Egmont Key tales
Joe Chiles did a wonderful job of exploring the history and future of Passage Key in last week's Islander on that island's 100th anniversary of being enrolled into the National Wildlife Refuge system, the second such designation in the country.
|Egmont Key circa 1930. The picture was taken at the north end of the island. The lighthouse is pictured to the left, and the road network is visible heading south.|
The ceremony took place on Egmont Key, just north of Passage, in the mouth of Tampa Bay. It was the first time I'd been to Egmont in at least 10 years, and the changes on that island were pronounced in a decade.
Erosion has struck Egmont Key in a major way. What once was about 600 acres of real estate when the forts were under constuction in the late 1890s is now eroded down to about 290 acres. Most of the forts are tumbling into the water or are already unwilling artificial reefs. The main fort, which once was at the southwest edge of the island and which I remembered as a Little Roat as having dry sand in front of it, is now hundreds of feet out in the Gulf of Mexico.
What struck me as being unreal, though, were some of the long-ago aerial pictures of Egmont Key. In the early shots, the entire "city" on Egmont was shown. Tennis courts. Bowling alley. Shops. Garrisons for the 300-or-so troops stationed there, as well as civilians who catered to the troops. In all, we were told, there were something like 2,000 people on the key in its heyday. That population was about three times what was on Anna Maria Island at the time.
Egmont Key is also a part of the National Wildlife Refuge system, and the bulk of the southern end of the key is off limits to humans to allow the area to be used as a bird rookery.
The northern end, though, is a park, and visitors use the wide red-brick sidewalk-roads to tour where the houses and other amenities once stood. Fire has been a problem on Egmont over the years, and except for the coquina-rock garrisons or other buildings, any structure of wood has long been burned.
The pilot boat cottages are still there, though, offering a home for the pilots who guide the tankers and other big vessels into and out of Port Manatee and the Port of Tampa.
There is also a lighthouse and U.S. Coast Guard facilities at the north end of the key. It's the second lighthouse that was built on Egmont - the first was destroyed by a hurricane in 1848, a storm that overwashed the key and brought about eight feet of water into downtown Tampa.
As former U.S. Rep. Sam Gibbons put it, "This place is loaded with history."
Gibbons was instrumental in getting the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, as well as the state park system, to take over management of the key. Although his efforts are viewed by birders and nature lovers today as being altruistic for critters, Gibbons was quick to point out that his real reason for getting the bureaucracy involved was to stave off any potential development on Egmont.
And he urged conservationists to continue his efforts on other uninhabited barrier islands off Florida's coasts as a goal for the next 100 years.
Sounds like a good rallying cry. Save Our Barriers! You SOBs go!
Yum, yum - more seaweed for Jabba
Seaweed may be the new designer food.
According to Maia McGuire, a Northeast Florida marine extension agent, seaweed is a popular food in some parts of the world.
"Many people are accustomed to having sushi wrapped in seaweed," she wrote in the current edition of "The Marine Scene," but there are many different ways of preparing seaweed.
"In Hawaii, it is traditional to eat raw seaweed, while in Japan the seaweed is typically pickled. In China, seaweeds are cooked before they are eaten. Sargassum, the brown seaweed that washes up on our beaches in storms, can be rinsed in freshwater, patted dry and then deep fried to make a crunchy snack."
Right, Maia. Yum. Yuck. I think I'll stick to stone crab claws. Be sure to put in an order at your local fish house.
Bromiliad fest this weekend
There's a chance to beef up your garden this weekend, as the 12 bromeliad societies in Florida congregate in Sarasota for the "Bromeliad Extravaganza."
On Oct. 22, there will be a plant sale with 1,000s of rare and unusual plants offered. The event will be at the Sarasota Garden Club, 1131 Blvd. Of the Arts, near the Sarasota Hyatt. The free event will run from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., and will feature food, speakers and more, according to event organizers.
The event is being hosted by the Sarasota Bromeliad Society. For more information, contact Len Dolatowski at 748-2120, e-mail him at email@example.com website fcbs.org, or call 955-0875.
Bromeliads, by the way, are members of a plant family known as Bromeliaceae. The family contains more than 2,700 described species in approximately 56 genera, with the most well know being the pineapple. Spanish moss is also a bromiliad.