Tag Archives: Port St Lucie

Are We Really Living in the Everglades? St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon

Everglades Drainage District Map of 1947Township 40 Range 39is within the District. That was just a section away from the Gomez Grant where the Ashley Gang  lived. Sandra Henderson Thurlow, historian.
“Everglades Drainage District Map, 1947, by Alfred Jackson and Kathyrn Hannah’s book “Lake Okeechobee” from the “Rivers of America” series. Note Township 40 Range 39 is within the District. That was just a section away from the Gomez Grant where the Ashley Gang lived”—-Sandra Henderson Thurlow, historian.
here is a map 1920 -- Source: Leslie's New World Atlas (New York, NY: Leslie-Judge Company, 1920) in Univ. of South Florida collection ---- which shows that there was more swamp land. alice Luckhardt, historian.
“1920s map — Source: Leslie’s New World Atlas (New York, NY: Leslie-Judge Company, 1920) in Univ. of South Florida collection —- which shows that there was more swamp land than census notes…” Alice Luckhardt, historian.
Historic map from 1948 book "Lake Okeechobee" written in 1948 by Alfred Jackson and Kathryn Hanna as part of the Rivers of America Series.
Historic map, ca. late 1800s, unknown source. Courtesy of Sandra H. Thurlow, historian.

Today our St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon Region is referred to as the “Northern Everglades,” back then, it was all the “Everglades”….

Today’s historic photos were shared because of my last two days of blogging featuring my brother Todd’s flying video showing where the dreaded C-44 canal entered the South Fork of the St Lucie River in 1923 connected from Lake Okeechobee.

Alice Luckhardt, friend and local historian, has been trying to figure out where the Everglades actually “started” in Martin County as she is writing a history of Martin County’s infamous Ashley Gang. (They used to hide out in the Everglades.)  Alice’s Leslie’s New World Atlas 1920s map, the second from the top of this page,  kind of makes Martin County “look” pretty dry….as do the other two maps shared by my mother…

Viewed closely,  the old maps show different “Everglades” boarders as seen most clearly in the 1949 Everglades Drainage District map at the top of this page. This map comes from my mother’s files and she notes that it shows “Township 40, Range 39, in Martin “in” the Everglades….

So what determines “the Everglades?”

Of that I am not certain but in my mind it is a swamp. But swamps in Florida “come and go” with the rains. Also the Everglades has many different faces/landscapes that are part of a greater whole–different kinds of micro environments like pine forest, hardwood hammocks, mangroves forests, endless sawgrass prairies, tall ancient cypress forests, marshlands, wetlands, ponds, some higher ridges separating rivulets and standing water, little creeks that come and go, shallow clean fresh water flowing ever so slowly across white sugar sands…Aggg! Did I just say that! 🙂

So anyway, I then went to the US Government maps my brother showed me awhile back and here one can see the “little ponds “of the Everglades right there in Stuart, Jensen Beach, and of course in what is today’s Palm City. They were in today’s St Lucie County too. Wouldn’t this be the “everglades?”

In fact, when I was a kid, there was a large pond near our family home on East Ocean Boulevard across from today’s Fresh Market. Now it’s gone…and the road goes through…”They” moved it….

I think we have really moved just about “everything.” Nonetheless, that doesn’t mean we can’t put some of it back, or start draining and saving water in a new way. Studying old maps and aerials is a good place to start!

US Government 1940s aerials show little ponds all over Martin County. (UF)
US Government 1940s aerials show little ponds all over Martin County. (UF)

*Thank you to historians Alice Luckhardt and Sandra Thurlow and Todd Thurlow for sharing their cool old maps!

Todd Thurlow’s flying history video showing the connection of the C-44 canal from Lake Okeechobee to the South Fork of the St Lucie River, ca. 1923: (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gYI34XZUNYs&feature=youtu.be)

SFWMD The Everglades: (http://www.sfwmd.gov/portal/page/portal/xweb%20protecting%20and%20restoring/americas%20everglades)

6-8-15 blog post that inspired maps shared today, C-44 original connection to South Fork- an amazing visual journey, Todd Thulow: (https://jacquithurlowlippisch.com/2015/06/08/journey-back-in-time-to-see-the-creation-of-c-44-the-greatest-negative-impact-to-the-st-lucie-riverindian-river-lagoon/)

6-9-15 blog post, Manatee Pocket route for C-44:(https://jacquithurlowlippisch.com/2015/06/09/the-most-logical-route-for-the-c-44-canal-port-salerno-st-lucie-riverindian-river-lagoon/)

How to read township and range in old plat maps: (http://www.jsu.edu/dept/geography/mhill/phygeogone/trprac.html)

Port St Lucie’s New Mayor, a Friend to the SLR/Indian River Lagoon

Greg Orvac
Greg Oravec, PSL’s new mayor. Treasure Coast a Council of Local Governments meeting 12/14. Photo JTL.

(http://www.oravecformayor.com/)

Greg Oravec, Port St Lucie’s new mayor, is a friend to the Indian River Lagoon. Although many of us know him already, as he is the former city manager of PSL, we need to get to know him even better. We need to make him a close ally. He has qualities and desires to help us improve the health of the SLR/ IRL and to work together between Martin, St Lucie and Indian River counties, as well as between the state and federal government.

Mayor Oravec graduated magna cum laude from University of Miami’s honors program in “Marine Environmental Systems.” According to Greg’s bio, as a kid he “grew up fishing and building forts.”  Greg loves and appreciates our “good nature….” Today, Greg and his wife are raising three children and want their children to have access to clean water and an healthy outdoor environment too.

Mayor Orvac
Mayor Oravec

So how can Mayor Oravec help us?

Well, in terms of Martin and St Lucie counties, we don’t always think about it, but a tremendous portion of the runoff into the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon is from St Lucie County. Thank God they are on sewer and not septic for all but 22,000 of their residential properties… This runoff  is primarily because of canals C-23 and C-24. These two canals were built as part of the Central and South Florida Project in the 50s and 60s to drain the lands mostly of St Lucie County for agriculture (citrus) and for development. These two canals release untreated agricultural and urban runoff  into the north fork and central area of the St Lucie River. In case you don’t know, C-23 is the dividing line between St Lucie and Martin counties, but of course the river knows no boundaries….

Basin
Basin and canal  map SLR

For us today, it is important to note that St Lucie County with 250,000 residents is now the 9th largest city in Florida! And it is only going to get bigger with a projected 450,000 plus people by 2050. This is a negative but also a positive, in that St Lucie County and especially the City of Port St Lucie now have significant political power due to this population growth. They are a giant part of the key to getting what we want: more water moving south; no releases from Lake Okeechobee; and the clean up and water storage of excess polluted runoff of canals C-23, C-24 and C-25 into the SLR/IRL.

In fact, the first time I was ever invited to Port St Lucie County to learn about all the city  had been doing over the past few years to improve water quality was when I was mayor of Sewall’s Point in 2012 and Greg invited me up to PSL as their city manager. He showed me maps of McCarthy Ranch and the C-23 canal that were part of planning for the city’s water supply, growth,  and to clean the polluted water of C-23, along with other impressive local projects.

I have to say, honestly, Greg is one of the most polite yet determined people I have ever met. A true gentleman and a driven man of service. I ask everyone to welcome him and to make him a friend. Email him and congratulate him! Go out of your way to get to know him. Invite him to a Rivers Coalition or River Warrior meeting. Attend a PSL city commission meeting and “speak up!”

It is a rare day, to have such a person as Greg holding the reigns of Port St Lucie.

If you check out his website you will see that he dedicated an entire page to the Indian River Lagoon, stating as part of his goals: “to preserve our natural areas, especially the Indian River Lagoon.”

(http://oravecformayor.com/ourriver.html)

You can email Mayor Greg Oravec at his new official email : mayor@cityofpsl.com

Believe me, we need him more than ever; there is lots of work to do in PSL, but we sure do look forward working together on regional, state and federal issues to help save our shared resource, quality of life, and economy builder, the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon!

Mo
Mayor Oravec and Comr. JTL at the TCCLG meeting. We were trying to get the IRL in the background, but there was too much light!

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C-23 DEP
(http://www.dep.state.fl.us/southeast/ecosum/ecosums/c23.pdf)
C-24 DEP
(http://www.dep.state.fl.us/southeast/ecosum/ecosums/c24.pdf)

Thank you to Diane Hughes of Martin County’s Ecosystem and Restoration Division, who helped me with numbers for this post.

Using Water From C-23 for PSL Future Water Supply, McCarthy Ranch, St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon

McCarty Ranch is located in St Lucie County and will be the future water supply for the City of Port St Lucie.

McCarty Ranch is/was located in St Lucie County and will be the future water supply for the City of Port St Lucie.

The first time I heard about McCarty Ranch was from, at the time, City Manager Greg Orvac. It was 2012 and he invited me up to Port St Lucie to see all the wonderful work they were doing building areas to clean water run off and to learn about how the city was planning for its future water supply.

I was told that the idea of McCarty Ranch was that the city would  build a water treatment plant to withdrawal the polluted agriculture tainted water in the C-23 canal before it gets to the river, hold it, treat it, and use it.

“Wow,” I thought. “This is wild, I have heard of things like this in other areas of the state, but right here at home?”

This is great news about cleaning the filthy C-23 canal water that is one of many canals along with Lake Okeechobee releases killing our St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon, (http://www.dep.state.fl.us/southeast/ecosum/ecosums/c23.pdfbut there is also a tang of future “water wars” in this scenario as cities jostle for securing their future water supply.

Port St Lucie recently has become the 9th largest city in the state of Florida and has approximately 250,000 residents. By 2060 or so, they expect 400,000 or more. Three years before I was born, in 1961, a handful of residents petitioned the legislature for the fish camp area to become a city…

By looking at the Google map above, one can see that McCarty Ranch is located just above the C-23 canal east of Gatlin Boulevard. The C-23 canal is the “county line” between Martin and St Lucie Counties. I do not really know the details, and I think the city and county are still arguing over details in spite of a front page article in Scripps Newspapers today, but one would think the city will either have to also annex some of the lands below the McCarty piece or just have giant pipes connecting it to the C-23 through a small connected parcel. Either way, I am sure over time it will occur. They will build what they need to remove by South Florida Water Management District, (SFWMD), permit, water from the C-23 canal and use it for their citizens.

You may be thinking, the McCarty name rings a bell because you know or because  I recently wrote a blog about Dan McCarty awhile back. The blog was about how I stumbled upon a grave in Palms Cemetery along Indian River Drive that read: “Governor Daniel McCarty.”

Yes, the ranch belonged to this prominent St Lucie County, former 1800s pineapple, then ranch and citrus family.

If you have the time to listen to the first video link below, there is a fascinating video interview with Mrs Peggy McCarty Monahan, the granddaughter of Charles Tobin McCarty, talking about her father, the brother of Dan, the governor, saying to her when she was a young girl:  “Water is gong to be an issue, water is going to be the most important thing…”

Through these words he was telling her that one day the ranch’s proximity to the City of Port St Lucie would make it ideal for water storage and supply. Many of these old time ranchers preached this theme to their children knowing we had worked so hard to get the water off the land and one day we would be trying to put it back on…

Apparently there are lakes and mined areas on the property for water storage; I am unsure if the original McCarty idea included drawing water from C-23 canal; it very well could be, as C-23 was built in the 50s and 60s and waste tremendous amounts of water to tide in order to drain the surrounding lands for agriculture and development.

C-23  is one of the dirtiest canals dumping into the St Lucie River; it will be good to remove some of the water before it gets to the river but will there ever be a day when it takes too much or Martin County wants that water too?

Sounds far-fetched for sure, but all I know is that stranger things have happened along the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon. Who would have though Port St Lucie would one day be projected to have over 400,000 people?

Aerial of what was to become the City of Port St Lucie, 1957. (Photo Ruhnke/Thurlow collection, courtesy of Sandra Henderson Thurlow.)
Aerial of what was to become the City of Port St Lucie, 1957. (Photo Ruhnke/Thurlow collection, courtesy of Sandra Henderson Thurlow.)

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Interview with Peggy McCarty Monahan and PSL Strategic Plan for Water Supply McCarty Ranch: (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ez_K6vFKt6Q)

Port St Lucie Web Page McCarty Ranch: (http://www.cityofpsl.com/parks-recreation/parks/mccarty_ranch.html)

Port St Lucie: (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Port_St._Lucie,_Florida)

The City of Port St Lucie, a city along a dying “Aquatic Preserve” of the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon

Aerial of what was to become the City of Port St Lucie, 1957. (Photo Ruhnke/Thurlow collection, courtesy of Sandra Henderson Thurlow.)
Aerial of what was to become the City of Port St Lucie along the North Fork of the St Lucie River, 1957. (Photo Ruhnke/Thurlow collection, courtesy of Sandra Henderson Thurlow.)

Wow, look at this!  A 1957 aerial photograph of the beautiful North Fork of the St Lucie River and its surrounding virgin lands that would incorporate as the City of Port St Lucie in 1961.

This Aia Indian and Seminole wilderness became spotted with many ranch lands but there was foresight for “protections” for some areas as it was beloved by hunters and fisherman and “just people” that wanted to protect its resources. It was full of wildlife on land and in its waters, which had been considered the best mostly “fresh water” fishing in the area for decades.

Preserve sign in the the area of Pruitt's Fish Camp, near today's Club Med.
Preserve sign in the the area of Pruitt’s Fish Camp, near today’s Club Med, ca. 1960s. (Photos courtesy of  Sandra Henderson Thurlow.)

In 1972 local, federal and state agencies led by the Florida Department of Natural Resources cooperated to declare the North Fork of the St Lucie River an “Aquatic Preserve.” And in 1984 the Department of Natural Resource, which merged into today’s Department of Environmental Protection, created a management plan for the area. The plan states:

“The preserve is one of the last remaining freshwater/estuarine wilderness areas in this region of Florida. The major objectives of the aquatic preserve management program are to manage the preserve to ensure maintenance of essentially natural conditions, and to restore and enhance those conditions which are not in a natural condition. Management will also be directed to ensure public recreational opportunities while assuring the continued propagation of fish and wildlife.” (http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/CZIC-qh90-75-f6-g57-1984/html/CZIC-qh90-75-f6-g57-1984.htm)

I don’t know why really, but this plan was not implemented and unfortunately the area of the North Fork’s headwater’s at Five and Ten Mile Creek were contaminated by agricultural pesticides in 1995 in a formal document by the Florida Department of Environmental Protection. (http://www.dep.state.fl.us/southeast/ecosum/ecosums/tenmile_creek.pdf) In 2002 the St Lucie River including parts and beyond the “aquatic preserve” was designated an “impaired water body” by the same agency  in 2002. (http://www.dep.state.fl.us/southeast/ecosum/ecosums/SLE_Impairment_Narrative_ver_3.7.pdf)

All the while the city of Port St Lucie grew and grew…

Growth of City of City along Port St Lucie
Growth of PSL along North Fork of  St Lucie River, 1969 to 2000, from the book, Port St Lucie at 50, A City for all People, by Nina Baranski. photo

According to the US census there were 330 residents in 1970 and 88,769 in 2000. In 2012 there were over 250,000 residents. 

Over the years, the city and agencies did not pay attention to  how developers and people developed their homes along the river, and many were developed go right up the the shoreline of the Aquatic Preserve as this photo by the FDEP shows. This is how fertilizers and pesticieds run right into the water. Not smart.  (http://www.dep.state.fl.us/coastal/sites/northfork/description/surroundings.htm)

NF_grass1

 

The State of Florida projects that the City of Port St Lucie is to have have 400,000 residents by 2025. Presently with over 250,000 residents, they are the state of Florida’s ninth largest city.

As odd as it sounds, this population may be a key to turning things around for the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon. Our Treasure Coast area never had enough votes to get much attention until recently and some of the St Lucie city and county commissioners are some of the most vocal in the the Save the Indian River Lagoon movement.

Why the state and federal and local agencies allowed the degradation of lands they spent an enormous amount of time protecting is pathetic. As usual there is only one hope for change, the people pushing government to save what’s left and find ways to let the estuary recover, may be the only answer to saving the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon.

 

“Port St Lucie” Originally Planned for “Martin County” Along the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon

Port St Lucie
An ad for the town of “Port St Lucie,” by Sewall’s Point Land Company that ran around 1913. It reads: ” Sewall’s Point Land Company is developing the new town of PORT ST LUCIE  in the northeasterly corner of Palm Beach County at the junction of the St Lucie and Indian rivers, directly opposite the St Lucie Inlet.” At the time, this area was Palm Beach County, today it is Martin. (Ad courtesy of Tom Thurlow)

I have often wondered why Port St Lucie is inland. Where’s the port?  Well apparently the name “Port St Lucie,” had been around before the City of Port St Lucie was incorporated in 1961, as originally Port St Lucie was going to be a town that would have been in today’s Martin, not St Lucie County.

The above ad ran around 1913 and was part of Henry Sewall and Hugh Willoughby’s  Sewall’s Point Company’s original development campaign to develop Port Sewall and Golden Gate as the “Great Port of Stuart.” At the time, this area was Palm Beach County but became Martin County in 1925.

Under the ad’s photo it reads: “Looking across one of the Lakes toward the St Luice River and the Inlet.” I imagine the lake was either North or West Lake, still located in today’s Willoughby Creek area. The ad also states that the location of Port St Lucie will be “directly opposite the St Lucie Inlet.” Viewing  a copy of the 1911 Port Sewall promotional map below, one can see exactly where that is located, Old St Lucie Boulevard, Stuart.

port sewall

The advertisement in the long winded style of the day continues:

“The lands west of the railway is laid out in tracts for FARMS and GARDENS. East of the railway are the business lots and large residence lot for the PORT OF ST LUCIE and the WATERFRONT is divied into lots of about two acres each for FINE RESIDENCES and WINTER HOMES. Ten acres are reserved for a PARK and five acres for a large TOURIST HOTEL on the water front. Situated at the junction of the St Lucie and Indian Rivers and St Lucie Inlet with a climate tempered by the soft breezes from the GULF STREAM and every month in the year a GROWING MONTH and FRUITS, FISH, FLOWERS and VEGETABLES in abundance….TENNIS, FISHING, MOTOR BOAT, SAILING RACES, CRUISING INLAND WATERS.

The kicker phrase: PROFIT AND PLEASURE combined in an IDEAL LOCATION…

Well, the land bust and the Great Depression came to Florida in the mid 1920s so the “Town of Port St Lucie” and its great port were never built, but let’s fast forward to 1961 a bit north in St Lucie County, and the “City of Port St Lucie” surely did!

Believe it or not, today Port St Lucie is the 9th largest city in the state of Florida. With their high population they are a bigger political player than Martin County and I am thankful for their commission’s support of strict fertilizer ordinances and pro river issues in this year’s legislative session. Port St Lucie is a key player today and in the the future for the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon. The county has also been very supportive!

Back to our history lesson…

Before the 1950s, Port St Lucie was mostly ranch and fishing camp lands as this photo from Bud Adams for the publication Port St Lucie at 50, A City for All People, by Nina Baranski shows.

PSL ranches

The story goes that in the 1950s the wilderness favored by hunters and anglers was discovered by Mike Cowles  whose company published Look Magazine and also had ties to the Ft Pierce Tribune. Cowles was “taken by the beauty of the St Lucie River and the land along its banks” buying eighty-five hundred acres south of Ft Pierce. In 1953 through his “St Lucie River Land Company,” he filed the River Park plat, and began to develop and promote it. (Port St Lucie at 50, A City for All People, Chapter 2.)

Cowles eventually traded  his land holdings for stock in, newcomer to the game, General Development Corporation, (GDC), becoming chairman in 1959. After acquiring more ranch tracks, GDC made plans to incorporate into a city and with “hardly any residents” did so with full support of the legislature in 1961.  And as we know, the rest is history…..

It’s interesting to note that the history of Martin and St Lucie Counties has always been intertwined, and that whether 1913, 1961, or today,  it is the beauty and attraction of the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon that on a core level connects us all. Our future long-term  job, together, is to save it.

Southern PSL 1957

This photo is not great quality but allows one to see  how undeveloped St Lucie County was…This photo is courtesy of Sandra Henderson Thurlow, and is on the inside cover of “Port St Lucie at  50.” It is a rare aerial of the southern portion of St Lucie County taken in 1957 before its incorporation and development.

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The book Port St Lucie 50 Years, A City for All People, by Nina Baranski, can be purchased at the Historical Society of St Lucie County (http://www.stluciehistoricalsociety.org)