Today we explore page three of the historic 1937 Stuart Daily News special edition for the opening of the Stuart to Ft. Meyers Cross-State Canal. Page three shows the first aerial photographs of Mr Lowell Hill featuring celebrated Jupiter Island.
“Jupiter Island is Show Place of Martin County. On the left the Intercostal Waterway between St. Lucie Inlet and Palm Beach pass through Beautiful Hobe Sound with Jupiter Island in the foreground. Hobe Sound Yacht Club has excellent dockage and fine fresh water. “
When I first saw this photograph, it struck me that I did not recognize the area with exposed white sand on the east side of the island. I wondered if that was a remnant fan-like formation from an ancient inlet. Then it struck me that perhaps it was fill dredged from the Indian River lagoon for the golf course – or a combination of both.
I went back and checked my brother Todd’s, Time Capsule Flights, and indeed, seeing the 1800s maps, I do believe it is fill. This is most obvious about 3:24 into the video. Many of our areas marinas and subdivisions are products of dredge and fill that was outlawed in the late 1960s and early 1970s because of its serious environmental ramifications. Ironically, in Florida, dredge and fill as a tool of development was stopped with the help of Jupiter Island’s famed environmentalist Nathaniel Reed whose family developed Jupiter Island. Reed was working for Florida’s first Republican governor since Reconstruction, Claude Kirk – during the 1960s era. (http://nathanielpreed.blogspot.com)
Today’s blog is a full expansion of the 1925 aerial photo I wrote about last Friday.
My brother Todd took this photo creating a time line flight of 1925 and 1940 views of the Sailfish Flats, the Indian and St. Lucie Rivers, and the St. Lucie Canal (C-44).
Todd’s video is a history lesson in “dredge and fill” which was very common throughout all south Florida and the United States until national laws in the 1970s required more scrutiny and often no longer allow such due to heavy impacts and damages on waterways and the natural environment.
Our Martin and St Lucie County canals dug by the ACOE and water management entities C-44, C-23, C-24, C-25 are dredge and fill. Sailfish Point, Sewall’s Point, and Indian River Plantation, just to name a few, have large portions that are dredge and fill. The dike around Lake Okeechobee and the work abound the FPL plant in Indiantown by Barley Barber Swamp are dredge and fill. At the time, it was “how it was done.” People did not foresee the ramifications to the environment or to people living in these areas in the future.
The land was our Play Doh…
I know you will learn a lot and enjoy watching Todd’s video. The link is above.
—My questions to Todd after I saw the video included:
Jacqui: “So Todd, what are the white lines on the edge of Stuart, Rocky Point etc…more piled white sand? Looks like Jupiter Island was smaller at one point…across from Sailfish…
So how in the world did they dig out the Sailfish Point Marina and what about the straight marina of Sailfish Point that was already there from the days of Mr Rand? Also what about the FPL Pond in Indiantown? Where do you think they put that fill? Holy cow! That’s a lot of fill!
(I have adapted Todd’s words after checking concepts with him so I could present info in a simple manner.)
Todd: “The lines on the edge of Rocky Point were probably a beachy shoreline. With it being more open water at the time and more exposed to the inlet; I’m sure there was more of a beach there. That shoreline matches perfectly the shoreline shown on the early NOAA maps – even before the inlet was there.
With respect to Jupiter Island, you are probably referring to all the spoil that was piled up at the entrance to the Great Pocket – some of that was put there when I was in middle school. The main part of Jupiter Island is more to the east and is now gone – and earlier connected to Hutchinson Island. The old Gilbert’s Bar Inlet was south of that point.
The marina on Sailfish Point was dredge fill. We have some aerials of it in the making. As was the case in areas of Sewall’s Point, the sand dug to build small marinas or subdivisions was piled on the land (Archipelago, Isle Addition) to make the land higher or to create completely new lands.
As far as the giant FPL pond, they probably just dug with a dragline and used the fill to make the dike around the outside of the pond and also to build up the land around FPL.”
So we live in an environment altered by our forefathers, and now we are experiencing unintended consequences to the health of our St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon. We must assist the next generation in understanding the past so that we and they can create a better water future. And that we can!
At last week’s Everglades Coalition Conference, (http://evergladescoalition.org), one of my favorite quotes was repeated by respected Martin County resident, and nationally renowned environmentalist, Mr Nathaniel Reed:
“Not knowing your history, is like walking into the middle of the movie.”
Prior to the 1970s, the passage of the Clean Water Act, and the national environmental movement, “dredge and fill”was commonplace. Dredge and fill includes the dredging of canals that have created our Atlantic Inter-coastal Waterway; the dreaded Okeechobee Waterway; canals draining South Florida below and around Lake Okeechobee; the Everglades Agricultural Area; as well as many prominent subdivisions and commercial centers that we relish today.
After people realized the environmental degradation that unfortunately went along with these projects, (some include: turbidity in the water column, destruction of seagrass and wildlife habitat, and sometimes the release of heavy metals and other pollutants harbored in the bottom sands and sediments,) getting permits to “do such” became much harder.
And yes, she gave to just about every charity in town! The point is, she loved helping “create” Florida Oceanographic in her later years, and in the 1940s and 50s people really did not realize the true extent of the destruction their dredge and fill projects were causing to the world that they loved. I believe this even holds true with some of the worst offenders of the agriculture and development industry who have, in essence, destroyed Florida and its waters.
But times change, and people change. I believe there is a movement of change right now to “send water south” again…to fix our state, and yet to allow businesses that came into being, during earlier times of our history, to survive and adapt.
As I mentioned, to be able to change the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon, we first must learn to look around, to be aware, and to be able to recognize the history of our own area as we try to change the bigger state picture as well.
Once you start looking, you will see that “dredge and fill” is all around us.
You may ask yourself:
“How is a huge boat, going through the IRL that on average is three feet deep?”
“How are those boats coming from Ft Meyers across Lake Okeechobee into the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon?”
“Am I living on what used to be a spoil island or the edge of a coastal community of fish and birds?”
“Am I living in a former wetland?”
I know, that although I do not live on the river, “I am;” I live in a coastal hammock in Sewall’s Point, a bird sanctuary.
There is no turning back, but we can change how we create a new history in the future.
By knowing history, there is a way to “rebuild”and “reeducate.” Whether it is starting in your yard, or changing state policy…
So look around you. Learn your history, view the “full movie”…And may the great waters of Florida flow again with life, beauty, and all the generosity of the late Frances Langford.
Imagine yourself a developer in Florida’s early days along the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon. Land is cheap, people are coming, you can dredge and fill, you can create a marina, or bulkhead spoil islands filling and building on top of them, you can cut canals into the land creating more waterfront, and while you are smoking your cigar, you see the peninsula of Sewall’s Point. “Location! Magnificent! A perfect place for a series of hotels right at the tip of the lush pennisula surrounded by water…this would be, simply marvelous!” “Chi-$-Ching!”
Believe it or not, in 1957-1970 that scenario was very much the fate of the Sewall’s Point and the two islands off its tip. The 1957 zoning map, the year the town was incorporated, designated High Point, and the two islands at the southern tip of the peninsula as a “Business-2 Zoning District.” This zoning designation permitted “hotels with not less than 25 rooms, clubs, multiple apartments, and municipal buildings.” (Historic legal documents referenced in Sewall’ s Point, Sandra Henderson Thurlow).
So why did not this developer’s dream come true?
“In 1970, a proposal to build multi-family dwellings on Sewall’s Point fell through when the members of the High Point Homeowners Association, working through the town government, defeated the the plan of Bessemer Properties.” (Thurlow) This was a feat, in that Bessemer was controlled by the Phipps family with wealth from steel manufacturing; they were very powerful.
In 1970, after the confrontation, the town’s zoning map was changed to permit only R-1 residential zoning.
So, if you ever feel discouraged about the state of the Indian River Lagoon or other things, think of the story of Sewall’s Point, and remember, a small group of determined people can certainly change their world!
When it becomes discouraging and we feel as though we will “never” be able to fix the St Lucie River and Indian River Lagoon, it is helpful to review environmental accomplishments of the past.
I was born in 1964 and a common thing to see in Martin County when I was growing up was development of coastal lands in a way that is rarely seen today-the cutting of canals right into the land abutting the river. Some of our most popular communities are based around the dredging and filling or the lands, or lands that had been cut earlier and then “improved.” To name a few, North River Shores; Mariner Cay; Stuart Yacht and County Club; Archipelago, Sewall’s Point; Francis Langford’s Marina; Snug Harbor Marina; Sailfish Point and Marina; Indian River Plantation; Circle Bay Yacht Club. There are many more. The city of Ft Lauderdale was almost entirely developed and marketed this way, “Venice!”
Although the outcome is often “pretty,” in the long term, there are huge environmental consequences to dredge and fill and this type of work is not “encouraged” for riverfront residential development today. Why? How did this common practice, so destructive, become more restrictive? This is the question I asked my attorney brother, Todd Thurlow, and this was his answer”
“Increased state regulation is probably in accordance with Federal Law. This is a whole area is study in federalism, environmental law and the federal government’s ability to influence the states to regulate themselves.”
Hmmm. To “regulate ourselves,” what a concept….
I started researching, and even though I was familiar, it helped to review the environmental movement of the United States. Historically, there had been conservationist like president Teddy Roosevelt and others but it was not until the late 1960s and1970s after an oil spill in Santa Barbara, California, that the US environmental movement really gained momentum. Remember it was the people who moved mountains not the government…
With pressure from the public, in 1969, what is considered the “magna carta” of US environmental law was passed, the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). NEPA “established a U.S. national policy promoting the enhancement of the environment and also established the President’s Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ). It is one of the most emulated statutes in the world.”
NEPA’s most significant effect was to set up procedural requirements for all federal government agencies to prepare environmental assessments (EAs) and environmental impact statements (EISs). (We see the these requirements hold today even with All Aboard Florida.)
NEPA led to the creation of the US Environmental Protection Agency, EPA, along with the very important Clean Air and Water Acts of the 1970s. In response to this federal pressure, the state of Florida merged agencies creating the Department of Environmental Regulation in the mid 1970s. Today this agency has adapted to be the Department of Environmental Protection.
The apex of the movement was a book published in 1962 by a former Fish and Wildlife employee and marine biologist, Rachel Carson, Silent Spring, that shined a light on pesticide use post World War II in the US and led to near banning of the common chemical DDT. Even though the powerful chemical companies fought the publication of the book, threatening to sue for libel, they lost and the pressure of the public’s “want to know” overcame….
The thread here? The people caused the change. Do not rely on the government for change, create it yourself by exerting pressure on your government. Whether this happens on the level of the United States environmental movement or the River Movement of 2013 here at home, the key to change is the people. Hope you learned or remembered something and that you feel inspired. Keep up the good work!