Tag Archives: Sewall’s Point

Ernie Lyons’ St Lucie Places of Magic, by Bill Lyons

The creative seed for this blog post dates back to 2011. On November 1st in 2011, my mother forwarded Bill Lyons, son of famed Stuart News conservationist and newspaperman, Ernest Lyons, an email that had been sent to me by Mrs. Sheri Anker of the St Lucie County Conservation Alliance. Sheri had come up with an idea to erect a series of signs throughout the St Lucie River highlighting the favorite spots that “Ernie” so passionately and lovingly wrote about throughout his career.

The following essay is Ernie’s son Bill’s response to my mother’s inquiry for guidance on creating a historic Ernie Lyons’ St Lucie River tour, as Sheri envisioned: “Travels with Ernie on his Rio de Luz.”

Bill’s reply was insightful, poetic, and bittersweet. Bill updated the piece in 2014 -after reading about the St Lucie’s “Lost Summer” of 2013, the tipping point causing a tsunami river movement resurgence that even from the grave, through republished essays in the Stuart News, was inspired by the spirit of Ernie Lyons. Recently my mother rediscovered Bill’s essay in her files and now seems like a good time to rethink the sign idea.

It is my wish that after we read Bill’s tribute to his father, we follow through on Sheri’s idea for signage along the St Lucie River. Indeed, it is difficult to mark what is “favorite” when you love it all, but one thing is certain, we must ensure that our beloved river and the spirit of Mr. Ernest Lyons continues so that “progress” in the future won’t mean a bulldozer.

 

Favorite Places on the River, by Bill Lyons

Ernest Lyons, my father, first came to Stuart, Florida in 1913 and lived there for most of his life. He worked at the Stuart News for 40-some years, retiring as editor in 1975. Dad loved to fish and above all he loved the St. Lucie River, an affection evident in his writings. A few years ago an admirer of that writing suggested erecting signage at Dad’s favorite places on the River. This is my response.

Ernie Lyons as a boy

Dad’s favorite places changed with the moods of the River. For instance, I’m fairly sure North Fork Bay wasn’t his favorite place the day he couldn’t find shelter there from what he called a Blue Norther. He had gathered my mother, my sister and me in his boat and set off up the River to look at a piece of land. It rained and blew all the way up the River, abated for a while as he walked over the property, and then poured buckets all the way back to Stuart. Dad never owned a boat with a cabin or a cover, and I don’t recall that Mother ever got into one of his boats again.

Classic Ernie Lyons as a newspaperman, Stuart News

Dad really did love the North Fork, though. Willard Kiplinger commissioned Florida artist Beanie Backus to do a painting for Dad – “Just contact Beanie and tell him what you want” — so Dad requested a view from the shore where the narrow North Fork opens out into North Fork Bay. Beanie took a boat out there, sketched the scene, and the finished painting hangs in our home today. Many times in the nineteen forties and early fifties, Dad drove us to Burt Pruitt’s Fish Camp, rented a skiff, and motored down to where two branches of the North Fork converge. The River then was alive with fish and birds and alligators, but by the late fifties, it was gone. Drainage from the Rim Ditch Canal (C-24) did so much damage to that part of the River that it lost its sparkle. I don’t think Dad ever went back to the North Fork; after that, he just lived with the memories.

Bean Backus, “The narrow North Fork opening out into North Fork Bay.”

When Dad wrote about festoons of asters along the banks and sprays of orchids hanging from oaks over the River, he was thinking of the South Fork in summer. He took me there many times and we caught lots of fish, but the magical memories are of the flowers and of the tarpon and manatees that came rolling by while we sat quietly watching. During summer, sheet-flow from the Allapattah Flats converged in tiny rivulets into a deep pool with a sand bottom, the first of a series of pools connected by shallow streams of clear water that formed the headwaters of the South Fork. Dad loved that place, not just for its beauty but for its solitude. It could only be reached by Jeep during the wet season, so we hitched rides with the local game warden, who would drop us off and return for us later. Clyde Butcher’s photos of the upper Loxahatchee River are the nearest thing I’ve seen to what once was the upper South Fork. Then in the fifties, construction of the Florida Turnpike cut off the flow of freshwater to the River. Soon saltwater intrusion crept up the South Fork, impeding the spawning of its fish, and the River began to die. In 1962, a friend and I drove to the former site of the headwaters. The area had been bulldozed and the pool had become a cattle watering hole.

Fork of the St Lucie, Sandra Thurlow

Dad loved many places on the River. Some nights he would drive over to Lighthouse Point (the one with the restaurant on US 1, not the development). He took a lantern, a single-tined spear, and a croaker sack and went wading for flounders. He knew just where they would be, hanging at the edge of the bar waiting for unwary fish and shrimp to wash by. A few hours later he would come home, dump a bag of flounders into the kitchen sink, and start cleaning them. Then the mud from Lake Okeechobee washed down the River and the flounders went away.

https://www.savebromeliads.com/floridas-bromeliads

Dad loved the widest part of the River, where vast schools of mullet gathered along the north shore. Tarpon and snook, seatrout and jack crevalle would attack the mullet and drive them grey-hounding in waves across the River, often all the way to the shores of Stuart. Interactions between Plains wolves and bison were no more dramatic. Much of the action happened at night as we lay in our beds, listening to the mullet thundering across the River. When hurricane season approached, immense schools of fingerling mullet moved down the River, sometimes taking several days to pass Stuart. They too ran the gauntlet of snook and jacks, and residents flocked to the shore to fish. Who then could not love the River, unless he were a mullet?

Burt Pruitt’s Fish Camp, North Fork. St Lucie River

In my early years, Dad loved the lower St. Lucie around Hell Gate, that part of the River that separates lower Sewall’s Point from Port Sewall. Again, it was the fishing that brought him there. When winter storms blew, he could find shelter in the lee of Sewall’s Point, and that’s where he would be, trolling for bluefish or bottom-fishing for weakfish. After the months-long runoff from the ’47 and ’49 hurricanes, though, the fish did not return.

Where the River rounds Sewall’s Point it meets the Indian River Lagoon and together their waters flow over large seagrass beds on their way to St. Lucie Inlet. Dad loved casting for large seatrout on the grass flats, and it was there that he and I were fishing in Dale Hipson’s iconic photo that graces one of Dad’s books.

And of course he loved the inlet, where the River meets the sea. Dad was enchanted by the place he called the Sun Parlor, the channel that hooked north around Sailfish Point and spread out to feed the adjacent grass-beds. Ancient black and red mangroves hung in the water along the channel, and sheepshead and snappers could be seen swimming among the snags in the gin-clear waters on flood tides. Sharks were not uncommon in the channel, and queen conchs and large horse conchs lived in the grass-beds. If you wanted to see a roseate spoonbill in Martin County in the fifties, that’s where it would be. Dad spent countless hours in the Sun Parlor. Then the developers came in the late fifties, and it was lost.

“Ernie with son Bill and Pudge pop-corking at the Crossroads off Sewall’s Point, 1950s” Photo courtesy of Dr. Dale Hipson. Cover of The Last Cracker Barrel by Ernest Lyons

Dad loved Bessey Creek, a tributary of the lower North Fork, and once in the early fifties he accompanied me and two other boys on a camping trip to the upper reaches of the creek. Around the campfire at night, Dad told us of a remote pond connected to the main creek by a hidden stream that he found in his youth. We boys searched until we found it, and we took Dad back there to fish. Judging from the abundance of hungry bass in that pond, I don’t think anyone had been there for decades. There were no houses on Bessey Creek then, and we could spend days without seeing another human being. But around 1960 the county built a new road to extend Murphy Road across C-23 Canal. The road cut across upper Bessey Creek virtually on top of our old campsite and passed within 100 yards of the hidden pond. When I returned from the Army in 1962, I walked across a sand lot from the road to the bank of the pond and gazed at the empty bait cups and beer cans on its shore. Humpty Dumpty was off the wall.

Aerial maps suggest that Mile Lake and a few adjacent lakes in southern St. Lucie County may be ox-bows, formed as part of the North Fork but pinched off as the River meandered away. In his boyhood Dad camped and fished around Mile Lake, and he took me there many times. I don’t know if Dad knew Mile Lake had once been part of the River, but it may explain his affection for the place. He loved the River in all of its many parts, but I don’t know how he’d have felt about Mile Lake surrounded by homes and golf courses as it is now.

Ernie Lyons with Bass, possibly Mile Lake

Dad had a love/hate relationship with the St. Lucie Canal. Its discharges damaged the River downstream, and he campaigned tirelessly but futilely for the Army Corps of Engineers to manage it responsibly. Still, when many of his favorite places were gone, fishing remained good in the canal, and Dad could drive out and fish along its banks. Then, testing found some of the nation’s highest readings for pesticides and heavy metals in fish from the canal. That’s when Dad gave up fishing.

If anyone were to put up signage at Dad’s favorite places on the River, they would need lots of signs. And the signs should say “This was one of Ernest Lyons’ favorite places, a place of magic, until progress did it in. Sit quietly, look closely and try to imagine the sparkle that once was here.” If you can’t see the sparkle, it just looks like water. Or, more recently, like guacamole.

~Bill Lyons, son of Ernest Lyons

A mullet jumps at sunset, St Lucie River off of North River Shores, photo Todd Thurlow.

Biography of Bill’s father, Ernest Lyons

Florida Newspaper Hall of Fame, Ernest Lyons, 1994

Lyons began working as a reporter for The Stuart News in 1931. He also worked as an advertising salesman, printing salesman, then as advertising director for the paper. He became editor in 1945, serving until his retirement on March 1, 1975. He died April 6, 1990, at age 85.

Under Lyons the paper grew from a tiny independent weekly to a lively Scripps Howard daily. As editor, Lyons practiced community journalism at its best. He had a keen sense of what local people wanted to read and a zeal to guard their interests. Fearing that rapid population growth and urbanization might ruin coastal Florida, Lyons fought for  protection of endangered water resources and wildlife habitats.

In 1965, his newspaper columns won the nationwide Edward J. Meeman Award for conservation writing. His writings, some composed 30 or more years ago, still are quoted by conservationists because they ring with enduring concepts and timeless values.

Twilight Flight Over the St Lucie River, SLR/IRL

Last night’s twilight flight was a first for me, but not for my husband Ed. Usually, we fly in daylight chasing algae blooms or black Lake Okeechobee water…

Last night was just for fun, but one still feels the pull to protect this sacred place.

The beauty of the lands lighting up beneath us was almost as inspiring as the sunset. Humanity, such promise.

We do live in a beautiful place. A place to protect and call home…

Hurricanes, Discharges, and Monitoring Seagrass Loss in the Indian River Lagoon, SLR/IRL

IRL in Jensen, ca. 1948 Seymour Gideon property, courtesy Sandra Henderson Thurlow Archives. (Note clear water and abundant seagrasses.)

This photo is on page 23 of my mother’s book Historic Jensen and Eden on Florida’s Indian River. The insert reads:

“This photograph of the Seymour Gideon property was made after 1948 when Arthur Ruhnke started taking photographs locally, and before the August 26th 1949 hurricane that destroyed the fish houses. A trail leads to the ridge called “Mt. Washington” (Killer Hill, Skyline Drive today) by the pioneers. The watery expanses of the Jensen Savannas are in the distance. Notice the clear water and the abundance of river grass.” (Thurlow/Ruhnke Collection)

It is a beautiful photograph….isn’t it? Certainly after the Hurricane of ’49 hit the seagrasses of Jensen in the Indian River Lagoon were impacted too!

~Wind gusts reached 160 mph (260 km/h) at Stuart. 

~Stuart (Jensen)  experienced the most severe damage from the storm in south Florida; hundreds of homes, apartment buildings, stores, and warehouse buildings lost roofs and windows. Interior furnishings were blown through broken glass into the streets. 

WIKI 1949 Hurricane: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1949_Florida_hurricane

Jeanne, September 25, 26, 2004. NOAA image.

When hurricanes Frances and Jeanne hit within three weeks apart in 2004, entering both times at my hometown of Sewall’s Point, there was reported loss not only of property, but also of seagrasses in the Indian River Lagoon. Seagrass is very slow to recover…

Photo by Lauren Hall, SJRWMD, showing healthy seagrasses in the IRL. (From Save the Manatee Website)

As some locations of the grasses were experiencing recovery, they died back again due to the extreme discharges and toxic algae blooms in 2013 and 2016 ~linked to Lake Okeechobee, and canals C-44, as well as C-23, C-24 and C-25.

canals
Canal and basin map SLR/IRL. (Public)

The South Florida Water Management District reports periodically on not overall numbers but rather “patch dynamics” at certain locations of the lagoon. (For Martin County: Boy Scout Island and Willoughby Creek.) I feel this is limited. The best way to see seagrass bed coverage is from the air. I am hoping in the future there will be money in the budget or the District could coordinate with local pilot for aerial seagrass surveys. Another way to approach this is though Google Earth mapping/aerials, and my brother Todd Thurlow and Mark Perry of Florida Oceanographic are working on this now.

Hurricanes, discharges, fertilizer from our yards…Seagrasses are as important as property as they are the nurseries of the oceans and keep the lagoon “living.” Look at the aerials below to see the losses, so that we may be inspired to work for and better document a recovery.

Jacqui

 

Frances, September 4, and 5th 2004. NOAA image.
Aerial of seagrasses in 1977 in and between Sailfish and Sewall’s Point, courtesy FOS, Chris Perry.
Murky greenish water could be seen in the area of the Sandbar, between Sailfish and Sewall’s Point,  and some remaining sickly looking seagrass beds were visible, 3-15.  (Photo JTL.)
5-25-16 remaining seagrasses with algae on top SLR/IRL between Sewall’s and Sailfish Point, JTL
5-7-17 blue water but no visible seagrasses between Sailfish and Sewall’s Point,  JTL SLR/IRL

See page 14 of Water Resources Advisory Commission, (WRAC) for seagrass report in SLR/IRL, presentation by Dr Susan Gray, 5-31-17: https://apps.sfwmd.gov/webapps/publicMeetings/viewFile/10633

List of all Hurricanes of US, including 1949: http://www.aoml.noaa.gov/hrd/hurdat/All_U.S._Hurricanes.html

Waters off of Sewall’s Point in August 2013 during high levels of discharges from Lake Okeechobee. Seagrass beds between Sewall’s and Sailfish Point used to be the lushest in the southern lagoon…(photo, JTL)

No Fertilizer in This Wonderful 1925 Aerial, St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon

Ariel 1925, SLR/IRL courtesy Archives of Sandra Thurlow as shared by Higgins Engineering WPB.

I have shared this 1925 aerial previously, but it is worth sharing again. What a wonderful photograph of a healthy confluence of the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon!

Every time I see it, I see something new.

I see the white sands of the newly dug St Lucie Canal, today’s C-44 connected to Lake Okeechobee,  in the far middle distance; I see dark, prevalent natural vegetation; I see an undeveloped Sailfish Point, Rocky Point, Manatee Pocket, Sewall’s Point, and Stuart; there are a few roads, but no airport; no spoil islands along Sewall’s Point; there are no “bridges to the sea; ” I see shoaling, as the St Lucie Inlet had been opened/widened not too long before ~located just around the left hand corner of the photograph; I see beaches at Hutchinson Island with beautiful coquina sands that had not been “re-nourished;” I see lush seagrass beds, the nurseries of life,  cradled against the shoreline; I see Paradise…

What would we do as far as development in this paradise, if we had it to do all over again?Or would we do just the same?

How we develop lands,  of course, affects the health of surrounding waters. Today, what can we do to reinvigorate our rivers, our paradise? How can we help bring back the seagrasses especially? Well, we can do a lot.

Think of all the lawns that would be in this photo today!  All the development, and how when it rains everything on our streets, parking lots, and lawns  runs into our drainage  systems and into our river.

Yesterday was June 1st, the beginning of rainy season. The beginning of fertilizer restrictions that were especially inspired for the entire Indian River Lagoon by the work of Sewall’s Point, the first to have a strong fertilizer ordinance,  in 2010. I am proud of this and thank my fellow commissioners of that era.

Do what you can by not fertilizing your yard this rainy season, and if you haven’t considered changing out your yard to a more natural, Florida Friendly landscape, perhaps begin the process.

Every little thing we do, counts. And the more we do, the pressure we can put on the “big polluters” to do the same.

______________________________________

BE FLORIDIAN program: “Saving Florida one lawn at a time”: http://befloridiannow.org/quick-start/

IRL Fertilizer Ordinances: https://sites.google.com/site/fertilizeruseintheirlwatershed/fertilizer-ordinances

Florida Friendly Yards: http://fyn.ifas.ufl.edu

Fertilizer Ordinances Martin County:https://www.martin.fl.us/sites/default/files/meta_page_files/Martin%20County%20Fertilizer%20Ordinance_FAQs.pdf

History of St Lucie River/IRL, development of canals, and Lake Okeechobee connection: by Bud Jordan, Rivers Coalition:
http://riverscoalition.org/reports-info/st-lucie-rivers-decline/

Drowning in Our Own Human-Excrement-Fertilizer, SLR/IRL

Public image, human waste to biosolids-fertilizer, 2017

Today is June 1st, the beginning of the fertilizer ban in Martin County, especially Sewall’s Point that goes through November.

It was Mr Gary Roderick who worked for Martin County that first taught me about Biosolids, or “fertilizer” made from all of our human waste. It was Gary who taught me about the business of spreading this on the lands, the state basically paying farmers to do so, and how no matter how hard we all worked, no matter a reservoir and water sent south or not, the truth of the matter is that  we just keep over-nutrifying and polluting the land and thus our waters  just as fast as we can try to fix them.

On Sunday , May 27th, 2017 TCPalm ran an article by Lucas Daprile, part of an outstanding series they are doing on this issues. The article begins: “The state plans to allow a massive farm (Sunbreak Farms) on the St Lucie/Indian River County line to annually fertilize its cornfields with 80,000 tons of compost comprised of one-fourth treated human waste.”

Chances are the Department of Environmental Protection will approve this because “it’s safe”…as they have for decades.

This waste-made-fertilizer should be shipped and sold to areas outside of the state that do not have the nutrient issues we do in here Florida –not spread in watersheds that drain into Lake Okeechobee and the Indian River Lagoon.

Drowning in our human excrement? You’ve got to be kidding me.

_____________________________________________

St Lucie County Commission Meeting on this issue “Sunbreak Farm’s Permit”

6pm, June 6th, 2017, 23000 Virginia Ave, 3rd Floor, Ft Pierce, Florida

 

Useful links/and some articles where Gary Roderick is quoted:

Nutrient Pollution in waterways: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nutrient_pollution

http://digital.ecomagazine.com/publication/?i=327714#{“issue_id”:327714,”view”:”contentsBrowser”} – September 2016 – Just scroll down to the Toxic Algae article…..

http://www.floridatoday.com/story/news/local/environment/2016/05/20/sludge-also-sickening-lagoon/83874988/

http://www.miamiherald.com/news/local/environment/article95442427.html

http://www.tcpalm.com/story/news/investigations/2017/02/07/biosolids-pollute-florida-watersheds/97443714/

……Latest TCPalm series:

http://www.tcpalm.com/story/news/investigations/2017/04/26/bill-gates-foundation-backs-janicki-bioenergy/99452498/

http://www.tcpalm.com/story/news/investigations/2017/04/26/human-waste-dumped-near-florida-springs-video/99166202/

http://www.tcpalm.com/story/news/investigations/2017/04/26/biosolids-disposal-solutions/99744306/

References to understand biosolid production and distribution and effects on water and the environment:

http://www.synagro.com

https://toxics.usgs.gov/highlights/biosolids.html

https://fwrj.com/techarticles/0611%20tech4.pdf

http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/ss634

https://www.dep.state.fl.us/water/wastewater/dom/docs/BiosolidsFlorida-2013-Summary.pdf

“Wastewater treatment plants (WWTPs) in the United States generate approximately
7 million dry tons of biosolids each year. Since biosolids are rich in plant nutrients, farmers, landscapers, and homeowners use about 50 percent of the annual production of biosolids as fertilizer for plants. Biosolids must meet standards for nutrient, metal, and pathogen content before it can be used to fertilize plants and to improve the quality of soil. Because a variety of pharmaceuticals and other household chemicals have been found in the wastewater discharged from WWTPs, questions have been raised about the presence of these chemicals in biosolids. To help answer the questions the scientists purchased or obtained nine different commercially or publicly available biosolids and analyzed them for 87 organic chemicals found in cleaners, personal care products, pharmaceuticals, and other products.” USGS

Toxic Algae bloom washes up along the shoreline, St Lucie River, Riverside Drive, Stuart, Florida. (Photo Jenny Flaugh, 7-13)

Previous blog on this subject:https://jacquithurlowlippisch.com/tag/biosolid-distribution-south-florida/

Once You Have Tasted Flight…SLR/IRL

“Once You have tasted flight you will walk the earth with your eyes turned skyward, for there you have been and there you will long to return.” Leonardo da Vinci (1452-1529)

Ed Lippisch, Crossroads, SLR/IRL 1-16-17