Over the past year, I have watched this new City of Stuart icon grow from the ground up, but not until yesterday did I enter. It is located right across the street from my father and brother’s law offices, Thurlow and Thurlow, so I have seen it many times. A large parcel that was formerly the Salvation Army is now painted green, fenced, and having a rebirth as the new urban chic “Ground Floor Farm.”
Yes, urban agriculture is hip and bringing a healthy, and community business minded spirit to the St Lucie/Indian River Lagoon Region. Words like homesteading, self-reliance, chickens, and interdependence ring with new meaning and inspiration. Making and growing your own food is cool. Hydroponics teaches about water quality, conservation, and re-use and no pesticides.
Learning how easy it is to make cheese from owner Jackie Vitale —the process of “curds and whey,” was the beginning of real understanding for me!
The event was hosted by Sewall’s Point residents Dean MacMillian and Lindsey Donigan. They invited about sixty of their closest friends to “Come Down on the Farm,” to showcase and help people learn about Ground Floor Farm. Owners Jackie Vitale, Micah Hartman, and Mike Meier shared their story of Ground Floor Farm and their vision for a hip and sustainable future for the City of Stuart, and for Martin County.
It was an amazing evening seeing the younger generation teach and inspire the older generation. As population continues to grow, and resources become more precious, a sustainable path to the future is finding its place. Such a path will continue to revitalize the City of Stuart, bring us all closer to home, and to each other. Kudos Jackie, Micah, and Mike for your creative business model and for your leadership!
________________________ THEIR VISION:“We want Ground Floor Farm to be a part of a hometown renaissance, in which individuals focus their energy and creativity on the places they come from and through which the importance of a vibrant community center is reclaimed and revitalized. THEIR MISSION “Grow and produce delicious food and give others the tools and resources to do so themselves. Show that productive agriculture can take place in small spaces in urban centers and that it can be economically sustainable. Provide the space and resources for others to use their talents, skills, and interests to engage their community.Curate an exciting and diverse program of cultural and social events that engage the hearts and minds of our community.” GFF
Of course when it rains the waters of the St Lucie River/Southern Indian River Lagoon get darker due to runoff into the river. But unless it keeps raining, the water will clear up. The government likes to call this water “storm water.” This is all of the water that flows into the river from people’s yards, roads, agriculture fields, etc….
Lately it seems to me, our recent storms, like yesterday, and a few days before have concentrated right along our coast. I am not certain, but I looked on the South Florida Water Management District’s website and it did not appear that C-23, C-24 and C-25 were open or if they were it was not a lot. To check C-44 you have to go to the ACOE website; it is definitely not open. So I think most of what we are seeing right now in our river is runoff from the lands closest to the coast not necessary connected to canals. You can see a basin map below.
So anyway, the photo above with the murky-grey colored water was taken yesterday 7-22-15; it was an outgoing tide; and it was around 11AM. Thank you Ed!
Today, I will share some of Ed’s photos and then compare others from when there was some rain, and the ACOE was dumping into our river JUST FROM LAKE O, and others from very rainy times when dumping from Lake O and the area canals of C-23, C-24, C-25 and C-44 by ACOE/and SFWMD was “constant.”
THESE PHOTOS IMMEDIATELY BELOW FROM yesterday 7-22-15 in the area of Sewall’s Point. They show grayish-murky waters from storm water coastal runoff but green-blue shines through…
THIS PHOTO BELOW IS FROM July 14th, 2015, a week ago. It had not recently rained and my yard was bone dry. It was an incoming tide. Sewall’s Point and confluence of SLR/IRL appears very “blue.” It is beautiful although seagrasses and the benthic community are still “recovering.” Blue does not mean the river is “healthy,” but BLUE IS GOOD.
THIS PHOTO BELOW IS DATED May 18th 2015. This is the tip of South Sewall’s Point looking towards the St Lucie Inlet and Jupiter Narrows. Sailfish Point is under the wing. It was not raining much at this time in March of 2015, but the ACOE/SFWMD was dumping from Lake Okeechobee because the lake was “too high.” The river looked brown and gross.
Ironically, now we appear to be on the verge of a serious “water shortage”….too bad there isn’t a place to store this water somewhere north and/or south of Lake O….that the ACOE and AFWMD dump during the dry season trying to get the lake down in case there is a hurricane….The agriculture community could use that water now as could the Everglades, Miami/Dade, wildlife etc…..the C-44 STA/Reservoir is wonderful and we are thankful but it is only for C-44 BASIN RUNOFF not Lake O.
THIS PHOTO BELOW IS SEWALL’S POINT’s west side, IRL, looking north with the confluence of the SLR/IRL in foreground. This was September of 2013 during some of the highest releases from Lake O and C-23, C-24, C-25 and C-44. This is when the river was toxic and there were signs not to touch the water. It is very dark brown. Too dark.
THIS DISGUSTING SHOT BELOW is of the St Lucie Inlet with Sailfish Point foreground. This photo was also taken in September 2013 during very high discharges from Lake O especially and the C-23, C-24, C-25 and C-44. Yes. It was raining! And certainly coastal storm-water runoff not going into canals as seen in the photo at the beginning of this blog was also included. It was all horrible, but the biggest single overdose during this time was from Lake O.
At this time our river was almost black in color and had a strange consistency due to all of the sediment and pollution in the water. During this year of 2013 our river lost about 85 percent of its seagrasses and ALL of its oysters. The releases lasted from May through October. Salinity was way down and 0 in some places. Algae blooms, toxic in nature, were documented from Palm City to Stuart to Sewall’s Point. The Sandbar at the mouth of the inlet was posted as a health hazard area by Martin County. Real estate sales were lost and animals were absent; it was a true state of emergency as filed with the state by many local governments.
We live in a state of unbalance.
South Florida is a swinging pendulum of too much water and not enough water. It makes no sense. We waste water, yet we encourage more people to come to South Florida when do often don’t have enough as it is because we are dumping it all…
We want things to be like they were in 1970 and 80….
We want to be the sugar and vegetable basket for the world, and have everyone move here… Well no matter how much sugar we produce, or how many houses we build, “we can’t have our cake and eat it too.”
We need more storage south and north of Lake Okeechobee. If we can engineer to send a camera to photograph Pluto 2.7 billion miles away, can’t we fix things here at home?
Well, unless we can figure out how to live on Pluto, we are going to have to—
As bad as things are today for the St Lucie/Indian River Lagoon, in the past we did things that today would be inconceivable, like having sewer lines drain directly into the river, or draining oil into the lagoon from a car…. For centuries people have put waste into the water so it could just “flush away.” Things like this were done when very few people lived along the river and the waterways could actually handle this misuse. Today with over a million people living along the 156 mile lagoon such ignorance is not an option; we know better now. It is interesting to wonder what photos from today will look so atrocious as these above in the future? Lake Okeechobee and canal releases full of filth? Fertilizing one’s yard? Herbicide and pesticide use by the water? Septic tanks? Only time will tell… and it always does.
I love driving north along Indian River Drive towards Jensen Beach from the Town of Sewall’s Point. The palm trees, the river, the old brightly painted houses, and the Town of Ocean Breeze. Since childhood, “Ocean Breeze Park,” has been an icon for retired people growing old and having a great time. A little crowded in there for my taste, but still, what a cool place!
According to Sandra Henderson Thurlow’s book, Historic Jensen and Eden on Florida’s Indian River, “In the 1930s, Harry and Queena Hoke along with their two teenage sons, came to Martin County in a red trailer that was their home.”
According to the family: “The trailer was so small you had to go outside to change your mind.”
After visiting Pitchford’s trailer camp further north, the family eventually purchased 23 acres of the former C.F. Wolf pineapple plantation. The formation of the town is an American dream story. After success as a park, they eventually incorporated in 1960 increasing their coffers and their land holdings by buying adjoining properties.
With a great advertising campaign and true caring for the lives and fun of their residents the park-city became a true home.
According to the town’s Wikipedia article: “at the time of its incorporation, in 1960, the 65-acre park was said to be the largest privately owned trailer park in the United States.”
One of the great town stories is Mrs Geeben.
Mrs Dorothy Geeben, embodied the spirit of Ocean Breeze. She was mayor from 2001 to 2010. When she was re-elected in 2004 at age 96, the national media dubbed her “the nation’s oldest living mayor. She passed on January 11, 2010 at the age of 101 just short of her 102nd birthday.
Today new things are on the horizon for the Town of Ocean Breeze. Yes, it is run down, but it is improving. Flying over or driving through one can see that many trailers have been removed and western lands belonging to the town are being cleared for residential apartments. The town owns a tremendous amount of land as well as land in the Indian River Lagoon. (see chart above.) The Town of Ocean Breeze is a sovereign. They regulate themselves.
Hmmmm? What will the future bring?
Recently, there was a rumor going around that the town could ignore the county’s four-story height limit within its boarders and build condominiums to “see the sea.” I think that is doubtful, but stranger things have happened in Martin County and if Ocean Breeze is to evolve into the future it will certainly have to change.
According to Scripps Newspapers, after great financial difficulty the town was bought in 2013 by Carefree RV Resorts for Arizona for 16.5 million. The company owns 60 communities nation wide.
Although I know I’ve got many more good and productive years, I find myself thinking about where Ed and I might eventually downsize. I want a great location, a place where I can see the Indian River, somewhere within walking distance to town, and a community where I can have fun and grow old. Ocean Breeze just might be the ticket!
I have read and listened to people speak about sea level rise before, but for some reason, this time it was different…
Last week, in Hollywood, Florida, at the sparkling ocean side resort, the Westin Diplomat, I listened to Dr Harold Wanless, Chairman of the Department of Geological Sciences, University of Miami. I experienced half denial and half fascination as he gave his unemotional, scientific presentation at the Florida League of Cities Annual Conference. The first sentence he said was “Sometime in the next 30 years, people in South Florida with 30 year mortgages will not be able to sell their homes.”
He cited Miami as the ninth most vulnerable city in the world to sea level rise and number one in exposed assets. He noted the warming and expansion of the world oceans, and the melting of Greenland and the polar glaciers. He said the oceans will rise 2-5 feet by the end of the century. Miami International Airport will be a marsh. He calmly projected that there will be forced evacuation of most barrier islands.
“Guess what?” he said. “The ocean has arrived.”
“The ocean city, Sewall’s Point. The island city that is…”I fantasized.
Dr Wanless like a mannequin continued.
The porous sand of Florida will not allow what Holland and New Orleans have done. South Florida will be under water and if not underwater the water will be so close underground that it will make maintaining roads and infrastructure almost impossible for cities…
At two feet increase, 72% of Miami’s land mass will remain above water. At six feet, 44%.
At this point I started doing the math. In years that is. I wrote down my age, 50, and all the ages of my family. In 34 years, with his prediction for two feet, I would be 84. Ed my husband, 92. My parents in heaven. My sister 81; my brother 78; my nieces 44; 46; 47 and 47. “I guess Ed and I can’t leave the house to the “kids…” I thought.
The whole time I was watching my real estate values go down, I was wondering about my beloved Indian River Lagoon. Can we still save her? Will the ocean reclaim her? Will she still be an estuary? Is all our work in vain?
There were two more speakers after Dr Wanless. Attorney Thomas Ruppert and Assistant Public Works Director of the City of Ft Lauderdale, Nancy Gassman. Basically Ruppert said you can’t win and Gassman said not to panic. Cites have gone through changes before…we must believe in humankind. We will keep building; we will adapt and survive.
As someone who has given my life to the preservation of the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon, I felt like “preserve” was suddenly a word that was outdated.
I starred thinking…worrying…’
“I must rather help the lagoon “adapt” to changes the best I can. If this to be, which I do not know, but probably is… I cannot preserve her, in fact I never could, she has always been changing. Wow, this is uncomfortable. It’s like my world is upside down. How can I plan if this is to be the future? …I must stay the course; I will not abandon ship. I will keep my values…
I think I’ll go to my room and look out the window, at the ocean…when is happy hour?
I think I will begin to prepare for the storm ahead…”
–thank you to Mayor, Cindy Lerner, Village of Pinecrest and Ryan Matthews, FLC for organizing this presentation.
Sea Level Rise and the Impacts of Climate Change