Lots of fun spots to enjoy the eco-world that is Florida
Local, regional, state and federal officials are to be commended for acquiring, and continuing to passively develop some wonderful wetland and upland properties on and near Anna Maria Island.
“Develop” may be a poor word choice. The acres and acres of land I’m referring to contain mangroves, salt marshes, creeks and myriad critters large and small, are not really being developed per say, but instead restored in a native Florida manner.
Exotic species are being removed. Board walks are being built, have been built, or will be built as funding becomes available during the next few years.
The changes will allow more people to enjoy more of Florida’s ecosystems in a time when the effects of development have come to the forefront.
The latest of these re-do projects is the FISH Preserve in Cortez, which we toured last week. The Florida Institute of Saltwater Heritage acquired the nearly 100-acre parcel to the east of the historic fishing village and south of Cortez Road a few years ago. The purchase was needed to keep Cortez as Cortez, free of encroaching development threats.
Boardwalks have been constructed through parts of the mostly wetland site of the preserve. Roadways through the property will eventually be transformed into walking trails for hikers.
Some of the creeks through the property will be expanded to enhance water flow to distant portions of the property.
And the stands of Australian pine, melalucca, Brazilian pepper and a new exotic, lead wood, will be removed and replaced with native Florida plants.
The FISH Preserve promises to be a wonderful spot when completed.
Another under-construction site off Manatee Avenue is the Robinson Preserve. It should open to the public later this year and promises to provide fantastic birding views of Perico Bayou and Tampa Bay all the way to the Sunshine Skyway Bridge.
The hot-ticket item for this preserve is the boardwalks across the little waterways that surround the area. Also to come is the 100-year-old Valentine House, which was barged to the preserve and will serve as a visitor center and staff office.
Not to be undone by the eco-largesse of the area, Holmes Beach and other agencies are working to create public access to Grassy Point, east of East Bay Drive. Boardwalks are slated to complement the canoe/kayak trails that meander through the 39-acre site.
One of the earliest preserves on the Island is on Leffis Key. The Coquina Beach BayWalk at Leffis Key, just across the street from Coquina Beach in Bradenton Beach, has the highest mound of sand in the region and offers a majestic vista of Anna Maria Sound, Sarasota Bay, Cortez and the Gulf of Mexico.
It is a beautiful place to enjoy the wonders of the wetland world, from mangroves to salt marshes to watching critters creep, crawl and swim.
Oh, and …
Don’t forget that there’s Bayfront Park in Anna Maria, with bayfront views of the Sunshine Skyway Bridge.
Also, the newly completed Coquina Beach Trail offers a mile or so of a pedestrian stroll or bike ride along the Gulf in Bradenton Beach through the pines.
And, of course, there is the Manatee Public Beach and Coquina Beach, the fishing piers in Anna Maria, Holmes Beach, Bradenton Beach, the bridges …
Hey, get out there and enjoy the outdoors while the getting is good.
Not so good?
This item probably falls in the half-empty, half-full category of news.
The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission has determined there were 317 manatee deaths in state waters in 2007. “The total number of carcasses documented last year falls below the five-year average of 355,” according to the state agency.
Watercraft strikes and red tide continue to contribute to a high percentage of manatee mortality,” FWC officials said, “accounting for more than half of the total deaths in 2007 where scientists could determine the cause of death.”
There were 73 sea cow deaths attributed to watercrafts, and 52 from effects of red tide.
Our part of the world had a higher-than-usual level of red tide and watercraft deaths to manatees in 2007, something to be concerned about.
So here’s the deal: Yep, we had less manatee deaths last year than the five-year norm. I guess that’s good.
But we still had 317 dead manatees, 73 of which were directly attributed to boaters. According to my always-questionable math, what with an estimated 3,700 manatees in Florida waters, that’s pretty close to 8 percent. In one year.
When you go out on the water, go slow. Watch where you’re going. Keep in channels and, if you spot a pod of manatees, back off and enjoy the site.
Speaking of passing slowly, the tragedy on Interstate 4 in Polk County Jan. 9 was one of those horrible events that, fortunately, we haven’t ever had to deal with.
It was like the old barb on a train wreck: You don’t want to watch it but you can’t help yourself.
Seventy-some vehicle crashes involving four deaths were due to fog and smoke that were described as being so thick that visibility was less than an arm’s length. Someone said it was like driving into a wall, the murk was so thick.
Fog is scary. At least in our heavy thunderstorms you’ve got some clue as to what is happening. With fog, it just sorta creeps up and envelopes you. And we’ve got some fog floating around in our part of the world now, too.
As stated above, go slow, please.
More envelop news
You’ve got to hand it to the wily Chinese when it comes to being “green.”
There was a news story last week that China had decreed a ban on all free plastic bags from its stores, reverting back to the traditional cloth bags of yore. “White pollution” was what officials called the measure.
The ban targets the flimsiest of bags, while encouraging more durable products to be used, and used, and used over and over again. Think cloth, which was apparently a very viable Chinese commodity until the advent of plastic.
Plastic is cheap to make, convenient for grocery store baggers to use, and a horrible element to add to the environment.
Lazy shoppers will toss the bags around as they tote items from point to point. The bags end up drifting around yards and, in the case of the Island, the Gulf and bays.
Sea turtles will spot a bag floating in the water and mistake it for a succulent jellyfish. The bag ends up in the turtle’s belly, blocking digestion and often causing death.
“It’s a bother,” one Chinese shopkeeper told the Associated Press, “but these bags really do create a lot of pollution, so it should be a good thing.”
There are quite a few anti-plastic bag measures on the international front. South Africa, Ireland and Taiwan either tax shoppers who use plastic or impose fees on companies that distribute them. Bangladesh has issued an outright ban, as have 30 Alaskan villages, and France and Germany are getting out of the business, as is Ireland, where a surcharge in 2003 has really cut back production.
In the United States, San Francisco has banned most plastic bags.
And locally, Bradenton Beach is heavily promoting a cloth-over-plastic policy, offering free bags to those going to the beach as long as supplies are available.