Tag Archives: Coastal development

Great Blue Heron/Eye on the Horizon- St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon

Blue herons together in nest. Photo by Paul Shidel     2015.
Blue heron pair together in nest SLR/IRL. Photo by Paul Shidel, 2015.

In my youth, I remember a time in Rio, when my friend Vicki and I found a Great Blue Heron tangled in fishing line and hooks along the St Lucie River. Vicki, always being the leader, designated me to save the bird. I recall walking out into the shallow river and determining how I could help this gigantic and magnificent creature that stood almost as tall as myself.

The bird’s yellow/gold eyes were wild and frightened as it struggled against the line. To me, its markings resembled Indian war paint; its purple/blue coloring extraordinary.  I was inspired and scared by its strength, beauty, and fight to survive.

Vicki barked directions at me, threw me a towel, and some scissors. Being careful not to hurt the bird, I cut the line from the mangrove, bringing it into my arms, gently holding its sharp beak, and then trounced back up to the shoreline. Vicki’s older sister, Beth, drove us to a wildlife veterinarian who took the line and hooks off the bird and returned it to the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon. This must have been sometime in the late 1970s…

The above photo, by local photographer, Paul Shidel, was recently shared, and brought back memories of this childhood experience. Birds tie into a week of blogging about destructive changes and history to the Everglades’ system.

James Audubon's "Great Blue Heron" ca. 1800s. (Public photo)
J. James Audubon’s “Great Blue Heron” ca. 1830. (Public photo)

Believe it or not, the National Audubon Society states that only 10% of the bird life remains in the Everglades compared to its pre-development glory. We are part of the Everglades. The Northern Everglades.

*90 % of the bird life is gone….

When you see a great blue heron know you are witnessing a “survivor.”

Have you ever watched them fly? Head forward; legs back; and a steady eye on the horizon. Completely focused. We too must keep our eyes on the horizon and be completely focused.

We have a long fight forward to save the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon. And that we will.

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Great Blue Heron Audubon: (http://birds.audubon.org/birds/great-blue-heron)

Martin County Audubon: (http://www.audubonmartincounty.org/p/2/home)

* Eric Draper of  Florida Audubon quoted “90% loss of birds in the Everglades” 1-22-15 during his presentation to Martin County Audubon. This statistic is widely noted.

Search other blog post by subject at: (http://jacquithurlowlippisch.com)

Miami Herald article on Everglades bird population 2014/15: (http://www.miamiherald.com/news/local/community/miami-dade/article7956405.html)

Climate Change-How Would We Plan Our Historic Subdivisions Differently Today? Indian River Lagoon

Port Sewall development map 1911. (courtesy of Sandra henderson Thurlow.)
Port Sewall development map, 1911. (Courtesy of Sandra Henderson Thurlow.)

I have wanted to share this Port Sewall land development map for a while as it is so interesting to observe.

Port Sewall, established in 1911, was one of our area’s first “planned developments.” It consisted of lands from the Hanson Grant that Captain Henry Sewall acquired through his family line. The infamous Hugh Willoughby later joined him and they formed the Sewall’s Point Land Company, which according to Sandra Henderson Thurlow’s book The History of Sewall’s Point: ” built the Sunrise Inn, dredged for a yacht turning basin, and planned to develop a deepwater port.”

Due to the Great Depression of the 1920s theses dreams evaporated but left this map that became the basis for part of South Sewall’s Point, Stuart,  St Lucie and Old St Lucie Boulevard,  Port Sewall, and Golden Gate.

The body of water in the Port Sewall map is today’s Willoughby Creek. The original name Oyster Creek, was changed. This is fitting as today when I look over the edge of the little bridge on Indian Street, I do not see many oysters, only manatees swimming around in dirty looking water.

Today, I pose what may be an odd question but it is one I think about in light of my Florida League of Cities meetings  and friends that force me to think about climate change and where things are going in the future of South Florida.

This is not “bad,” it is just change. Just 12,000 years ago there were mammoths, mastodons, saber toothed cats, 17 foot tall sloths and broad horned bison walking around looking for watering holes and hoping not to get “bow and arrowed” by a paleo-Indian. Things change. Times change. Slowly. We must adapt.

As a side note, a few years ago my husband Ed and I visited his birth city of Buenos Aries, Argentina. We noticed, just like Ed’s father told us, Argentina’s development was further back from the river. Most of the lands along the water bodies were left for “everyone” along with  wildlife and to promote the area’s fishing. This was prompted by periodic flooding and storms. Just like we have here….

“We,” on the other hand, have completely built out to the edge of the water, right up in fact or over every little creek and rivulet.

It may be a rhetorical question, but if we had it so do all over again, how would we develop our lands to ensure the integrity of the surrounding waters, giant hammocks, upland forests, forks, creeks, wetlands, and shorelines?

As a Sewall’s Point commissioner of seven years, one the “craziest” things I have ever heard was that FEMA would help our town buy out some of the shoreline houses that have experienced repetitive flood losses. Hmmmmm….But we would lose the tax base I thought…..but then if the water is coming up, and the storms seem to be getting stronger, and it is my responsibility to plan for the future of the town….is this really such a crazy thought?

Ft Lauderdale is doing this…..Miami is doing this…..

Most certainly many elements have added to the degradation of the St Lucie River and Indian River Lagoon. Intense coastal development is right up there.

As we move forward in light of climate change, there may be opportunities to offset that destruction. These changes are not something anyone is ready for or wanting to discuss.

Nonetheless, Mother Nature just may force the conversation. We should start thinking now, what exactly we are going to say to her, because she is coming…

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Broward County Planning map: (http://gis.broward.org/maps/webPDFs/SeaLevelRise/PriorityPlanningAreasForSeaLevelRise.pdf)

Miami/South Florida collaborative Planning: (http://bondsforschools.dadeschools.net/Files/Miami-Dade%20County%20Presentation_March182014.pdf)