Tag Archives: indian river lagoon region

Mrs Pettway’s Gomez Grocery, Indian River Lagoon

Pettyway Grocery has been in business since the early 1900s. Photo Duren Rooing, Facebook.
The Pettyway Grocery’s location has been in business serving the Gomez community since ca 1920s. Photo Duren Roofing, Facebook.
Map today of inland area of the Gomez Grant. Town of Gomez in bottom right.
Map today of inland area of the Gomez Grant. Town of Gomez in bottom right.

It was Sunday afternoon and I was driving south on Dixie Highway. Henry Flagler’s train tracks and the Indian River Lagoon were just east of my line of sight. From a distance, I saw the grocery’s signature blue trim. I’d driven by hundreds of times but never gone inside….in an instant, I knew this was the day.

I pulled over my car and walked inside. The bell clanged against the door and I could see an older pretty African-American woman doing paper work; I bent down and stared through the shelves…”

“This must be the matriarch of Gomez,” I thought. She looked up at me with sharp, clear eyes, like an eagle. When she saw me standing there, her expression softened and she smiled. “May I help you?”

“I am looking for Mrs Annie Pettway,” I said.

“That’s me,” she replied…

I told her who I was, why I’d come, and that I’d just recently met her niece , Mrs Ollie Harvey. Mrs Pettway invited me to sit in the chair by the side of her desk. We spoke and she told me of her long and change filled life in the Indian River Lagoon Region of Gomez in Hobe Sound.

She was born in 1941. She had been through segregation and desegregation. She had seen it all. Her mother Mattie Mae, and father, Bill Pettway moved to the area in 1909 from Alabama. They worked hard, purchased land, apartments, a trucking business, and the area’s first grocery store. Her father was the first black man to own his own business. Today, there is a park down the street named in the family’s honor…

“Were you born here I asked?” She smiled and hit her knee. “Yes mam; I was born right down the street!” She pointed southwest.

People came and went in the store, both black and white; everyone seemed in good spirits and the conversation was relaxed and familiar. I felt like I was in the Bahamas. I liked the feel. The bell would clang and Mrs Annie would get up and ring her customers out while I waited. While she worked, I watched her and I thought about all the history and all the people who had walked through those doors. I thought about how much things have changed along our Indian River Lagoon.

I also thought about what my mother and brother have taught me about this unique area of Martin County…

This land was part of the famous Spanish Gomez Land Grant preceding Florida’s stateship  in 1845. Due to title/legal issues that eventually played out in the United States Supreme Court, the land was not surveyed in the 1850s like the rest of Florida. The Gomez Grant situation was eventually worked out, and then acquired by the Indian River and Pineapple Growers Association in 1893; later, the Indian River Association in 1904. It was really the Indian River Association that began “developing.”

When looking at a map you’ll notice that unlike most  of the rest of Martin County, other than its sister “Hanson Grant,” the roads of Bridge and Pettway stand out. None of the Gomez Grant area roads run directly east/west or north/south. Instead, the east/west roads run at a roughly 66 degree northeast angle, which is perpendicular to the shoreline, following the old Spanish land grant. The north/south roads run approx 24 degrees west of north-south or perpendicular to the east-west  roads…This makes this area unique and gives it a historical “signature.”

Gomez Grant from the book of Nathaniel Reed, A Different Vision.
Gomez Grant from the book of Nathaniel Reed,” A Different Vision.”

I stopped day-dreaming…

Mrs Annie sat back down.

“Mrs Pettway, why don’t they call it “Gomez” anymore? Wasn’t this area called Gomez?

“That was the old name, and it is still Gomez, but today we call it all Hobe Sound. It’s all one name now; things have changed.” There was a twinkle in her eye, and I stopped asking questions.  I suddenly knew that no amount time could really tell the amazing American story of Mrs Annie and the family of Pettway.

Annie Pettway in the 1960s. Photo from History of Hobe Sound , by Paula Mac Arthur Cooper
Annie Pettway in the 1960s. Photo from History of Hobe Sound, by Paula Mac Arthur Cooper.

Hobe Sound Chamber history: (http://www.hobesound.org/history.html)
Florida Memory: (https://www.floridamemory.com/collections/spanishlandgrants/)

The Extinction of “Florida’s Parakeet,” a Sebastian Recollection of This Beautiful Bird, SLR/IRL

Photo of a "Carolina Paraquet," that lived in Florida's swamps and old growth forest until overshooting and loss of habitat led to its extinction. (Photo Palm City County Museum Sandra Henderson Thurlow)
Photo of a stuffed “Carolina Paroquet,” displayed in a glass container. “The bird was given to Mrs. Carlin at Jupiter and was owned by her son Carlin White who died at 105.” The birds were prevalent and lived in Florida’s swamps and old growth forest until overshooting, the pet trade, and loss of habitat led to their extinction. (Photo Palm  Beach County Museum, quote by Sandra Henderson Thurlow)

Sometimes on a sunny day, I hear gregarious green parrots in the cabbage palms of Sandsprit Park near Port Salerno. When my husband, Ed, and I recently visited his niece at University of Miami two huge, gorgeous multi-colored macaws swooped down over cars stuck in traffic.

“Holy moly!” I exclaimed. “What was that?”

“Parrots.” Darcy calmly replied. “They got loose from the zoo after the hurricanes. Now they live here; they have chicks in a royal palm tree on campus.”

Pretty cool. Life adapts, unless you go extinct that is…Extinct: “No longer existing or living; dead.”

This was the fate in the early 1900s of a beautiful bird known as the “Carolina Parakeet,” last reported between 1910 and 1920. The “paroquet” as the old timers referred to them, had an expansive range that included much of the eastern United States, west into Colorado, and south into Florida. Their habitat? Swamps and old growth forests… what our state used to be.

As these habitats were cleared and filled for timber and development, especially from the late 1800s into the early 1900s, their range became limited, and their numbers declined. According to documentation, some of the last remaining lived in our Indian River Lagoon region.

The birds were sought after for their bright feathers and friendly voices. People kept them as pets and wore them on ladies’ hats prior to Florida Audubon’s rampage.

Perhaps the most poignant  tale of their story is that the birds were very social, and like people, if a member of their group were shot, all the others would “flock to the injured,” making capture, or shooting of all others, “easy-pickings.” This compassion, an “advanced, evolved trait” sealed their fate in the extinction-book of history.

Ironically one of the most famous reports of the stunning birds occurred in the area of the Sebastian River and its confluence of the Indian River Lagoon.  A local man, Chuck Fulton, whose relation was my principal at Martin County High School, seems to have guided Chapman thorough the areas as a lad when he stayed at Oak Lodge in Sebastian where his great-great grandmother lived. (Sandra Henderson Thurlow)

Mind you Frank Chapman was like a movie star of his day. This would have been very exciting for young Chuck. “Frank Michler Chapman”—scientist, explorer, author, editor,  photographer, lecturer, and museum curator, —-one of the most influential naturalist and greatest ornithologists of his era.

In a book “Letters to Brevard County” shared by my mother, historian, Sandra Henderson Thurlow, Chapman accounts his travels of our region:

Frank Chapman
Frank M. Chapman

“The Sebastian is a beautiful river, no words of mine can adequately describe it.” Half a mile wide at its mouth, it narrows rapidly and three miles above appears as a mere stream which at our camp, eight miles up, was not more than fifty feet in width and about fifteen feet in-depth. Its course is exceedingly irregular and winding. The banks as we found them are high and for some distance from the water grown with palms and cypresses which arching meet overhead forming most enchanting vistas, and in many places there is a wild profusion of blooming convolvulus and moon flower…Here we observed about fifty colorful paroquets, in flocks of six to twenty. At an early hour, they left their roost in the hammock bordering the river, and passed out into the pines to feed….

In the “spirit of the day” Chapman goes on to describe how unafraid the birds were of him and then shoots a few birds for “science,” leaving alone those that come to the rescues of their fallen comrades…..

In all fairness, it must be noted Chapman also appealed to President Teddy Roosevelt to establish Pelican Island as a national preserve– which in time became the first U.S. National Wildlife Refuge, (also in Sebastian),  and he is also credited with starting the Audubon Christmas Bird Count, where birds are counted, and not shot. Even today “scientific” specimens must be killed in order to be recorded as a new species. One day perhaps a photograph will be sufficient. 

Quite a story….and so close to home.

So next time you see a brown pelican gracefully flying past, picture a flock of fifty, squawking, colorful parakeets happily trailing behind. What a colorful world our Indian River Lagoon must have been!

Carolina Parakeet drawing 1800s. Public image.
Carolina Parakeet art piece 1800s. Public image.

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Thank you to my mother Sandra H. Thurlow for the content to write this blog post.

Carolina Parakeet: (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Carolina_parakeet)
Extinct birds: (http://www.50birds.com/birds/extinct-birds.htm)

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8-25-15 10PM: I am including a photos and comment sent to me by Dr. Paul Grey, Okeechobee Science Coordinator, Florida Audubon. Very interesting!

“Jacqui, thanks for the parakeet story. Look at the tags on these parakeets, these are the skins of the birds Chapman shot that still are in the Museum of Natural History in NY. There is a statue of the bird at the Kissimmee Prairie Preserve that Todd McGrain did for his Lost Bird Project…Worth seeing.” —Paul Grey

*NOTE THE LITTLE CARD THAT SAYS “SEBASTIAN RIVER!”

Chapman's birds, Museum of Natural History. (Paul Grey)
Chapman’s birds, Museum of Natural History. (Paul Grey)
Carolina Parakeet sculpture by (Paul Grey)
Carolina Parakeet sculpture at Kissimmee Prairie Preserve, by Todd McGrain. (Paul Grey)

Lost Bird Project: (http://www.lostbirdproject.org/)

Finally Embracing Being Florida’s “Treasure Coast!” SLR/IRL

Map of "Shipwrecks of Florida" and the most famous lie along Florida's Treasure Coast! (map Stuart Heritage Museum)
Map of “Shipwrecks of Florida” and the most famous lie along Florida’s Treasure Coast! (map Stuart Heritage Museum)
Gold coins found recently off Ft Pierce, as shared for publication by Queens Jewels LLC. (Public photo)
Gold coins found recently off Ft Pierce, as shared for publication by Queens Jewels LLC. (Public photo)

In 2008, when I was first elected to the town commission of Sewall’s Point, I was appointed to be on the Treasure Coast Council of Local Governments, and sister entity, Treasure Coast Regional League of Cities. These wonderful organizations consist of elected officials from Indian River, St Lucie, Martin and Okeechobee Counties–counties on, or connected to, the Indian River Lagoon.

As is my style “as a new member,” I tried to keep my mouth shut until I could figure out the “politics” and the players of the game. But in 2008 the winds of fate would not have such…

One of the first discussions for the “League” was organizing to change the name of our region from “Treasure Coast ” to “Research Coast.” The goal at the time, in the wake of the Great Recession, was to attract research companies to our area, and this name change was believed to facilitate this goal.

As the daughter of a historian, I broke my “keep your mouth shut early member rule” and as  politely as possible relayed that I thought changing the name from Treasure Coast to Research Coast was a  “terrible idea in line with gutting our history and identity, not to mention years of branding…”

"George Valentine" public photo.
“Georges Valentine” public photo.
Georges Valentine wrecked off the House of Refuge in Martin County in 1904. "The earliest settlers used the lumber that washed up on the beach to construct their homes." (Photo courtesy of Agnes Tietig Parlin via historian, Sandra Henderson Thurlow.)
Georges Valentine wrecked off the House of Refuge in Martin County in 1904. “The earliest settlers of our area used the lumber that washed up on the beach to construct their homes.” (Photo courtesy of Agnes Tietig Parlin via historian, Sandra Henderson Thurlow.)

The discussions lasted months and finally the idea to change the name was dropped. Treasure Coast prevailed. Many others held my sentiments; the discussion had been going on for a while before I got there.  It was controversial to say the least. In the end, I  felt we’d “won,” but others felt we’d lost an opportunity.

The recent findings of gold treasure off of Ft Pierce by Queens Jewels LLC as reported by the Brinson family is just what is needed to reinvigorate our “Treasure Coast” identity and tourism is big business!

As we all know, Sebastian, Jupiter, Martin, Vero, and others have a rich history in unearthing treasures from along our shores and not all of it is gold. Lumber, pottery, gems, pearls,—the remaining ship itself and the swimming sea of creatures that have made these wrecks their home is enough for me!

Years ago, I went snorkeling off of the House of Refuge to see the Georges Valentine ship. It was fun and very near shore. You could always see the House of Refuge.  I think I’ll get my husband to take me again to celebrate the findings off of Ft Pierce, and to pay homage to those over one-thousand souls who died in ships bound for Spain during a relentless hurricane 300 years ago this past July weekend.

Maybe you’ll go too? Have you already been? Did you find any gold?

If you want a simple map to get started, Stuart Heritage Museum at 161 SW Flager has a great one and it’s great for kids. Entitled “Shipwrecks of Florida and the Eastern Gulf of Mexico,” it gives a great visual history of all….to see why we are and always will be THE TREASURE COAST!

Map of ship wrecks along Florida's Treasure Coast. (Stuart Heritage.)
Map of ship wrecks along Florida’s Treasure Coast.(Stuart Heritage)
Shipwrecks of Florida....
Shipwrecks of Florida….

Stuart Heritage Museum and info: (http://www.stuartheritagemuseum.com)

Orlando Sentinel Rare Find: (http://www.orlandosentinel.com/news/breaking-news/os-florida-family-finds-rare-gold-coin-20150727-story.html)

The Republic: (http://www.therepublic.com/view/story/c4131fbbd61845fba16830be4ed6d850/FL–Treasure-Hunters)

History Demolished, The Train Depots of Stuart and Martin County, SLR/IRL

The Jensen train depot ca. early part of 1900s, photo courtesy of Seth Bramson, via Sandra Henderson Thurlow.)
The Hobe Sound Depot with engine ca. early part of 1900s, photo courtesy of Stuart Heritage.

I was recently reminded of train depots while reading a front page “Stuart News” article showing an artist painting a mural of the old Hobe Sound Train Depot….All Aboard Florida being rammed down our throats has the Treasure Coast very unhappy about “trains…” yet our area has a history of trains that we may know a bit better if the rail service and the government hadn’t demolished most of the depots that once peppered the Indian River Lagoon Region from Volusia to Palm Beach counties.

As the daughter of a historian, I was fortunate to hear many stories during my youth that if nothing else “made me think.” One of these stories was about how lonely it was to be pioneer here in Stuart’s early days. My mother would say….

Stuart Train Depot, photo courtesy of Historical Society of Martin County, Elliott Museum via Sandra Thurlow.
Stuart Train Depot, photo courtesy of Historical Society of Martin County, Elliott Museum via archives of Sandra Thurlow.

“Jacqui, for the people, for the women especially, this was a very lonely place.”

The daily train used to alleviate that loneliness and give the people a place to meet, gossip, and share. Kind of like today’s Facebook. As my mother Sandra Thurlow notes in her book, “Stuart on the St Lucie,” “Town life centered around the arrivals and departures of passenger trains that also brought the mail.”

Sound familiar? “YOU’VE GOT MAIL!”

Jensen Depot. Photo courtesy of Seth Branson via Sandra Thurlow.
Jensen Depot. Photo courtesy of Seth Bramson via Sandra Thurlow.
Train depot
Train depot in Hobe Sound, courtesy of Seth Bramson via archives of Sandra Thurlow.

From my reading it sounds as if most of the construction and the use of depots and lesser “flag stops,” (a flag was raised if they needed the conductor to stop?)….was between 1894 and 1935. The Hurricanes of 1926 and 1928 coupled with the real estate crash of 1926 was a big part of the railroads’ demise as was the fact that wholesale fishing industries waned from unwise over-fishing, and pineapples had to start competing with Cuba. So basically, in about one generation, the railroads depots and the railroad of Henry Flagler along the Lagoon had seen their “best days.”

In the 1960s and before, the aging, remaining, cute-little, aging stations were demolished by order of F.E.C. Railway officials. As my mother writes about the Stuart Depot: “The depot that was once the center of the community’s activities was demolished without fanfare during the 1960s.”

And so “it goes,” and “so it went”….. THERE GOES THE TRAIN!

The passenger train is gone, along with the depots….today we have too much car traffic, roads are everywhere, All Abroad Florida threats purport a bleak future, Florida’s population is expanding, Panama Canal freight is coming…

Well, at least we have Facebook or we can stay home and text…..

Hmmmmm?

What will the future bring? 🙂

Walton Flag Stop, with people happy to see each other and get the mail. Photo. (Photo courtesy of Reginald Waters Rice and Sandra Thurlow's book "Historic Jensen and Eden on Florida's Indian River."
Walton Flag Stop, with people happy to see each other and get the mail. Photo. Photo courtesy of Reginald Waters Rice and Sandra Thurlow’s book “Historic Jensen and Eden on Florida’s Indian River.”

Great link shared by Rick Langdon of Walton Flag Stop and what wonderful things came of it: (http://rickinbham.tripod.com/TownOfSIRD/SIRD_Homes_11090RidgeAve.html)
(In Martin and southern St Lucie counties, there were stations in Jensen, Stuart, Salerno, Hobe Sound, and “Flag Stops” in Walton, Eden.)

 

Salerno Depot, courtesy of Seth Bramson via Sandra Henderson Thurlow.
Salerno Depot, courtesy of Seth Bramson via Sandra Henderson Thurlow.
Train route along Indian River/St Lucie. Map Sandra Thurlow's book "Jensen and Eden..."
Train route along Indian River/St Lucie. Map Sandra Thurlow’s book “Jensen and Eden…”
Eden's Flag Stop. (SHT)
Eden’s Flag Stop. (SHT)
Inside cover of Stuart on the St Lucie, Sandra Henderson Thurlow shows train depot in downtown.
Inside cover of “Stuart on the St Lucie,” Sandra Henderson Thurlow. Photo shows train depot in downtown, Stuart.

Thank you to my mother, Sandra Henderson Thurlow, for sharing all the photos for this blog post.

 

 

“Blog Break” through 3-23-15: INDIAN RIVER LAGOON, Jacqui Thurlow-Lippisch

Lion guarding the bridge of St Augustine... (Photo Jacqui Thurlow-Lippisch)
Lion guarding the bridge at St Augustine… (Photo Jacqui Thurlow-Lippisch)

Changing times…

Saber-toothed cat skeletons have been found near Ft Meyers, across the state, and in Clewiston, just south of present day Lake Okeechobee. I would imagine a few of these giant canines made it over here to the ancient Indian River Lagoon Region…Wouldn’t you?

Have a good week; keep up the good fight! I’ll be back soon.

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Clewiston Museum: (http://www.clewistonmuseum.org/links/exhibits.html)

Ancient lions once lived on all “continents” or lands of the Earth: About/Education: (http://dinosaurs.about.com/od/mesozoicmammals/p/American-Lion-Panthera-Leo-Atrox.htm)

L’Chaim! To the Pilot Whales of the Indian River Lagoon Region!

Calf short finned pilot whale that stranded with pod of 22, September 2012.
Calf short finned pilot whale that stranded with pod of 22, September 1, 2012. (Photo JTL)
Juvenile pilot whale being cared for on Avalon Beach, Ft Pierce. (Photo JTL)
Juvenile pilot whale being put on a stretcher, Avalon Beach, Ft Pierce, Fl. (Photo JTL)
The public and multiple state agencies trying to save the beached pilot whales, September 1,2012.
The public and multiple state agencies trying to save the beached pilot whales, September 1,2012. (Photo JTL)

“L’chaim!”

I have been told, that this Yiddish expression, used usually during a toast, means “to life!” I can’t say that I really understand the full essence of the word, as I am not Jewish, but I like the saying very much, and find myself exclaiming  it all the time.

After all, life is good, isn’t it?

The story I am going to write about today, is one I have been wanting to write about for a very long time….it is the story of my struggle with the ethics of keeping marine mammals in captivity.

Off the bat, I must say I am “not for such”…and the movie “Blackfish” was horrifying, but due to one very personal experience I have had, for me, there are exceptions….

First, I must go back…

In 2008, my husband Ed and I had only been married three years. After talking to friends who had had a good time at Sea World, we decided to visit Discovery Cove in Orlando. We were the typical clueless “tourists” and we looked forward to “swimming with the dolphins.” At the time, I did struggle a bit with the idea of marine mammals in captivity, but it was years before I became so wrapped up in the St Lucie/Indian River Lagoon movement all all that comes with it, and honestly, at the time, I did not give it enough thought. I was just happy that I finally had a husband….

Natasha "our" dolphin, 2008.
Natasha “our” dolphin, 2008.

Once at Discovery Cove, Ed and I dressed in wet suits, and along with about twelve others, including young children, were introduced to our dolphin; she was just beautiful;  her name was “Natasha.” She seemed happy and did what her trainers asked her to do.  She kissed each one of us, “talked” to us, and took us for a short “ride.” The time was short, but indeed, we all felt as though we had bonded with her…

Ed riding Natasaha, 2008.
Ed riding Natasaha, 2008.
Kissing Natasha, Discovery Cove, 2008.
Kissing Natasha, Discovery Cove, 2008.

About half way through the show, Natasha was told to jump simultaneously with another dolphin. She jumped high and her body arched over the pool. Then I heard the slam of two bodies hitting hard and knew something had gone very wrong…Natasha and another dolphin had collided!

Natasha died there in the water as the Discovery Cove crew scrambled to get children and adults out of the pool. There was no explanation. They were trying to keep things in order. We went home. I was numb, and felt a sense of guilt and of anger…..

The next day, I pulled my “elected official card,” calling Sea World to get information; I  got nothing. I was furious. I swore to myself that “never again” would I attend such a show, and “never again” would I support Sea World’s “Discovery Cove.”

Fast forward four years…

I had matured as an elected official and wife;  I had become very involved in the river  movement through the River Kidz of the Town of Sewall’s Point; and,  I had become a volunteer in the marine mammal department with Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute.

Then came  September 1st, 2012.

On September 1st,  a call came in to all volunteers.  22 short finned pilot whales had stranded at Avalon Beach, in Ft Pierce, just across from the east side of the Indian River Lagoon.  It was a weekend. Ed and and I sped up there meeting throngs of people from the public that had gathered. The state agencies of NOAA, Florida Fish and Wildlife, and FAU/Harbor Branch all came,  but it was the public that was there first,and it was the public that shone that day— carrying bucket after bucket of water to cool the ailing whales’ skin, and covering them with towels to abate the hot, hot sun…

22 pilot whales stranded along Avalon Beach in September of 2002. (Photo JTL)
22 pilot whales stranded along Avalon Beach in September of 2002. (Photo JTL)

It was a scene I will never forget, as the huge mammals lost their lives to the elements in great writhing agony, with the public watching on in a dreadful sadness…many of the whales expired naturally while others had to euthanized —-these whales, once beached do not return to sea, beaching again, and again, and again, if they are returned….

The social bonds of pilot whales are one of the strongest in nature, and they stay together at all costs, even if it costs them their lives…strandings are thought to be caused by sickness  or disorientation,  but no one really knows. Families die together, never apart.

The most touching of all was that there were five calves that day. Four were juveniles and one was probably only a few days old. Their parents did not live and the whales had not the skills to be released…

Smallest of the calves, said to be only a few days old. (Phot JTL.)
Smallest of the calves, said to be only a few days old. (Phot JTL.)
The 5 pilot whale in a pool with sunscreen to protect their sensitive skin, 2008. (Photo JTL)
The 5 pilot whale in a pool with sunscreen to protect their sensitive skin, 2008. (Photo JTL)
4 of the 5. (Photo JTL.)
4 of the 5. (Photo JTL.)

After great thought, NOAA (http://www.nmfs.noaa.gov/pr/species/mammals/made the decision to place the four calfs in the Harbor Branch ambulance and take them to the institution’s facility. The small whales were carefully nursed and cared for day and night, one died but the rest made it. They were later officially deemed “unreleasable,” by NOAA and then transported to Sea World— the only facility fitted to care for the animals.

Raw footage on You Tube from Sept 1, 2012: (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JgemjXCoTbQ)

Brevard Times, Footage of whales being cared for and stranding: (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ta9dni_O3eA)

 

I have to admit I was happy for them when the took them away to Sea World. I was happy that they didn’t die. I was happy that they had each other no matter how horrible the past few days had been. I was happy that human beings have a heart and that I had witnessed it on the beach that day with strangers that suddenly were working together for a common cause…..

I did think about Natasha that died at Discovery Cove—but…..

 

Fast forward to 2015….

I receive a phone call. “The pilot whales are performing at Sea World. ” I am sent pictures.  Their names are the same are as they were when named by the public that day…. I am happy for them. I am proud of them. I am a hypocrite. I can’t help myself. I choose life—I do.  With all its complications, with all its imperfections….

“L’chaim!”

 

Piper the pilot whale.
Piper the pilot whale.
Ace the pilot whale.
Ace the pilot whale.
Ave the pilot whale.
Ave the pilot whale.

Sea World’s recent  video featuring the rescued pilot whales. (http://m.clickorlando.com/entertainment/seaworld/sea-world-50-years-of-caring/30925646) (7:52)

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*There are 4 whales; I am missing one photo.

NOAA/Marine Mammals: (http://www.nmfs.noaa.gov/pr/species/mammals/)

Florida Fish and Wildlife/Marine Mammals: (http://www.fws.gov/habitatconservation/marine_mammals.html)

FAU/Harbor Branch/Marine Mammals: (http://www.fau.edu/hboi/marine_mammals/)

Orlando Sentinel/article on Sea World’s building of a marine mammal hospital in 2011: (http://www.dolphin-way.com/2011/07/seaworld-orlando-builds-hospital-for-wild-dolphins/#axzz3TVgOTPcy)
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I am posting this video 8-13-15. It is about the new show at Sea World called Dolphin Days that features relationship building shows with dolphins and pilot whales. I wonder if it is those mentioned in this blog?! (http://www.cbs8.com/story/29784600/dolphin-days-debuts-permanently-at-seaworld)

Citrus Along the Indian River Lagoon, A Killer and a Necessity

Historic postcard, Indian River Citris. (Collection of Sandra Henderson Thurlow)
Historic postcard, Indian River Citris. (Collection of Sandra Henderson Thurlow.)

Thousands of years ago, humankind found a way to avoid the constant nomadic life of following big game, becoming more self sufficient, learning the art of agriculture. Nothing has made our lives better. Unfortunately, after thousands of years of its evolution, nothing has made our lives worse.

Don’t get me wrong, I realize that agriculture an important industry, the second largest after tourism, in the state of Florida. Still, we must look at its issues and try to make things better.

Agriculture is a high intensity land use, using large amounts of pesticides, fertilizers, and fungicides that over time accumulate in the water and the environment. The May 2014 issue of National Geographic states that “farming is the largest endeavor on earth using just under 40 percent of the earth’s surface causing the second largest  impact to the earth, erosion.” 

Much of the land in our area is devoted to agriculture as well, particularly citrus.

The Indian River Lagoon region is famous for its delicious citrus and although the industry is in decline due to canker, it has had huge impacts on the IRL area due to the canal system built to drain the land and water the crops. The muck that has entered the lagoon since the early 1900s is mostly from erosion of canals, due to the runoff from agriculture as they drain their lands that were once swamp or wetlands.

The Indian River Lagoon Region runs from Palm Beach to Volusia Counties, along the 156 miles of the lagoon. (USDA map 2011)
The Indian River Lagoon Region runs from Palm Beach to Volusia Counties, along the 156 miles of the lagoon. (USDA map 2011.)

The USDA documented 89,367 acres of citrus in the Indian River Lagoon region in 2009, declining to 81,673 in 2010. There is a lot of land devoted to citrus, land that has been radically altered from its original state and affects the Indian River Lagoon as there are literally thousands of miles of canals attached and interwoven along these groves. All eventually dump to the river or other water body.

In 1994 the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (FDEP) determined that the north fork of the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon, a registered state “Aquatic Preserve,” was contaminated by pesticides that came from the citrus groves in the area of the St Lucie’s headwaters, Ten Mile Creek. (http://www.dep.state.fl.us/southeast/ecosum/ecosums/tenmile_creek.pdf)

In 2002, the Florida Department of Environmental Protection labeled the St Lucie River as “impaired.” Reading through the document there is clear determination of agricultures’ role  in this process, especially with sediment run off, pesticides and heavy metals that have accumulated in the environment. (http://www.dep.state.fl.us/southeast/ecosum/ecosums/SLE_Impairment_Narrative_ver_3.7.pdf)

All postcards of citrus industry in Florida, ca. 1912. (Collection of Sandra Henderson Thurlow.)
All postcards of citrus industry in Florida, ca. 1912. (Collection of Sandra Henderson Thurlow.)

IMG_5796 IMG_5797

Reading through the documents it is noted that many of the agricultural areas are quite old, as the post cards I am sharing today from my mother’s  collection are from 1912 and 1914.  According to the FDEP, many of the areas around Ten Mile Creek did not have BMPs, or best management practices in place, as they were  there before such rules were voluntarily implemented in the 1980s and 90s.

I don’t get it. Our environmental agencies have seen the writing on the wall for decades and even with the modern implementations of BMPs, (http://solutionsforyourlife.ufl.edu/hot_topics/agriculture/bmps.htmlwhere farmers try to minimize their impacts on our waterbodies, the rivers, estuaries, and lakes are filling up with excess nitrogen and phosphorus from fertilizer and other pollutants at an alarming rate.

Yes, the FDEP is implementing TMDLs or total  maximum daily loads through the BMAP, or basin management action plan, where municipalities and counties are required to lower their nutrient levels in waterbodies, but these are 15 and 30 year goals, that most certainly will take longer to truly implement. Also agriculture is exempt under the law and Right to Farm Act. They, as mentioned, implement BMPs but it may take fifty or more years to get all farms up to speed, if ever. Do we have that much time?

In the meanwhile, we watch or rivers dying from local runoff from C-23, C-23, and C-44  supporting the citrus and agriculture industries in Martin and St Lucie Counties.  On top of this, during major rain events, Lake Okeechobee, also full of agriculture runoff and high nutrients suspended in muck, from the sometimes back pumping sugar industry south of the lake, pours into the St Lucie River as well, wreaking any work we have done locally to meet local TMDLs.

Would I rather see the citrus lands developed for houses?

No. I rather fix the problems we have. And even though its called “corporate welfare,” I think state, federal, and local governments must help agriculture operate in a way that is not killing the environment. Some of the funds from the state this year that came out of the Senate Hearing on the IRL are doing this and the state really has been helping “forever,” but quietly, under the radar.

It is time to come full out to the public and explain the situation: we must feed ourselves and support our historic industry, but agriculture/citrus is killing our waterways.

In conclusion, of course the industry should make every effort itself to improve the situation, and some are more than others. In any case, we cannot just point fingers at them, we must help them. Perhaps we should bond together and put into law even better, stricter management practices, that will give the children of our state a future, not just eating, but also fishing, swimming and boating in a clean river.

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IFAS, Update on Best Management Practices, 2014: (http://www.crec.ifas.ufl.edu/extension/trade_journals/2014/2014_January_best_mgt.pd)

USDA and State of Florida Citrus Report 2009: (http://www.nass.usda.gov/Statistics_by_State/Florida/Publications/Citrus/fcs/2009-10/fcs0910.pdf)