawns, and mostly “ornamentals” that hold no wildlife value. Luckily, there remain quite a few giant trees such as oak, gumbo limbo, strangler-fig, satin leaf, paradise, mastic, and hickory. Replanting with natives and less lawn would look more like the photo above and less like the Google Earth image below. So, to Mr Tallamy’s point, if we all planted more natives (and I know many of you have! 🙂 and less grass in our yards, even though we are now so split up (isolated) we could build connectivity for wildlife throughout Sewall’s Point and everywhere. He notes nature doesn’t just belong in parks!
Having spent the last sixteen years fighting for the St Lucie River, I have come to understand the important connection of the land to the water. The little box turtle may not live in the river, but the baby turtle is a sign of health for the lands that are connected to the waters. And this really makes me smile.
Baby turtle going back to from where it had come after I photographed it. It’s a big world out there! Good luck little box turtle!
My husband, Ed, has been out of town for a few days, so I decided to visit a place I haven’t come upon in a long time, Haney Creek. I had been pouring through 1940s Department of Agriculture aerials showing Martin and St Lucie counties in their pre-drainage/pre-development glory. What a mind-blower to see how much the landscape has changed! Nonetheless, there remain a few fantastic parks that allow us to connect with the past.
One of these, located right in the heart of Stuart, is Haney Creek or Haney Creek Trail. This gem of a park is over 157 acres and remains in as natural a form as possible. It contains very well marked trails, and the main path is only a short walk that can be made right on one’s way to the grocery store. Haney Creek is hidden in the middle of everything! It is peaceful and beautiful and a great reminder of our once wildlife full ~sand-pine, wet prairie, flatwoods habitat~ that in earlier days sprawled “everywhere.”
Looking at the aerial or walking along Haney Creek Trail, it’s easy to see how everything we put on our yards ends up in the river. Nature formed forests, sand dunes, ponds, and creeks so that all things found and find their way to the St Lucie…
On the 1940s aerial below, Haney Creek is located far south, just up from the “Y” of US1 and the railroad track. Can you find it? If not, there’s a modern map within the photos that follow. Take a trip back in time with a mind set for today-it’s so easy and right in the middle of everything! -Haney Trail, part of the Haney Creek Project, is located right off of Baker Road, next door to Felix Williams Elementary School. The main trail takes about twenty minutes to walk. I’m including some photos I took. My favorite is the prickly pear cactus-flower. Note the bee inside!
This 1925 Florida News Real Estate Investor’s Guide, reminds us exactly how developers saw Florida in 1925, “as the greatest real estate development in the world!”
Sure, Florida remains perhaps “the greatest real estate development in the world,” unless of course, our waters are, “now and then,” filled with toxic algae.
Let’s hope that the Florida Memory Project’s future timeline will not reflect that our generation allowed the destruction of the greatest real estate market in the world because we thought we had more time that we really did…
Like hard resin, stories of long-leaf pine and towering Florida forests are in me. Since my earliest days, I remember visiting my mother’s family and hearing tales around the dinner table:
“In the 1930s your Granddady and Uncle Gordy dove down to the bottom of the Withlacoochee River, chained those sunken water-logged giant trees, pulled them out with mules, put them on a train to Gainesville, milled them, and built this house by hand. Virgin long-leaf pine that had been on the bottom of that river for 90 years became our home. This house is history.”
At the time, the stories were just part of a lifestyle I did not lead living “down” in Stuart, Florida with the Yankees. In Gainesville we ate boiled peanuts, okra, gigantic breakfasts of bacon, eggs, toast, and homemade jelly. In Stuart, I ate Lucky Charms.
Now that I am becoming an old-pine myself, the story of the long-lost, long-leaf pine is more interesting to me. And “lo and behold,” although public records show the famous long-leaf forest stopping just north of Lake Okeechobee, recently my mother and I learned that they were, indeed, further south, right here in what today is Martin County!
This observation is based on a 1st hand account of 1910 by J.H. Vaughn in an Abstract of Title for Indiantown, Florida, No. 12386.
In the early days of our country, long-leaf pine forests covered approximately 90 million acres and stretched across the entire southeastern United States. These trees are documented to have stood from 80 to 175 feet tall and many were up to 400 years in age. Of course multiple animals were dependent on the forest for shelter and food and there were massive benefits to the watersheds. The cleanest waters in the world run off of forests. These amazing trees evolved to completely withstand forest fires, actually thriving in such conditions. Imagine if you would these remarkable trees of our Creator, cut to the ground with the same state of mind as today when mowing one’s lawn….By the 1920s only 3% of the forests remained.
So where were these trees in Martin County? Where do we fit into the incredible history of these magnificent conifers? J. H. Vaughn, a lumber man of the 1800s, negotiating a sale states in the abstract of title below:
“…there is an average of 2000 feet of Long Leaf Yellow Virgin pine per acre.. being on the eastern side of Lake Okeechobee…”.
(The Townships and Ranges listed are today’s Indiantown.)
I think it is incredible that we are part of the long-leaf pine odyssey. As today, the Nature Conservancy and people like M.C. Davies have dedicated their fortunes and lives to bringing back this magnificent species and the animal life that comes along with it. The situation is a lot like St Lucie River and Lake Okeechobee restoration. It’s a generational goal done so that our stories and our lives are remembered, and not “long-lost.”
This remarkable 1952 historic aerial photograph shows Poppleton Creek and what were once pioneer Hubert Bessey’s lands near Downtown Stuart. Within the bucolic photograph early stages of C-23’s white sands, as seen piled on the land in the upper right hand corner of the photograph, foreshadow the river’s future. This canal divides Martin and St Lucie County and is considered the “most polluting,” excluding C-44 when open for Lake Okeechobee.
Looking across the beautiful St Lucie River we see in the distance the virgin pinelands and wetlands of parts of today’s Palm City. Interestingly, if one continues west one will stumble upon the proposed lands to be developed by the Kiplinger Family, Pineland Prairie.
Go west young man, go west?
Time shall tell…
If we do, we may have more regard for the land than we did in 1952 and bring relief to the river that brought development and love of our area here in the first place.
I am adding additional photos to this blog post for reference to questions posed. The Fairchild photos below are dated 1925 and in them you can see the white sands of the C-44 piled on the land connecting to the South Fork of the St Lucie River. The C-44 canal was built between 1915 and is documented to have opened in 1923. Dates vary by a few years depending on sources and it too was enlarged/deepened in the 40s and thereafter.
“What is that huge white stripe on the horizon??” I said. It’s looks like a giant 20-mile-long spaceship runway.
Well, it’s the spoil from the freshly-dug Okeechobee waterway. See it in the attached comparison from Google Earth.” Todd Thurlow
“Eden,” the name says it all. Wouldn’t it be cool to say you lived in Eden?
Today there is a historic sign, but there is no longer a town. In 1879 “Eden” was named by Captain Thomas E. Richards who decided this spot along the high ridge of the Indian River would be a good place to grow pineapples. According to historian, Sandra Henderson Thurlow, “Richards felt he had arrived in a tropical paradise, and named his new home Eden.”
In Sandra’s book, “Historic Jensen and Eden on Florida’s Indian River,” she talks about how today’s Jensen Beach evolved from both the historic communities of Eden and Jensen, but over time, while Jensen had room to grow, Eden faded, as it was hemmed in by the wet, fragile ecosystem of the savannas. This marshy savannas system once stretched along the lagoon for over a hundred miles, but today, the only remnant lies right behind the lost town of Eden, and to the north and south of close-by extending lands.
These rare lands known today as Savannas Preserve State Park, “encompass more than 5,400 acres and stretch more the ten miles from Jensen Beach to Ft Pierce containing the largest, most ecologically intact stretch of freshwater marsh in southeast Florida.” Remarkable!
If you haven’t ever seen it, I can promise, “Eden awaits you…”
This past weekend, my husband Ed and I put on our wet weather gear, and walked from Jensen Beach Blvd to “west of Eden. ” It is amazing to have this treasure right in our own backyards, a study in plant and animal life that “used to be.” ~A study in what we can bring back, if we want to…
In this historic postcard we see many things that today we often do not see: a well dressed man in a hat; women also with lavish hats and donning long dresses; tall grasses along the shoreline; and an extensive pine forest across the St Lucie River…
Martin County, like most of Florida was once a giant forest. Logging companies harvested much of the area starting in the mid 1800s. We can only really guess what it looked like, and only imagine what the world was like for the animals and native peoples that lived under its cover.
The famous Harshberger vegetation map of 1913 gives us an idea of what Martin County would have looked like, noting mostly pine forests of Caribbean and Sand Pine, but other plant communities near the St Lucie River would have included: beach; strand; tropical hammock; mangroves; low hammock; scrub; dry prairie; wet prairie; pine flat woods; swamp and marsh. The United States woodland density map of 1873 shows Florida to be one of the greenest areas of the continent having had the most trees. Wouldn’t that have been something to see!
We cannot return the forests, but we can choose what plants and trees to put in our yards. The business of landscaping has us in a cycle of turf, fertilizing, pesticides, and often bushes and trees that don’t really “go” here.
One way to help the St Lucie River is to take into our own hands what we plant in our yards. This can take time and that’s part of the fun of it. Creating a Florida Friendly yard using a mixture of native and Florida tolerant plants, less turf, requiring fewer chemicals and maintenance really does help. What if everyone did it?
When you drive across the bridge, or look across the river, or look at your yard, just for fun, ask yourself: “What would have been here, what would have been naturally beautiful, what would have attracted wildlife one hundred years ago?”….and then if you feel like it–recreate!
Today is June 1st, the beginning of the fertilizer ban in Martin County, especially Sewall’s Point that goes through November.
It was Mr Gary Roderick who worked for Martin County that first taught me about Biosolids, or “fertilizer” made from all of our human waste. It was Gary who taught me about the business of spreading this on the lands, the state basically paying farmers to do so, and how no matter how hard we all worked, no matter a reservoir and water sent south or not, the truth of the matter is that we just keep over-nutrifying and polluting the land and thus our waters just as fast as we can try to fix them.
On Sunday , May 27th, 2017 TCPalm ran an article by Lucas Daprile, part of an outstanding series they are doing on this issues. The article begins: “The state plans to allow a massive farm (Sunbreak Farms) on the St Lucie/Indian River County line to annually fertilize its cornfields with 80,000 tons of compost comprised of one-fourth treated human waste.”
Chances are the Department of Environmental Protection will approve this because “it’s safe”…as they have for decades.
This waste-made-fertilizer should be shipped and sold to areas outside of the state that do not have the nutrient issues we do in here Florida –not spread in watersheds that drain into Lake Okeechobee and the Indian River Lagoon.
Drowning in our human excrement? You’ve got to be kidding me.
St Lucie County Commission Meeting on this issue “Sunbreak Farm’s Permit”
6pm, June 6th, 2017, 23000 Virginia Ave, 3rd Floor, Ft Pierce, Florida
Useful links/and some articles where Gary Roderick is quoted:
“Wastewater treatment plants (WWTPs) in the United States generate approximately
7 million dry tons of biosolids each year. Since biosolids are rich in plant nutrients, farmers, landscapers, and homeowners use about 50 percent of the annual production of biosolids as fertilizer for plants. Biosolids must meet standards for nutrient, metal, and pathogen content before it can be used to fertilize plants and to improve the quality of soil. Because a variety of pharmaceuticals and other household chemicals have been found in the wastewater discharged from WWTPs, questions have been raised about the presence of these chemicals in biosolids. To help answer the questions the scientists purchased or obtained nine different commercially or publicly available biosolids and analyzed them for 87 organic chemicals found in cleaners, personal care products, pharmaceuticals, and other products.” USGS
For some stories there are no pictures, only your imagination…Today I will share a story brought to my attention by my mother in line with my recent interest in ponds.
It was September of 1924, Stuart was still part of Palm Beach County, and few people lived here. It was the “boom era” and residents were excited about building the future. But then it started raining, and raining, and raining…
By Edwin A Menninger, reprinted in the 1950 Anniversary of the Stuart News with my location references.
JUST WHAT WAS STUART LIKE 25 YEARS AGO? THE YEAR STUART ALMOST WASHED AWAY…
…We had just had four days of torrential rain. At one time it rained 36 inches in 36 hours. Stuart was flooded. The railroad tracks washed away at Rio. They washed away also just south of Salerno, and two FEC passenger trains carrying about 500 people were marooned in Stuart till the tracks could be rebuilt. The Vanderbuilts just happened to be on the train!…I published a special FLOOD EXTRA and sold 400 copies…the heavy rains made an enormous lake in th heart of Stuart. (It was before 4th Street (East Ocean) was graded and paved) and a huge lake stretched from the court house to the school.(Today’s Stuart Middle School and Ad. Buildings)
A small ditch to drain off the worst was dug from the lake’s edge (where W.V. King’s house now stands) (Across from Willie Gary’s office on Osceola today) to the St Lucie River; in an hour this became a raging torrent. Water ran so fast it dug a ditch 75 feet wide to the river, undermined houses nearby, threatened extensive damage before Curt Schroeder and his crew got things under control again. The ground was s waterlogged that drainage problems were difficult. Water stood across 4th Street (East Ocean) in deep, big ponds for more than a month in front of where John Demich now lives (today’s 5th and Cortez) and at the tennis court. The old hospital building was surrounded by water for weeks and physicians came and went in boats…
A raging torrent that dug a 75 foot ditch from East Ocean Blvd to the St Lucie River! Doctors going to the hospital in boats? Holy cow. That must have been something. How did they put back the land that washed out? Below I have tried to figure out where that area might have been…
In closing, hope you have enjoyed this week’s pond series. The message remains the same, Lake Okeechobee or a little pond on East Ocean Blvd. “Over drainage has consequences….”
Notes of location referred to in the 1924 article, by Sandra Thurlow, help to figure out location:
Mom, where is the King’s house?
The King house was Kay Norris’s parents’ house across from the Pelican Hotel (Willie Gary’s ) The corner of our church property where Mary’s Closet is today used to flood terribly. There was once a rectory there that had to be demolished because it flooded and was ruined. Uncle Dale could tell you all about that. The King house still stands on Osceola I believe. At one time it was Dr. Eckersley’s office.
2. Where was the Dumich house?
Dumich lived on 5th Street about where Cortez intersects it.
3. Mom, remined me about the flooding when I was a kid.
Think of the courthouse. As you probably remember Memorial Park was always flooding. When it was suggested for a site for the library years before, Mary Kanner, (Kanner Highway, Highway 76, is named after her Judge husband) said “I am not going to have the library built in that sometime lake.” The pond that was dug in front of where the Log Cabin was constructed, later became the Middle School Pond. Now, it too, has been made to disappear.
Notes of Edwin Menninger:
~Edwin A Menninger, The South Florida Developer, 1924
(Menninger purchased the weekly paper, South Florida Developer, in 1923, moving its publication headquarters to Stuart from Canal Point. In 1928 he bought the Stuart Daily News. This excerpt was reprinted in the 1950 Anniversary Edition of the Stuart News.) (This excerpt can also be found on page 453 of a History of Martin County.)
Thank you to my awesome brother Todd Thurlow who created this image after reading today’s blog post. He writes: “Hi Jacqui – If you want to see the 1924 lake, the FEMA flood maps show the low spot pretty well. Check thiis out:” ~Todd
This week, with a short reprieve from politics, I have been sharing historic photos and videos of the once wetlands and ponds of East Ocean Boulevard. Land use changes interest me as land use is of course directly connected to the water quality and health of our St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon.
After reading yesterday’s blog, historian and family friend Alice Luckhardt, shared the remarkable 1947 photo above. I wanted to make sure everyone saw it as well! Look at the size of that pond that once was at Stuart Middle School! I remember it; do you? Now it’s gone.
The question posed to Alice in a conversation thread on Facebook was “why was the school board allowed to drain and build over the pond?”
It appears “the powers that be” had been eyeing the land under the pond for some time…
Alice has included two old news articles, featured below, explaining how students, two different times, did save the pond from destruction in both 1964 and 1971, but no one spoke up during the real estate boom era of the 2000s when the “new Stuart Middle School” was built. Why didn’t the adults save it?
Now I must state that I love Stuart Middle School as I attended there as a student and taught there as a teacher, but this disappearing pond act is incredible and should be noted. At the time I saw it happening, I did write a personal note of concern and disbelief to the current principal who did not write me back. Now that I am a “politico” person, I understand the principal does not make these decisions.
Many locals who grew up here still have memories of the pond. My Dad does as he went to hight school here in the 50s. Generational Stuart resident Boo Lowery says:”Jay Davey and I fished in that pond a lot 1949-53, we caught a lot of bream.. there were two islands then, –they later connected them to shore; I guess to make mowing easier.”
Yes, the goal is always to make it “easier,” for we humans, unfortunately over time this adds to the desolation of our St Lucie River…Easier is not the answer.
Well enjoy Alice’s articles below! Thanks, everyone; see you at the fishin’ pond.
JULY 16, 1964, THE STUART NEWS, SCHOOL POND IS TO BE ‘SAVED’ BY CONSERVATIONIST GROUPS The pond at Stuart Junior High School will not be filled. Instead, its water level will be restored, its banks will be graded to stop erosion and it will again be the habitat of water lilies and fresh water fish. Martin County School Board Monday night approved a plan advanced by six local conservation groups: Garden Club of Stuart, Izaak Walton League, St. Lucie-Indian Rivers Restoration League, the Historical Society, Junior Conservation Club and U. S. Soil Conservation Service. Charles Kindred, president of the Isaak Walton League, detailed the plan, which involves grading of the banks with county equipment, stabilizing them with Bahia grass and other plantings, installation of a well and one and a quarter-inch pump, operated by the city, to maintain the water level at three or four feet during drought periods and the planting of bream and bass.
JAN 10, 1971, THE STUART NEWS JUNIOR HIGH POND IS DUG OUT
The pond on the campus of the Stuart Seventh and Eighth School is in the final stages of renovation. Assistant Superintendent of Schools Jack Smouse said that the pond is somewhat of a landmark in the community and that it has been here “as long as I can remember.” School officials have intended to update the pond for some time, Smouse said and with the cooperation of the city and the county the work has been done. The county donated a dragline and the city provided fill for the project. The pond was originally designed with two separate islands in the center. Smouse said the design made maintenance difficult. Transporting mowers and other equipment from one island to the other was virtually impossible without a boat. With the fill which the city provided, the two islands have been connected. Smouse said the pond was originally dug to provide fill for other areas and that the spoil taken from the recent work will be used on the campus. Moves to fill in the pond in the past were blocked by local conservationists, Smouse said. They felt that if the pond is eliminated the city will lose one of its areas of beauty. The digging is now completed and the next step is to clear the area of cattails and other debris. When this work is complete the area will be planted and stocked with fish. Smouse said it will provide a fresh water pond for the area and will be used primarily as a “classroom” by the science department at the school. The pond is filled by surface water from the campus. In the past, storm sewer drainage went into the pond, but with the present drainage system this is impossible, Smouse explained. With the present low water table the surface water will be the only method of fill in the pond. Smouse said that eventually the school hopes to erect a flagpole at either end of the island with a school sign.
Today’s blog post, created by my brother, Todd Thurlow, just totally blows my mind. His time-capsule flight through images of Google Earth, historic maps from 1850 and 1940, and an aerial from 1958, takes us on a journey through the extensive pond-land/wetland that used to be the area of Downtown Stuart and beyond. Today we all live here, most of us not even realizing what the land once was…this wetland now “magically” drains into the St Lucie River.
In Todd’s video you can see that Stuart Middle School actually is now sitting where an old pond used to be; there were ponds expanding and contracting with the rains in today’s Memorial Park; there were ponds in the areas of today’s County Courthouse; there were ponds scattered over today’s airport, Witham Field; there were extensive ponds along East Ocean Boulevard and Dolphin as featured in last Friday’s popular blog post. Yes, there little ponds just about everywhere!
Sometimes we think the wetlands are “out west” and they are, but years ago they were also here. I have to say am guilty of this too. When I came home after university in 1986 and just about everything was developed, once again, amnesia! Look, after you watch Todd’s video, and notice the drainage canals around Monterey Blvd., St Lucie Blvd, back by Kingswoods Condo, and on the edges of Witham Field and there are many more. Of course like the grates and drains in every parking lot, these canals drain into our ailing St Lucie River. Lake Okeechobee is the big toxic hammer but there is local destruction too…
She describes a 1958 aerial photograph that hangs in my law office. The photo is from my parent’s “Thurlow/Ruhnke” collection. I had used the photo for a Google Earth presentation for Stuart Heritage on May 8, 2012. http://www.stuartheritagemuseum.com/
This is a recording of maps and photographs used for part of that presentation: 1850s Government Land Office Plats, 1940 USDA aerials and the 1958 Thurlow/Ruhnke photo.
There is no sound or text overlays but here are a few features to note:
0:50 –What was called the “Stuart Middle School Pond”. We jumped in that pond on the last day of school to celebrate graduating from 8th grade. A few years ago the pond was filled in to make room for a new building.
1:00 – The end of Fourth Street (what is now called East Ocean Blvd). East Ocean Blvd. ended at the intersection of St. Lucie Blvd/ Oriole Ave. on the left (north) side and Dolphin Drive on the right (south) before it was extended to the “Bridges to the Sea”.
1:14 – The oblique aerial described in Jacqui’s blog. Note the building in the bottom right corner. That is the Broadway Service Center which still stands today. See https://goo.gl/iODQwU
1:47 –The Evan’s Crary Bridge (aka the Ten Cent Bridge) under construction in the background
2:24 – 1940 flyover of Dolphin Drive. Note the single building in the middle of nowhere. That residence is still standing on the corner of SE 6th Street and Flamingo Ave. According to the Martin County Property Appraiser, it was built in 1925, years before the photo was taken.
2:30 –The 1940 view before our current airport. The previous Krueger Airport was off of East Ocean Blvd. Dolphin Drive continued all the way from East Ocean Blvd. to St. Lucie Blvd. by the river. If you have ever taken the “back exit” from the Stuart Air Show onto St. Lucie Blvd, that still existing right-of-way is what used to be the other end of Dolphin Drive.
“Time Capsule Flights,” created by my brother, Todd Thurlow, has been a shared favorite on my blog since 2014. In these remarkable videos, Todd uses his legal and historical knowledge to create a living collage juxtaposing historic and modern-day images to achieve dramatic insights into watershed and land use changes in Florida over the past hundred years. These videos are a must for anyone wishing to understand our state’s history or working to restore its waters and lands in the future. You can access all of Todd’s videos here: http://maps.thethurlows.com.