Tag Archives: Luckhardt

The Long Forgotten Wetlands of East Ocean Boulevard, SLR/IRL

 

 

4th Street/East Ocean Blvd 1957, Stuart, Florida, Arthur Ruhnke. Courtesy archives of historian, Sandra Henderson Thurlow.  
“See that white strip just below the wetland? That is the extension of Flamingo Drive that skirts the pond behind the old car wash. They just dug a retention pond and conducted the water to it. All of that pineland is covered with condominiums today.” (Cedar Point, Vista Pines, and Kingswood)~ Sandra H. Thurlow


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Today we drive over the Indian River Lagoon and St Lucie River surrounded by “civilization,” and forget that once it was once a wetland and pine forest full of wildlife. In the course of a lifetime, these things are long forgotten.

The above 1957 photograph hangs in my brother’s law office. When I visit him, I find myself staring at it for long periods of time. It is one of those rare photos that really puts things into  perspective. The road construction through the wetlands, (note it going through the pond, and pine forest) was all taking place around the same time that the “Bridges to the Sea,” from Stuart to Sewall’s Point, and Sewall’s Point to Hutchinson Island, were completed. It’s amazing to see what the landscape once looked like. The road in the photograph, Fourth Street, was renamed “East Ocean Boulevard” in 1960, and is a major thoroughfare to the  beaches today.

Jenny, Todd and I 1973, alligator in background.
I remember early East Ocean Blvd, although it was already quite changed by the time I was born in 1964. My family lived at 109 Edgewood Drive in Stuart, a short distance away from these wetland ponds under development. I recall Scrub Jays in our back yard and feeding them peanuts. By 1974 the family moved across the river to Sewall’s Point “growing and improving” with the changing landscape.

By 1979, when I was fifteen  years old, riding my bike over the bridge to Stuart to work at the Pelican Car Wash, the beautiful wetland pond had been relegated to a retention pond for run off.  Over the next two decades, you didn’t see wetlands and ponds anymore, or wildlife, just condominiums, office buildings, and shopping plazas. The state four-laned East Ocean Boulevard and built higher bridges to the ocean too.

Believe it or not, the pond in the aerial is still located behind a gas station that used to be the car wash. It is not even a shadow of its former self. Two days ago, I drove by and noticed that there was an extensive algae bloom in the pond backed up to the  parking lot and gas pumps; the water reflecting a sickly shade of green.

I sat there thinking about the long forgotten pond in the middle of East Ocean Boulevard in the photo I love in my brother’s office, wishing the developers had figured out a way to go around the pond. As the shortest distance between two points, over time, is not always a straight line.

East Ocean Blvd 1957, courtesy historian, Sandra Henderson Thurlow

Flamingo and retention pond at Flamingo and East Ocean 2017, once a wetland.
Google map of East Ocean Blvd. through what was once wetland and forest, 2017.
1940s Dept of Agriculture photographs of Martin County showing wetlands. Courtney Todd Thurlow and UF archives.
Overlay 1940 aerials over Google map today, Todd Thurlow.
USDA History of Wetland Development in Florida: https://www.nrcs.usda.gov/wps/portal/nrcs/detailfull/fl/newsroom/features/?cid=stelprdb1252222

Bridges to the Sea, Luckhardt Vignette TCPalm Series: http://archive.tcpalm.com/news/historical-vignettes–martin-county-bridges-and-bridge-tenders-ep-306449407-342336761.html

The 1908 Great Jensen Fire, and the Benefits of Fire, along the Indian River Lagoon

"Jensen, Florida, After the Fire, May 3,1908." (Photo page 145, Historic Jensen and Eden on Florida's Indian River, by Sandra Henderson Thurlow.)
“Jensen, Florida, After the Fire, May 3, 1908.” (Photo page 145, Historic Jensen and Eden on Florida’s Indian River, by Sandra Henderson Thurlow.)

The front page of today’s Stuart News, reads: “40 Acres Burn in the Savannas.” The wind shifted causing a prescribed burn to jump control lines. Unfortunate. There have been other fires in the history of our area too, like the great fire of Jensen in 1908.

"Jensen in Ruins," Florida Photographic Concern, courtesy Sandra H. Thurlow.)
“Jensen in Ruins,” Florida Photographic Concern, courtesy Sandra H. Thurlow.)

Here is an anonymous account of the 1908 fire in my mother’s book. The account was published in the Jensen Beach Mirror in 1962.

“The town of Jensen is burning down this morning. The fire rages up and down Commercial Street, from the river to the railroad tracks and beyond. It seems certain that each of the seventeen stores…will be consumed. Jensen has no fire department. Men are trying to stem the holocaust with buckets of water and what little power can be built with hand pumps and windmills…”

The fire’s location at C.H. Munch & Co. was determined but the reason for the fire never was… Jensen business was slow to rebuild after the 1908 fire and two years later another fire brought down the iconic Al Fresco Hotel that was located closer to the river just off of Main Street.

Historic post card of the Al Fresco Hotel, Jensen, late 1800s. (Courtesy of Sandra H. Thurlow.)

Historic post card of the Al Fresco Hotel, Jensen, late 1800s. (Courtesy of Sandra H. Thurlow.)

Many fires in Florida and in Martin/StLucie Counties are made by Mother Nature and not humankind. Fire is actually a heathy and needed part of our area’s pine, scrub, hammock, and swamp system.  Fire naturally rejuvenates the land and habitat of  the native animals and birds. Many native trees and animals have evolved over thousands of years to live in harmony with this fire system. Gopher turtle holes can be very long and deep, providing protection during fires to many species.  Palmettos, sabal palms, and pines trees are “fire resistant.” Fire is nature’s way to bring nutrients (fertilizer) to the plants in a way that does not hurt the river as ash holds in the soil, and shortly after fires, a very obvious “rebirth” occurs.

This Florida Forest Service chart shows how frequently fires would occur if mankind was not suppressing them.

Chart by USDA showing frequency of wildfire in Florida if there were no human intervention.

Chart by Forest Service showing frequency of wildfire in Florida if there were no human intervention.

Prescribed burns are an attempt to help nature, not hurt it. Unfortunately, when playing with fire, things can get out of control quickly. At least we did not have a fire like the Great Jensen Fire of 1908. ___________________________________________________________________

University of Florida/Florida Wildfires/Forest Service: (http://www.srs.fs.usda.gov/factsheet/pdf/fire-considering.pdf)

Alice and Greg Luckhardt’s historical vignette of the Jensen Fire:  Google  “Jensen Fire Luckhardt” for a great story I cannot get to link to this page.