Tag Archives: Loxahatchee

Renewal By Fire

Born in the 1960s, I am a child of the Smokey Bear generation taught -at all costs- to avoid forest fires. Times have changed and we now know that fire is a necessary part of Florida’s ecology bringing renewal. As a Governing Board member of the South Florida Water Management District, I decided before 2020 ended, I should learn about this first hand.

Recently, Section Leader, Jim Schuette,  Land Management Department,  was my guide. We met near Cypress Creek in Palm Beach County near the Loxahatchee. We arrived early and were greeted by a small herd of adorable Zebu cattle – like miniature Cracker Cattle! 

Shortly thereafter, Gene Colwell, Senior Scientist, and Land Management Techs, Hal Camp and Marshall Davis arrived. Gene led the detailed safety/info briefing. “I hope I can do this,” I thought. Jim gave me some fireproof clothing and a hard hat. Suddenly, I was just “one of the guys.”

-Senior Scientist, Gene Caldwell leads briefing-Loxahatchee River Area near border of Martin & Palm Beach countiesThe fires were set with cans of diesel and gas and I noticed the pine needles that carpeted the forest burned slowly first. I was concerned about the wildlife. 

When the animals smell this they leave the area,” Jim said. 

“Are there any gopher holes for the smaller animals to hide in?” I inquired. 

“Yes, and the ground is moist.” He placed a handful of soil into my hand and explained that due to time of year and wet conditions, it would not be a towering fire. Jim noted that the team always worked to protect the canopy of the pine trees. I knew that in spite of the best circumstances, sometimes, there must be casualties, but for the health of the forest over-all it’s beneficial. 

Stepping away from the heat, I read my UF handout:” Ecological research shows that fire is an integral component in the function of natural habitats and that the organisms within these communities have adapted to withstand, and benefit from wildfires. In fact, many Florida habitats only exist due to the presence of wildfires. Some were created by frequent fires, others by a few big fires decades apart.” 

As time went on things heated up; I watched as Marshall and Hal used fire guns that ignited diesel filled ping-pong balls that were shot into the woods. Later in the day, I was asked if I wanted to participate under the supervision of the team. 

Getting my nerve up, I grabbed one of the heavy fire-lighting containers.

Mr Calwell instructed me to start the fires a good distance apart along the edge of the forest. The pine needles ignited first, cracking and moving like a living organism all its own. It felt strange lighting the woods on fire.

“There were a lot of things we believed in the 1960s that we no longer hold true.” I thought to myself.

The can was heavy and I used both arms. My neck ached. The sound of the fires popped and cracked as tall tongues hissed in the oily palmettos. Suddenly, liquid like flames traversed the bark of the pine trees creating a windstorm of fiery renewal. I was told the new growth would start coming back within just two days…

-Hal Camp with fire gun-Jim Schuette reports smoke situation on 1-95 “visibility is good” -Palmettos and sable palms are oily and burn quickly  -Post burn using water to cool hot spots-Fire brings renewal. Within just days green sprouts will emerge!  Above Jim wets embers

FIRE VIDEOS: IMG_7289

Thank you to Jim Schuette and the SFWMD Land Management team for this experience! 

 

Loxahatchee Flora and Fauna, River Scenes; Wild and Scenic Rivers, Fred van Vonno

Giant cypress trees, Wild and Scenic River Studies, courtesy archives Fred van Vonno

Loxahatchee Lesson 1

Loxahatchee Lesson 2

Loxahatchee Lesson 3

Loxahatchee Lesson 4

Loxahatchee Lesson 5 

The purpose of this post is to continue to share the slides of the late Fred van Vonno.  I presented charts and aerials yesterday in Loxahatchee Lesson 4. Tomorrow, or later today, I will add structures and people. Today we share my favorite, Loxahatchee Flora and Fauna as well as River Scenes. If you recognize anything interesting let us know! My mother noticed what appears to be old world climbing fern slide #7. A terrible invasive plant that costs millions of dollars for the State of Florida to manage. 

Thank you to my mother for archiving these photos that were once slides in Mr van Vonno’s 1980s slide shows. Thank you to our friend, Nicki van Vonno for sharing her husband’s work. 

SLIDES RELATING TO THE LOXAHATCHEE RIVER

Removed from a slide carousel used by Fred van Vonno who was a Planner (GS-11) from June 1978 until 1982 for the Department of Interior National Park Service, Regional Office in Atlanta, Ga. His work involved assessing the “recreational potential of rivers and trails.” The slides were used for presentations when van Vanno was the Study Coordinator for the Loxahatchee and Myakka Wild and Scenic River studies. It is a good idea to make sure these photographs are documented because some of the photos are more than 40 years old. I would think they would have been taken around 1980. 

Sandra Thurlow 8-20

FLORA & FAUNA

RIVER SCENES

 

Loxahatchee Charts and Aerials, Wild and Scenic River, Fred van Vonno

Wild and Scenic River Studies, ca. 1980, courtesy archives of Fred van Vonno

Loxahatchee Lesson 1

Loxahatchee Lesson 2

Loxahatchee Lesson 3

Loxahatchee Lesson 4

Today, I share “charts” and “aerials” from the archives of the late Fred van Vonno. My mother, historian, Sandra Henderson Thurlow, was given these materials by Mr van Vonno’s wife, Nicki. Ms van Vonno summarizes her husband’s work below. 

“My husband Fred van Vonno worked as a Planner (GS-11) from June 1978 until 1982 for the Department of Interior,  National Park Service, Regional Office, Atlanta Ga.  His work involved assessing the “recreational potential of rivers and trails”. My  husband was the Study Coordinator for the Loxahatchee and Myakka Wild and Scenic River studies”. -Nicki van Vonno 

We share these photos and materials so that they are available to the public for reference and continued documentation of Martin and Palm Beach counties’ “Wild and Scenic River,” the Loxahatchee. Tomorrow, I will highlight more slides including flora and fauna, river scenes, structures and people. 

SLIDES RELATING TO THE LOXAHATCHEE RIVER

Removed from a slide carousel used by Fred van Vonno who was a Planner (GS-11) from June 1978 until 1982 for the Department of Interior National Park Service, Regional Office in Atlanta, Ga. His work involved assessing the “recreational potential of rivers and trails.” The slides were used for presentations when van Vanno was the Study Coordinator for the Loxahatchee and Myakka Wild and Scenic River studies. It is a good idea to make sure these photographs are documented because some of the aerials are more than 40 years old. I would think they would have been taken around 1980. The aerials are pre-I-95. There are a couple of scenes of Trapper Nelson’s place that are of significance. -Sandra Thurlow 8-20

AERIAL CHARTS

AERIALS

CHARTS