All posts by Donna Green-Townsend

Celebrating the Life of John Henry Hankinson, Jr.

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John Henry Hankinson, Jr.

Florida lost an environmental giant on March 3rd when John Henry Hankinson, Jr. died.  On March 7, 2017 hundreds gathered at the Fort King Presbyterian Church in Ocala, FL for a celebration of his life. The service included not only friends and family, but environmental leaders from across the state and Southeast region of the United States.

 

During the “Celebration of Life” service, Hankinson was called a modern day Da Vinci,  a patriot and an environmental land use visionary and leader of the environmental protection movement.

He was described as a good husband and father who raised two sons and a person who could make people laugh and dream.

In an email read at the service former EPA Director, Carol Browner, described Hankinson as “a good friend to me and many, many others and mentor to untold number of conservationists.  He lived large and he lived well.”

Manley Fuller, Executive Director of the Florida Wildlife Federation, described Hankinson as, “someone who could disarm people with his humor and his brilliant dry wit…He was a brilliant conservation advocate who functioned at a high level but, with the common touch, he could comfortably negotiate complex deals for clean water with captains of industry or sit down and find common ground with regular folks along Florida’s waterways or around the Gulf of Mexico after the Deepwater Horizon disaster.”

See pictures and hear music from the celebration of life service below:

 

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John Hankinson shaking hands with President Barack Obama

John’s most recent position was the Executive Director of the Gulf Coast Ecosystem Restoration Task Force where he worked with 11 federal agencies and five states to develop strategy for restoration of the Gulf of Mexico following the Deepwater Horizon oil spill.  It’s my understanding he was selected for the position by former President Barack Obama.

He has also served as the Regional Administrator of the EPA’s office in Atlanta overseeing federal wetland regulation and state implementation of delegated Clean Water Act programs in eight southern states.

Closer view of bayfront
Apalachicola Bayfront

His work included promoting comprehensive watershed and coastal aquatic ecosystem management including the Florida Everglades, National Estuary Programs, and efforts to establish a compact for the Apalachicola/Chattahoochee/Flint (ACF) River System.  The list of awards for his accomplishments is long.

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Before working for the EPA he held the position of Director of Planning and Acquisition at the St. John’s River Water Management District in Florida. In that capacity he helped the state acquire more than 200,000 acres of environmentally important lands.

Early in his career Hankinson told me he was inspired by the environmental activism of Marjorie Harris Carr.  Carr is best known for her work at helping stop the construction of the now defunct Cross Florida Barge Canal.  Even though the project came to a halt, there are dams on either side of the state, the Inglis Locke on the Gulf Side and the Kirkpatrick Dam (better known as the Rodman Dam)  between  the St. John’s and Ocklawaha Rivers.

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Cross Florida Barge Canal

In 1996 I produced a series on the Cross Florida Barge Canal controversy when the federal government gave money back to each of the counties who had contributed to the dream for the “Big Ditch.”   To hear John Hankinson’s comments about Marjorie Carr click on segment 5 of my Cross Florida Barge Canal Series entitled, “Remembering Marjorie Carr.”

Hankinson continued the efforts of Carr as he worked for years trying to restore the Ocklawaha River to be a free flowing system.  At times it seemed as if it would really happen as various governors and numerous environmental groups supported the idea.  But each time supporters thought the dam would finally be removed, state lawmakers pushed back.  Leading the opposition for many years was the late State Senator George Kirkpatrick who loved to fish on the Rodman Reservoir.

On the day I interviewed Hankinson for the series in 1997 he was in town for the first official “Undam the Dam Jam” held at the Cousin Thelma Boltin Center in Gainesville.   I can still recall how as we sat outside for our interview, a plane circled above us pulling a banner that read, “Save the Rodman.”  It was as if the opponents of the restoration effort knew I was talking to Hankinson and decided to disturb our interview.  We both got a pretty good laugh out of the scenario above us as I couldn’t keep interviewing him without picking up the sound of the plane overhead.  You can hear his comments in segment 6 of the series listed above.

Former Florida Lt. Governor Buddy MacKay spoke at the service and described Hankinson’s determination to “Free the Ocklawaha.”

DSC08170Hankinson loved playing music and was an avid blues harmonica player with several bands including the band known as Johnny Matanzas and the Hombres as well as the band called, The Non Essentials.

On the morning of March 7th, 2017 John Henry Hankinson, Jr.’s body was laid to rest at Prairie Creek Cemetery near Micanopy , FL.

In lieu of flowers, his family suggested a donation be made to Florida Defenders of the Environment for the John H. Hankinson, Jr. Ocklawaha River Restoration Fund.  (put on bottom of the check).  The address is P.O. Box 357086, Gainesville, FL  32635.

John Henry Hankinson, Jr.   May 8, 1948 – March 3, 2017

RIP John

 

To read two other interesting articles about Hankinson’s legacy go to the Orlando Sentinel at the following link:

http://www.orlandosentinel.com/news/os-john-hankinson-environmentalist-death-20170306-story.html

Another interesting article:

https://flaglerlive.com/105435/john-hankinson-jr/

 

Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings: Memories of her life and times in Cross Creek

Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings & Cracker Culture
A video written and produced by University of Florida Student Monica Berra.  Script Editing assistance and narration by Donna Green-Townsend

 

Two versions of a video produced by Dorsey Lee Townsend III for a class project while in Santa Fe College:

 (Longer version with additional interview added)

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A video distributed by Florida’s Department of Environmental Protection called, “Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings Historic State Park”

 

History of Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings featuring MKR reenactor Betty Jean Steinshouer produced by Visit Gainesville.

 

Interviews regarding the scheduled play, “Invasion of Privacy” which took to the stage of the Fine Arts Hall of Santa Fe College in June of 2015. The interviewees were on the Ilene Silverman Show.

 

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The old Alachua County Courthouse in Gainesville, FL

The 1946 “Invasion of Privacy Trial” of Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings vs. Zelma Cason has captivated lawyers and literary experts alike.  On June 18th thru June 20th, 2015 the public got a flavor of the famous trial  when the award-winning play by Larry Parr, “Invasion of Privacy,” took to the stage of the Fine Arts Hall at Santa Fe College.

It was after Marjorie Rawlings won the Pulitizer Prize for “The Yearling” that she continued her success with her book, “Cross Creek,” a book which captured what her life was like as well as her neighbors in the small fishing community.  But one friend of Rawlings, Zelma Cason, didn’t take “too kindly” to the way Rawlings described her in her book and decided to sue the famous author.  Click here to read more about this famous legal case.

Park Ranger Lee Townsend being interviewed on November 13th, 2009 at the MKR home about Marjorie’s life at the “Creek.”

 

A video interview with author J. T. Glisson about Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings and Cross Creek for Putnam Schools TV.

 

Shelley-Fraser-MickleA True “Mother’s Day” Story About Romance in Cross Creek by Shelley Fraser Mickle

I have a friend who lives at Cross Creek. She moved there over a decade ago from up North, and she would have left probably any number of times except that she fell in love with a man from the Creek. And that made all the difference. Apparently men at the Creek take the romancing of a woman very seriously.

For instance, a first date might be only a midnight fishing trip under a full moon on Orange Lake. It might be a frog gigging, or a beer shared out on a wooden bench near the Creek until it is dark and quiet, so that then you can listen to the alligators bellow in Lochloosa.

 Click here to read more…

 

Cross Creek Summer

MKR on her porchThe first  weekend in August of 1997 kicked off the first annual Cross Creek Summer, Arts and Culture in Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings’ Florida.  Organizers hoped the week-long event would introduce people to the Florida Rawlings loved and attract those ecotourists looking for the real Florida. To hear the report produced by Donna Green-Townsend  Click here

 

 

50th Anniversary of “The Yearling” Celebration on the MKR farm in Cross Creek in April of 1988

 

Video with interesting pictures of Marjorie, though not all the facts are precise.

 

1979 video talking about the architecture of the MKR home in Cross Creek

My Friendship With “The Black Hat Troubadour” Will McLean

 

Will Mclean who was the first folk artist inducted into the Florida Artists Hall of Fame in 1996
Will McLean, the first folk artist inducted into the Florida Artist Hall of Fame in 1996

By the time I met Will McLean he had already penned most of the hundreds of songs and poems he has become famous for.  He’d already performed at Carnegie Hall and made friends with the late Pete Seeger.  His glory days performing on the “Old Marble Stage” at the Florida Folk Festival were long since past.  The truth is, the day I met him I didn’t even really know him by name.  But I think therein lies the reason we became fast friends.  Will McLean was one of the most humble men I’d ever met.

It was in mid-November in 1985.  I was working in the WUFT-FM newsroom in Weimer Hall at the University of Florida when a tall man dressed all in black (that’s how I remember it) walked into my office and kindly, almost demurely, asked if he could post some fliers on the bulletin boards in the hallway to promote his concert that was to take place that following Sunday night November 17th in the Thomas Center in downtown Gainesville.  Just having someone come in and ask to post something was rare.  Thinking back on it, I’m surprised I didn’t just say yes or no.  I remember being intrigued by this man because of the soft-spoken way in which he asked me.  Maybe it was the way he was dressed and his stature that caused me to begin asking him questions, questions that today I’m a bit embarrassed that I asked, but so glad I did.

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Photo on Will McLean’s “Florida Sand” album

I remember questioning him about what kind of songs he’d written.  Instead of being surprised and offended that I didn’t know who he was he began to softly tell me some of the song titles and what they were about.  That’s where my friendship with Will McLean really began.  When he got to the song, “Hold Back the Waters,” my heart actually fluttered.  I had no idea how popular that song really was or the true history behind the song of the 1928 hurricane in Florida over Lake Okeechobee.  Geez, people in Florida had been singing this song like an anthem for more than 20 years.  But in 1985 I had only been living in Florida for a little more than two years and was just getting to know Florida history and area musicians.  But, I knew that song.  I fell in love with “Hold Back The Waters” when I was helping produce a national music series while out in the state of Kansas called, “The Walnut Valley Festival.”  The public radio station I was working for as news director, KHCC-FM, had produced 26 one-hour programs for national distribution.

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Album cover to record by Red and Murphy & Company I purchased at the Walnut Valley Festival in the early 1980s

My job was to interview all the musicians and produce features for the series.  It was my first real introduction to a genre of music you just don’t come across on the radio every day.  One of the groups performing in 1982 was Red and Murphy Henry, a bluegrass family band from Florida (now Virginia).  I can distinctly remember Murphy Henry introducing the song, Hold Back The Waters, saying it was about a hurricane.  Of all the songs I heard at the Walnut Valley Festival those two years in the early 1980s, this was the one song I sat down and wrote out the lyrics to and learned to sing. Listening back to the original tape I can hear Murphy Henry mentioning Will McLean’s name, but at the time I learned it I wasn’t as interested in the artist who wrote it as much as in the story of this devastating storm that pushed Lake Okeechobee’s waters over its banks and drowned between 3,000 to 4,000 people.

truck carrying victims of 1928 hurricaneThe 1928 storm was before television and the weather channel and before hurricanes even had names.  It intrigued me that the Seminoles living in Florida may have warned the storm was coming but people didn’t pay attention.  This storm is the reason there is now a dike all around Lake Okeechobee in South Florida.  There are many accounts from people recalling the storm describing how they were tied to trees by their families so they wouldn’t be swept away.  There are stories about the mass graves following the storm….some marked and some unmarked.  Yes, this was an intriguing song about history and my first introduction to what hurricanes could really do.

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Photo on Will McLean’s “Florida Sand” album

I loved “Hold Back The Waters.”  As soon as Will McLean mentioned it I remember blurting out, “I know that song.”  When I told him where I first heard it his eyes just lit up.  I wasn’t prepared for him to then ask, “Why don’t you come to my concert and sing it with me.”  He had just met me.  He didn’t know if I could sing or not.  I’m sure I thanked him kindly for asking, but he surely didn’t need me to come and sing.  It was his concert after all.  He insisted.

 

 

 

Will McLean waiting to performBefore he left the station I introduced him to our operations manager and our chief engineer and it was decided that WUFT would send its remote recording truck to the concert.  I remember sitting in a little room at the Thomas Center that night in November of 1985 practicing the song with Will.  I was so afraid I’d forget the words or forget how to play it on my guitar.  My fears were relieved when I saw Murphy Henry walk into the Thomas Center, the person I first heard sing the song out in Kansas.  It turned out that I didn’t have to worry about playing the guitar, I only had to sing the song with Will and Murphy.  My fears about forgetting the words disappeared.  Here is the introduction to the song that night in 1985

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and here’s the recording of Will McLean, Murphy Henry and me singing “Hold Back The Waters.”

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In 1985 I was engaged to be married to Lee Townsend from Cross Creek.  He was with me at the Thomas Center.  As it turns out, Lee knew Will for a different reason.  When he was working as a mechanic in Gainesville he often worked on Will’s old vehicles, doing his best to keep them running, many long after they should have been abandoned.  That night Will dedicated a poem to us. It was a poem so appropriate for a couple who lived in the woods in Cross Creek.

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Florida's Black Hat Troubadour I will only say that following that November concert, for whatever reason, that professional recording got stashed away on a shelf and misplaced for nearly 12 years….a whole different story in itself.  Eventually, it resurfaced at just the right time because the new program director at WUFT-FM, Bill Beckett, had an appreciation for what this recording meant to history.  Working together with the Executive Director of the Will McLean Foundation, Margaret Longhill, we turned the recording into the CD, “Will McLean and Friends, Live at the Thomas Center.”  I met Margaret Longhill the same week I met Will in 1985.  She truly understood how rare this professional recording of Will McLean was.  We’ve been friends now for nearly 32 years.

Will McLean standing beside the van he used to travel around the state writing songs about his Florida sand
Will McLean standing beside the van he used to travel around the state writing songs about his Florida sand

Because of the way Will McLean lived, he had very few possessions.  After his wife Alice died of cancer Will spent most of his last years travelling around in an old beat up van and hanging out at campgrounds where he could fish or just plug in his extension cord at the homes of various friends.  He pawned many of his guitars to obtain money to buy wine and  he gave away cassette tapes of his recordings to just about everyone he met.  I think he enjoyed revisiting the places around Florida where his grandpa had taken him as a boy.  Those trips were the inspiration for many of his songs and poems.

Not all of the stories about Will McLean are pretty, but he was a unique individual….a treasure.  About a month after the Thomas Center concert Will came to Cross Creek to help me celebrate my 28th birthday.  I remember having a nice little music jam on my screened porch over Cross Creek.  What I also remember is that Will chose to just sit back and listen to everyone else sing and play, not wanting to be in the spotlight.  As much as I wanted him to play for us, I can now look back and appreciate how he didn’t want to be center stage the way some musicians do.  I liked that quality in him.

The same thing happened on March 15, 1986 at my wedding reception in Cross Creek.  Someone told me Will McLean had just arrived and was looking for me.  He had a wedding present for my husband Lee and me.  It was a cassette full of recordings he had made around the campfires at the Florida Folk Festival and other places.  Not wanting to be the focus of my wedding reception he kindly gave us his “best wishes” and disappeared. After getting to know Will better over the coming months I invited him into the WUFT studios to do a long interview in 1987.  You can hear my first interview with Will in 1985 when I was just getting to know him and the second interview where I knew Will a little better by clicking here.  Let’s just say I’m really glad I have those recordings.  There are stories in those interviews that needed to be preserved forever.

Painting of Will McLean by Marianne Dinella
Painting of Will McLean by Marianne Dinella

Will died in 1990 from cancer.  Friends gathered for his memorial in the Thomas Center, the same venue where I sang with him less than five years before.  Both floors of the Thomas Center were packed.  Many of his friends performed Will’s songs and told stories of how they knew him including the late Gamble Rogers, Don Grooms, Bobby Hicks, Dale Crider, Seminole Chief James Billie, Jeanie Fitchen, Mary Ann Dinella, Doug Gauss and Wayne Martin.  The list is long.  There were tears and much laughter as well.  I don’t think I’ve ever cried so hard.  He touched so many of us in so many ways.  This is the first time I’ve ever really written my thoughts about it.  Thank goodness someone actually video-taped the service.  It is a real treasure to see.

 

Will McLean holding a puppy on a chilly day Afterwards many of us went to Gore’s Landing by the Ocklawaha River to disperse Will’s ashes.  Some of those in attendance were Margaret Longhill, Don Grooms, Dale Crider and family, Donna Green-Townsend and family, Wayne Martin and Bobby Hicks to name a few.  Gore’s Landing was one of Will’s favorite places to camp.  I saw him there while my family was also camping not long before he got so sick.

 

 

Sign dedicated to Will McLean at Gore's Landing
Sign dedicated to Will McLean at Gore’s Landing

Margaret Longhill chose the Ocklawaha River because before he died, McLean had told her that he had hoped to light a small campfire one last time at Gore’s Landing, his favorite campsite.  In this brief recording, you will hear a small portion of that special ceremony at the river:

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the late Will McLean considered to be the "Father of Florida folk"
The late Will McLean considered to be the “Father of Florida folk”

In 1996 because of his artistic contributions Will became the first folk artist inducted into the prestigious Florida Artists Hall of Fame.  Friday, March 10th – Sunday, March 12th marks the 28th anniversary of the Will McLean Folk Festival.  

One of the highlights of the festival is the hour when the winners of the Will McLean Best New Florida Song Contest perform their winning songs.  Will always wanted to “Save Florida Through Music.”  It’s amazing how many songs there are now about his beloved “Florida Sand.”

 If you’ve never been to the Will McLean Folk Festival you really should check it out.  It’s truly a “songwriters festival.”  It’s held at the Sertoma Youth Ranch just 7 miles west of Dade City at the bottom of an orange grove.  It’s small in comparison to many music festivals, but that’s why it’s so special.  The performers and the people who attend are all in the same campground, playing music throughout the night.  

Jessie and Lee Townsend
Jessie and Lee Townsend

My children have grown up there.  In 2016 my son Lee and daughter Jessie Townsend performed on both Saturday and Sunday at the festival and honored many songwriters who have passed on in a special “Florida Set.”  Meanwhile, my daughter Ellie helped with publicity on the Will McLean Facebook page and my son-in-law Andrew Floyd coordinates all the vendors at the festival.  

As the late singer-songwriter Pete Seeger said, “Will McLean’s songs will be sung as long as there is a Florida.”  Rest in Peace Will McLean, my friend.

Jessie and Lee Townsend Tribute CD now available

Listen and Watch song samples from the new “Tribute” CD below:

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Jessie and Lee’s CD is the newest professional recording for this sister/brother duet.

 

(To pre-order a CD, please send $15.00 to:  Jessie Townsend,
13501 SE 171st Lane  Hawthorne, FL 32640)
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Jessie, Red and Chris Henry and David McBrady in the studio

Jessie and Lee Townsend  recently went back into the studio to record six more songs to add to their CD Sampler.  The CD will now have 12 songs and be titled, “Tribute” as it will have songs from several of Florida’s best songwriters past and present including Will McLean, Steve Blackwell, Jim Ballew, Dale Crider, Don Grooms and Ann Thomas to name a few.

 

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Lee Townsend in the studio

Below you will find music videos of five of the songs included on the project followed by audio samples from all of the songs on the CD including “Crying Bird,” written by the late Will McLean about the potential demise of the Florida Limpkin; “Lonesome Wind Blues,” written by the late Wayne Raney and made popular by the Father of Bluegrass, Bill Monroe; “When I Die” written by the late Jim Ballew; “Oh Kissimmee River” written by environmental troubadour Dale Crider from Windsor, FL and “Wild Birds” written by the late Don Grooms.

Jessie and Lee were joined in the studio for this CD by  Chris Henry (guitar, mandolin and vocal harmony), Red Henry (fiddle, mandolin and vocal harmony),  David McBrady (bass and vocal harmony), Jason Thomas (mandolin). Gabe Valla (rhythm guitar), Christian Ward (fiddle), Elisabeth Williamson (vocal harmony) and Lon Williamson (bass).

 

Crying Bird

Lonesome Wind Blues

When I Die
 
 Wild Birds

Oh Kissimmee River

Song samples:
Jessie and Lee Townsend
Jessie and Lee Townsend (all photos by Donna Green-Townsend)

Kentucky Borderline (written by Rhonda Vincent and Terry Herd)  Performing on this fast-paced bluegrass tune that was the 2004 IBMA Song of the Year are Lee on banjo, Jessie singing the lead vocal, Jason Thomas on mandolin, Gabe Valla on rhythm guitar, Christian Ward on fiddle, David McBrady on bass and Elisabeth Williamson singing vocal harmony.

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Bury Me Beneath The Willow This traditional bluegrass song features Jessie singing the lead vocal, Lee on guitar and David McBrady on bass and vocal harmony.

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Nails In My Coffin (written by Gerald Irby) This song orginally written in 1946 features Lee on banjo and rhythm guitar, Jessie singing lead vocal, Elisabeth Williamson on vocal harmony, Christian Ward on fiddle and David McBrady on bass and vocal harmony.

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If I Needed You (written by Townes Van Zandt) features Jessie singing the lead vocal, Lee on guitar, Christian Ward on fiddle, David McBrady on bass and Elisabeth Williamson and David McBrady on vocal harmony.

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Lee and Jessie Townsend with David McBrady
Lee and Jessie Townsend with David McBrady performing Macclenny Farewell at the Will McLean Festival in March, 2016

Macclenny Farewell (written by Will McLean) This love song written by the late Father of Florida Folk features Jessie on the lead vocal, Lee on guitar and David McBrady on bass.

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dsc_0050The Line (written by Steve Blackwell) The line was written by the late Steve Blackwell from Punta Gorda who penned this beautiful song about someone reflecting on all of the family members who have gone on before.  This rendition of the song features Jessie singing the lead vocal, Lee on guitar and Lon Williamson on bass.

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Oh Kissimmee River (written by Dale Crider) Oh Kissimmee River written by environmental troubadour from Windsor, FL, Dale Crider, brings attention to the disastrous environmental effects of trying to straighten the Kissimmee River. This version features Jessie singing the lead vocal, Lee on banjo, Chris Henry on guitar, Red Henry on mandolin and David McBrady on bass.

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Withlacoochee River

When I Die (written by Jim Ballew) When I Die is one of the most beautiful songs ever written by the late Jim Ballew. It features Jessie on vocals, Lee on guitar, Chris Henry on mandolin, Red Henry on fiddle and David McBrady on bass.

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A Florida Limpkin

Cryin’ Bird (written by Will McLean) Cryin’ Bird by Will McLean brings attention to the potential extinction of Florida’s Limpkin because of the lack of food resources the Limpkin eats in the Wakulla River. Jessie sings vocal, Lee plays guitar, Chris Henry plays mandolin, Red Henry is on the fiddle and David McBrady is on bass.  Elisabeth Williamson adds vocal harmony.

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Lonesome Wind Blues (written by Wayne Raney) Lonesome Wind Blues is a very traditional bluegrass song. It was originally recorded in 1947 by Wayne Raney and later made famous by the Father of Bluegrass Bill Monroe. In this version Jessie sings the vocals with harmony added by Chris and Red Henry.  Lee plays banjo, Chris Henry plays guitar, Red Henry is on the mandolin and David McBrady is on the bass.

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Wild Birds (written by Don Grooms) Wild Birds is a love song written by the late Don Grooms. Jessie sings the vocals, Lee is on guitar, Chris Henry is on mandolin, Red Henry is on fiddle and David McBrady is on bass.

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Lost Tourist’s Letter Home (written by Ann Thomas) In this tongue-in-cheek song the late Ann Thomas pokes fun at what a lost tourist would write home about if he or she got off a tour bus in the middle of Florida. Jessie sings vocals, Lee plays banjo, Chris Henry is on guitar, Red Henry is on mandolin and David McBrady is on bass

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Jessie and Lee Townsend  DSC_0057

Jessie and Lee have been performing  for several years.  Venues have included the Florida Folk Festival, the Will McLean Festival, the Alachua and Micanopy Festivals, bluegrass events in Waldo, the Christmas Candelight program at Disney World and a variety of other church services and community events.

 To pre-order a CD, please send $15.00 to:

Jessie Townsend
13501 SE 171st Lane
Hawthorne, FL 32640

To book Jessie and Lee for musical performances call 352-575-3042, or send an email to townsendjessie@gmail.com.

Lee and Jessie Townsend
Lee and Jessie Townsend

 

Winner and finisher of the 2017 Will McLean Best New Florida Song Contest Named

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“Mean Mary” (Mary James) Winner of the 2017 Will McLean Best New FL Song Contest

The winner of the 2017 Will McLean Best New Florida Song Contest  (out of 62 entries) is Mary James, better known as “Mean Mary,” in the music world.  Though she resides now in Tennessee, her roots are in Florida and Alabama (Her family lived in the North Florida area when Mary was born, but the nearest hospital was in Geneva, Alabama!).

James, who also plays banjo, fiddle, guitar and eight other instruments, is no newcomer to the folk music scene.  She began playing the guitar at age four, could read music and wrote her first song at age five, and recorded her first album when she was six.  Her extensive performance schedule soon made school attendance difficult, so at the end of the second grade she went into home study and began appearing daily on the Country Boy Eddie Show, a regional TV program out of Birmingham, AL.  At that same time she also appeared regularly in Nashville, Tennessee at the Elvis Presley Museum, on the Nashville Network, and on Printer’s Alley.

Mean MaryWhen Mary and her frequent music partner,  brother Frank James, grew weary of the commercial, country-music scene, they started a tour of historic folk and Civil War era music. It wasn’t long before they were one of the most sought after historical folk groups in the country. Their careers eventually took them to the bright lights of Hollywood, California where they were involved in various areas of the film industry

James is now based in Nashville, Tennessee from which location she tours extensively across the US and internationally. She has her own Nashville TV show, Never Ending Street—a documentary/reality type show depicting a touring musician’s trials and joys. She is an endorsing artist for Deering Banjos—Deering has named her their Goodtime Ambassador. She writes and produces music for herself and other artists, and has recorded 14 albums, her latest being, “Sweet.”

Her winning song in the 2017 Will McLean Best New Florida Song Contest “Choctawhatchee Waltz” was directly influenced by her family’s gypsy lifestyle. While growing up, her family lived close by the Choctawhatchee River in North Florida. The river’s name was taken from the Choctaw Nation and the Choctaw word hacha (river), literally the “River of the Choctaws.”

“It was so wild and undeveloped—like undiscovered territory. As a kid I could imagine I’d stepped far back in time or into a magical place. Those memories bring back a rush of longing for those wild and simple times. It was something I had to capture with my music,” said James.

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Mean Mary” also scored a second-place finish in the 2017 contest with a song she co-wrote with her mother, Jean James, (a 40-year Florida resident currently living in Tennessee) entitled, “We Never Hear The Song.”  The song tells how people are surrounded by the music of “Mother Nature,” but maybe never realize what they are hearing.

Their song was inspired by Jean’s time hunting snakes and other reptiles, some of which were milked to make antivenom, some went to zoos, and some were shipped overseas for farm rodent control. Part of the reptile money supplied her daughter Mary with musical instruments. At times Mary would accompany her mom on those excursions.

“I saw beavers and otters and giant turtle slides,” Mary explained. “In the river waters I could watch the sturgeon, a fish whose ancestry dates to prehistoric times. It was a real chance to see and hear nature—unbroken and untouched.”

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Mary and Jean James have also co-authored five books, two of which have won first place awards: “Sparrow Alone on the Housetop” (P & E Reader’s Choice award) and a Florida novel, “Wherefore Art Thou, Jane?” (Readers Favorite International Book Award winner for best mystery novel.)

3rd Place Finisher in the 2017 Will McLean Best New FL Song Contest, Jeff Parker
3rd Place Finisher in the 2017 Will McLean Best New FL Song Contest, Jeff Parker

The third-place finisher in the Will McLean Best New Florida Song is Jeff Parker from Jacksonville.

Parker, who recently moved to Yakima, Washington, has played finger-style and flat-pick guitar and mandolin professionally for more than 30 years. Starting in the mid 70’s, he played with the bluegrass band, “Surewood” around the Seattle area. He later moved to Alaska and worked as a solo performer and professional mariner in the fishing industry out of Dutch Harbor, Alaska. With years of working on the road, Jeff has honed his craft influenced by a large variety of musical styles. In 2003, he published a CD entitled “It’s About Time” consisting of original music (and one Michael Peter Smith cover) and is currently writing a second CD of original works.

In addition to Parker’s original songs, a partial list of cover songs is available on his ReverbNation blog. He often plays in Florida with Anne McKennon, a flutist, in the duo Road Less Traveled. Parker says he is a proud member and supporter of the North Florida Folk Network and the Friends of Florida Folk.

Parker’s 3rd place song in the Will McLean Best New Florida Song Contest, “Sugarcane Mill,” describes visual images of the olden days of sugar-cane grinding in Florida.

“My inspiration for the “Sugarcane Mill” song was a request by (folk artist) Suz Grandy to write a song about it for the 40th annual celebration of the Barberville Pioneer Settlement (in North Central Florida) along with many other songwriters and performers,” said Parker.

Parker gathered background on sugarcane mills for the song from the settlement historian and other sources.

“There were some names that stuck out such as Otis Lee who donated much of the equipment for the Settlement and an interesting fellow Wendle LaHoot telling stories from his childhood about harvesting the cane and cooking the juice down and “polecat” candy, which was the crust build-up around the rim of the cook pot from skimming.  On harvest day, dinner would be a cane syrup biscuit and half a sweet potato.”

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“Sugarcane Mill” will be included in a compilation CD of songs celebrating the 40th Anniversary of the non-profit, historical  Barberville Pioneer Settlement in Volusia County.

“Mean Mary” and Jeff Parker will be featured during a special awards presentation at the 2017 Will McLean Festival at noon on Saturday, March 11th.  The festival runs from Friday, March 10th through Sunday afternoon, March 12th at the Sertoma Youth Ranch, 7 miles West of Dade City, FL.  The festival, named after the Father of Florida Folk, the late Will McLean, features music on five stages including a youth performance stage, a variety of workshops, as well as food vendors and  arts and crafts.

 

Click here to go back to the Will McLean Festival website
or
Click here to go to the list of winners by year

 

Archive of the Winners and 2nd and 3rd place finishers of the Will McLean Song Contest Since 1992

Will McLean performing
The late Will McLean

The late Father of Florida Folk, Will McLean, wanted to save Florida through music.  For more than 25 years, a festival named in his honor, has sponsored a song contest to help facilitate McLean’s passion.  Each year a winner and two top finishers are selected by a panel of judges and are given the opportunity to perform their winning song at the annual Will McLean Folk Festival .  Click on a link below to hear the winning songs and 2nd and 3rd place finishers from the long-running festival.

 

 

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2017 Song Contest Winner “Mean Mary,” 2nd “Mean Mary,” 3rd Jeff Parker

2016 Song Contest Winner Lauren Heintz, 2nd Paul Garfinkel and Pete Price, 3rd Ray Sealey

2015 Song Contest Winner Hank Mattson, Dana Robinson, 2nd John Butler and  3rd Lauren Heintz

2014 Song Contest Winner Jane Fallon, 2nd Larry Mangum and 3rd Ray Sealey

2013 Song Contest Winner Elisabeth Williamson, 2nd Susan Brown and 3rd Rog Lee

2012 No Song Contest

2011 Song Contest Winner Ron Johnson, 2nd Al Scortino, 2nd Frank Julian and 3rd Michael Denney

2010 Song Contest Winner Dawn DeWitt, 2nd Walt Leuzinger, and 3rd Michael Denney

2009 Song Contest Winner Garrison Doles, 2nd Chris Kahl and 3rd Carly Bak

2008 Song Contest Winner Rog Lee, 2nd Malcolm McKinney and 3rd Doug Spears

2007 Song Contest Winner Elisabeth Williamson, 2nd Al Scortino and 3rd Scott Morris

2006 Song Contest Winner Mike Jurgensen, 2nd David and Mary Anna Evans and 3rd Larry Mangum

2005 Song Contest Winner Bruce Tetley, 2nd Cathy DeWitt, and 3rd Lucia Jenkins

2004 Song Contest Winner Mike Jurgensen, 2nd Charley Simmons and 3rd David Milam

2003 Song Contest Winners John Hammond, Bettina Makley, (tie) 1st Jeffrey Smith, 2nd Bryan Rivers and 3rd Mike Jurgensen

2002 Song Contest Winner Amy Carol Webb and 2nd Steve Sternberg, 3rd Amy Carol Webb

2001 Song Contest Winner Robbin Bach, 2nd Marie Nofsinger and 3rd Lucinda Kidd Hackney

2000 Song Contest Winner Okefenokee Joe, 2nd Al Scortino and 3rd Gregg Jones

1999 Song Contest Winner Paul Garfinkel, 2nd Lenny Craven, Grant Livingston and 3rd Richard Knellinger

1998 Song Contest Winner Mike Jurgensen, 2nd Lance Lazonby and 3rd Al Scortino

1997 Song Contest Winner Doug Spears, 2nd Paul Garfinkel and 3rd Paul Garfinkel

1996 Song Contest Winner Dennis Dunn, 2nd Okefenokee Joe and 3rd Paul Garfinkel

1995 Song Contest Winner Stan Geberer, 2nd Brad Boone and 3rd Mem Semmes

1994 Song Contest Winner J. Robert Houghtaling, 2nd Lee Paulet and 3rd Al Scortino

1993 Song Contest Winner Boomslang, 2nd Ron Litschauer and a 3-way tie for third

1992 Will McLean Song Contest Winner Ken Skeens, 2nd Ken Skeens, 3rd Ken Skeens

Click here to go back to the Will McLean Festival website

Protest planned over Sleepy Creek water permit request

This site continues to follow various updates on water permit requests from the former Adena Springs Ranch (now Sleepy Creek Lands in Marion County), a cattle operation owned by Canadian billionaire Frank Stronach. Scroll down for various stories, pictures, audio and video from the past several years)

UPDATE:  Protest planned over Sleepy Creek water permit request

On Tuesday,  protesters plan  to show up at the district headquarters of the St. John’s River Water Management District in Palatka to voice their concerns over the approval by the SJRWMD board to allow Sleepy Creek Lands to pump more than a million more gallons a day for the next six years for billionaire Frank Stronach’s cattle operation.

The Governing Board of the water management district will be meeting at 11 a.m. on the issue at 4049 Reid Street in Palatka.

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Adena Protest 3
Sign from earlier protests to stop Frank Stronach and Adena Springs Ranch from pumping groundwater for his cattle operation

On December 14th, 2016 the St. John’s River Water Management District Board issued a notice that it was granting a permit request to Sleepy Creek Lands LLC (formerly Adena Springs Ranch) to increase groundwater pumping.

Here is the essence of the approval: 

Sleepy Creek Lands LLC, 15045 NW 141st Ct, Williston, FL 32696-7446. Consumptive Use Permit application #91926-4. Project known as Sleepy Creek Lands North and East Tracts. This is an application for modification of an existing permit with a request for an additional 1.12 million gallons per day (mgd) of groundwater for agricultural use and a new allocation of 0.14 mgd for a new commercial/industrial use. The District proposes to allocate a total of 2.54 mgd of roundwater from the Upper Floridan aquifer for pasture irrigation, crop irrigation, and livestock use and 0.14 mgd for commercial/industrial use for years 2017 through 2023.

See below for the full text of the approval notification sent out to interested parties:

December 14, 2016

Subject: Notice of District Decision to Grant Permit Application(s) In Marion County

The staff of the St. Johns River Water Management District has completed their review of the permit application(s) described below. Based on this review, the District gives notice of its decision for the application(s) described below.

The District gives notice of its decision to Grant a permit for the following

application(s):

 Sleepy Creek Lands LLC, 15045 NW 141st Ct, Williston, FL 32696-7446. Consumptive Use Permit application #91926-4. Project known as Sleepy Creek Lands North and East Tracts. This is an application for modification of an existing permit with a request for an additional 1.12 million gallons per day (mgd) of groundwater for agricultural use and a new allocation of 0.14 mgd for a new commercial/industrial use. The District proposes to allocate a total of 2.54 mgd of groundwater from the Upper Floridan aquifer for pasture irrigation, crop irrigation, and livestock use and 0.14 mgd for commercial/industrial use for years 2017 through 2023. For years 2024 through 2034, the permitted allocation will reduce to the current permitted allocation of 1.46 mgd. There is no change in the duration of the permit. The withdrawals used by this proposed project will consist of groundwater from FAS-Upper Floridan Aquifer via the following wells: one irrigation well located in Section: 25; Township: 13 South, Range: 23 East (East Tract/Ft McCoy Farms); seven irrigation wells located in Sections: 24, 26, Township: 13 South, Range: 23 East (East Tract/Jones Turf-Grass Farm); two commercial/industrial wells, ten cattle wells and fourteen irrigation wells located in Sections: 2, 3, 4, 5, 9, 10, 11; Township: 13 South, Range: 23 East; Sections 14, 15, 20, 21, 22, 23, 27, 28, 29, 32, 33, 34, 35, Township: 12 South, Range: 23 East, (North Tract).

If you wish to receive a copy of a Technical Staff Report (TSR) that provides the District staff’s analysis of a permit application, please submit your request to:

Director, Office of Business and Administrative Services, P.O. Box 1429, Palatka, FL 32178-1429. You may also review it by going to the Permitting section of the District’s website at sjrwmd.com/permitting/index.html.

To obtain information on how to find and view a TSR or other permit application file documents, visit https://permitting.sjrwmd.com/epermitting/html/EP_FAQs.html and then follow the directions provided under “How to find a Technical Staff Report (TSR) or other application file documents.”

The file(s) containing the permit application(s) and TSR(s) are also available for inspection Monday through Friday, except for District holidays, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., at District Headquarters, 4049 Reid St., Palatka, FL 32177-2529. You may also view files at one of the District’s service centers, but you should call service center staff in advance to make sure that the files are at a specific service center. Service center contact information is available online at jrwmd.com/contactus/offices.html.

If you wish to do so, please refer to the attached Notice of Rights to determine any legal rights you may have concerning the District’s decision (s) on the application(s) described in this letter.

CERTIFICATE OF SERVICE

I hereby certify that a copy of the foregoing Notice of Rights was sent at or before 5 p.m. on December 14, 2016.

Margaret Daniels, Office Director Office of Business and Administrative Services,

St. Johns River Water Management District

4049 Reid Street, Palatka, FL 32177-2529

(386) 329-4570

Permit Number: 91926-4

Notice Of Rights

  1. A person whose substantial interests are or may be affected has the right to request an administrative hearing by filing a written petition with the St. Johns River Water Management District (District). Pursuant to Chapter 28-106 and Rule 40C-1.1007, Florida Administrative Code, the petition must be filed (received) either by delivery at the office of the District Clerk at District Headquarters, P. O. Box 1429, Palatka Florida 32178-1429 (4049 Reid St., Palatka, FL 32177) or by e-mail with the District Clerk at Clerk@sjrwmd.com, within twenty-six (26) days of the District depositing the notice of intended District decision in the mail (for those persons to whom the District mails actual notice), within twenty-one (21) days of the District emailing the notice of intended District decision (for those persons to whom the District emails actual notice), or within twentyone (21) days of newspaper publication of the notice of intended District decision (for those persons to whom the District does not mail or email actual notice). A petition must comply with Sections 120.54(5)(b)4. and 120.569(2)(c), Florida Statutes, and Chapter 28-106, Florida Administrative Code. The District will not accept a petition sent by facsimile (fax), as explained in paragraph no. 5 below.
  1. If the District takes action that substantially differs from the notice of intended District decision, a person whose substantial interests are or may be affected has the right to request an administrative hearing by filing a written petition with the District, but this request for administrative hearing shall only address the substantial deviation. Pursuant to Chapter 28-106 and Rule 40C-1.1007, Florida Administrative Code, the petition must be filed (received) at the office of the District Clerk at the mail/street address or email address described in paragraph no. 1 above, within twenty-six (26) days of the District depositing notice of final District decision in the mail (for those persons to whom the District mails actual notice), within twenty-one (21) days of the District emailing the notice of final District decision (for those persons to whom the District emails actual notice), or within twenty-one (21) days of newspaper publication of the notice of final District decision (for those persons to whom the District does not mail or email actual notice). A petition must comply with Sections 120.54(5)(b)4. and 120.569(2)(c), Florida Statutes, and Chapter 28-106, Florida Administrative Code.
  1. Please be advised that if you wish to dispute this intended District decision, mediation may be available and that choosing mediation does not affect your right to an administrative hearing. If you wish to request mediation, you must do so in a timely-filed petition. If all parties, including the District, agree to the details of the mediation procedure, in writing, within 10 days after the time period stated in the announcement for election of an administrative remedy under Sections 120.569 and 120.57, Florida Statutes, the time limitations imposed by Sections 120.569 and 120.57, Florida Statutes, shall be tolled to allow mediation of the disputed intended District decision. The mediation must be concluded within 60 days of the date of the parties’ written agreement, or such other timeframe agreed to by the parties in writing. Any mediation agreement must include provisions for selecting a mediator, a statement that each party shall be responsible for paying its pro-rata share of the costs and fees associated with mediation, and the mediating parties’ understanding regarding the confidentiality of discussions and documents introduced during mediation. If mediation results in settlement of the administrative dispute, the District will enter a final order consistent with the settlement agreement. If mediation terminates without settlement of the dispute, the District will notify all the parties in writing that the administrative hearing process under Sections 120.569 and 120.57, Florida Statutes, is resumed. Even if a party chooses not to engage in formal mediation, or if formal mediation does not result in a settlement agreement, the District will remain willing to engage in informal settlement discussions.

Notice Of Rights

  1. A person whose substantial interests are or may be affected has the right to an informal administrative hearing pursuant to Sections 120.569 and 120.57(2), Florida Statutes, where no material facts are in dispute. A petition for an informal hearing must also comply with the requirements set forth in Rule 28-106.301, Florida Administrative Code.
  1. A petition for an administrative hearing is deemed filed upon receipt of the complete petition by the District Clerk at the District Headquarters in Palatka, Florida during the District’s regular business hours. The District’s regular business hours are 8:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m., excluding weekends and District holidays. Petitions received by the District Clerk after the District’s regular business hours shall be deemed filed as of 8:00 a.m. on the District’s next regular business day. The District’s acceptance of petitions filed by email is subject to certain conditions set forth in the District’s Statement of Agency Organization and Operation (issued pursuant to Rule 28-101.001, Florida Administrative Code), which is available for viewing at www.sjrwmd.com. These conditions include, but are not limited to, the petition being in the form of a PDF or TIFF file and being capable of being stored and printed by the District. Further, pursuant to the District’s Statement of Agency Organization and Operation, attempting to file a petition by facsimile is prohibited and shall not constitute filing.
  1. Failure to file a petition for an administrative hearing within the requisite timeframe shall constitute a waiver of the right to an administrative hearing. (Rule 28-106.111, Florida Administrative Code).
  1. The right to an administrative hearing and the relevant procedures to be followed are governed by Chapter 120, Florida Statutes, Chapter 28-106, Florida Administrative Code, and Rule 40C-1.1007, Florida Administrative Code. Because the administrative hearing process is designed to formulate final agency action, the filing of a petition means the District’s final action may be different from the position taken by it in this notice. A person whose substantial interests are or may be affected by the District’s final action has the right to become a party to the proceeding, in accordance with the requirements set forth above.
  1. Pursuant to Section 120.68, Florida Statutes, a party to the proceeding before the District who is adversely affected by final District action may seek review of the action in the District Court of Appeal by filing a notice of appeal pursuant to Rules 9.110 and 9.190, Florida Rules of Appellate Procedure, within 30 days of the rendering of the final District action.
  1. A District action is considered rendered, as referred to in paragraph no. 8 above, after it is signed on behalf of the District and filed by the District Clerk. Failure to observe the relevant timeframes for filing a petition for judicial review as described in paragraph no. 8 above will result in waiver of that right to review.

NOR.Intended Decision.DOC.001

Revised 12.7.11

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SleepCreekLands_smlUPDATE: July 19, 2015

Editorial from the Ocala Star Banner

IN OUR OPINION  Editorial: No surprise

Published: Sunday, July 19, 2015 at 6:30 a.m.

Last Modified: Friday, July 17, 2015 at 6:57 p.m.

When the St. Johns River Water Management Governing Board voted unanimously this week to approve a permit allowing Sleepy Creek Lands to pump 1.46 million gallons a day from the aquifer to irrigate pasturelands for grass-fed cattle, the reaction was predictably mixed.

Opponents, who had fought in the town square and the courtroom for more than three years to block the permit, were obviously disappointed.

Supporters of the permit were surely relieved, although far from celebratory, since they have more permits to go, with actual resistance from water managers.

And then there was resignation by the general public. Of course, the permit was approved. They always — always — are, even when an iconic natural asset like Silver Springs is threatened by said permit.

Amazingly, the board said it based its unanimous vote on “science.” Water district scientists said the “science” showed the Sleepy Creek withdrawal would not harm the aquifer, Silver Springs, the Silver River or the Ocklawaha River.

What seemed to be omitted, forgotten or simply ignored, are the dozens of scientific studies that show Silver Springs’ flow is down one-third from historical levels, its nitrate levels are 3½ times the state limits, and algae covers most of the spring and river floors. We wonder where that science was as the water board deliberated.

And never mind that, while Sleepy Creek officials reduced their request from 13 million gallons a day to 1.46 million gallons — with more requests to come, we might add — they also acquired farms in neighboring counties in order to spread their operation and need for water around. So, in the end, Sleepy Creek is using far more than 1.46 million gallons a day across North Florida.

 (click here to see the rest of the Ocala Star Banner editorial)

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July 14th, 2015

Controversial water permit for ranch operation wins state approval

By Kevin Spear  Orlando Sentinel  contact the reporter

A Marion County ranch gets permits to pump from aquifer near Silver Springs.

A water permit linked to the declining health of Silver Springs and fiercely opposed by a broad coalition of environmentalists and Central Florida residents was approved Tuesday by state regulators.

The St. Johns River Water Management District will allow the pumping of nearly 1.5 million gallons a day by Sleepy Creek Lands, a ranch operation in Marion County owned by Canadian industrialist and billionaire Frank Stronach.

The permit application had been contested in a trial-like administrative hearing conducted by the state last year, which resulted in a judge’s siding with Stronach.

Action at the district’s headquarters in Palatka had been widely expected to be a formal ratification of the judge’s decision.

But dozens of impassioned speakers on Tuesday called on the agency’s board to deny a permit for Sleepy Creek as certain to cause further injury to Silver Springs, which is the source of Silver River at the west edge of Ocala National Forest.

“We think you are not protecting our water,” said Whitey Markle, a Sierra Club member, directing forceful comments toward the agency’s board members. “We hope you follow the science and realize we are running out of water.”

The 18-county district, which spans from the Orlando area to Jacksonville, has previously disclosed evidence that Silver Springs is in trouble because of heavy pumping from the Floridan Aquifer by cities and agriculture.

That finding was the basis of the water district’s determining that it would reject a second water permit sought by Sleepy Creek.

But that background was excluded from debate Tuesday because of legal formalities stemming from the administrative hearing.

Supporters of agriculture said approval of the Sleepy Creek permit would stand as important precedent for the viability of ranching in Florida

(click here to see the rest of the Orlando Sentinel story)

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July 14, 2015
St. Johns River Water Management District
News Release
CONTACT: Hank Largin:  407-659-4836 Office
(352)255-7168 (cell)
hlargin@sjrwmd.com

Board follows administrative law judge recommendation, approves Sleepy Creek permit

PALATKA, Fla., July 14, 2015 — Following the recommendation of an administrative law judge (ALJ), the St. Johns River Water Management District’s Governing Board today approved a consumptive use permit (CUP) modification for Sleepy Creek Lands (formerly known as Adena Springs Ranch) for use in their cattle operation in Marion County.

Sleepy Creek Lands currently holds two CUPs that authorize the use of 1.46 million gallons of water per day (mgd) for irrigation of sod on a property known as the East Tract, south of Fort McCoy in Marion County. The permit modification approves the consolidation of these permits into one permit that will expire in 2034. It also authorizes Sleepy Creek to change the use of the water to irrigation for pasture to feed cattle, but does not result in an increase in the allocation (1.46 mgd). Finally, the modification allows Sleepy Creek to withdraw the entire allocation from a property known as the North Tract and limits withdrawals on the East Tract to no more than 0.5 mgd (of the 1.46 mgd). The North Tract is located further away from Silver Springs than the East Tract.

Before the Board meeting, the District’s executive director approved an environmental resource permit (ERP) for Sleepy Creek authorizing the construction of a stormwater management system that will provide water quality treatment for runoff from the North Tract. The ALJ had also recommended approval of the ERP following an administrative challenge.

District staff recommended approval of the permits in 2014 following a lengthy review. On June 2, 2014, the District received petitions challenging the proposed CUP modification and ERP. The District referred the petitions to the Florida Division of Administrative Hearings (DOAH). An administrative hearing was held in Palatka Aug. 25-29, 2014.

In approving the permits today, the District’s decision was required by law to be based solely on the record of the administrative proceedings.

“Our Board carefully reviewed the recommendation from the administrative law judge before concluding that the District should approve the CUP permit modification,” said Governing Board Chairman John Miklos.

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 JUNE 18, 2015

On July 14th the St. John’s River Water Management District Governing Board plans to issue a final order to approve or deny the comprehensive use plan from Sleepy Creek Lands to consolidate two existing sod farm water permits (CUPs) and the addition of another 1.46 million gallons of water per day on those two tracts.  On April 29, 2015, an administrative law judge issued a recommended order that the District issue Sleepy Creek the consumptive use permit (CUP).  The regular July meeting of the SJRWMD Governing Board will be held in Palatka.

(From the SJRWMD website:  Background)

The District received a CUP application on Dec. 2, 2011, for the Adena Springs Ranch, which has since changed its name to Sleepy Creek Lands. Through the review process that included three formal Requests for Additional Information (RAI) from the District, the applicant amended its application. The requested allocation for new groundwater was reduced from an original 13 mgd to 1.12 mgd. Sleepy Creek Lands also requested the consolidation of two of its existing CUPs and the use of 1.46 mgd of groundwater on the North and East tracts. If issued, the combined total for both the new and existing groundwater allocations would be 2.58 mgd.

Meanwhile, environmentalists across the state remain concerned about the fragility and decline of Silver Springs and say they are worried about the impact of first phase plans for 9,500 head of cattle in the Silver Springs watershed.  Groups such as Florida Defenders of the Environment and the St. John’s Riverkeeper organization say Florida’s iconic Silver Springs would continue to be degraded from the over-pumping of groundwater and increased nutrient pollution from cow manure.  They are also alarmed at the recent abrupt departure of four senior staffers from the SJRWMD, calling it evidence of further erosion of water quality protections in Florida.

 

UPDATE: May 8, 2015

S6300420.AVI.Still005
Glass-bottom boat on Silver Springs in 2010 (photo by Donna Green-Townsend)
Four senior staff resign from water management district

By Jim Waymer

FLORIDA TODAY  May 8, 2015

Four senior staff resigned this week from the state agency tasked with guarding the St. Johns River, the Indian River Lagoon and surrounding waters and wetlands.

And the shakeup at the St. Johns River Water Management District has some conservationists fearing the worst for Florida’s waters.

“I think it’s very clearly an orchestrated effort to strip the district of it’s most knowledgeable people,” said Charles Lee, director of advocacy for Audubon Florida. “It’s part of the moving front to disassemble, dumb down and render less effective the environmental agencies in Florida.”

The St. Johns district encompasses all or part of 18 counties — including Brevard — from just north of Jacksonville to just south of Vero Beach, to just west of Gainesville. The district oversees permits to pump water from the ground, lakes and rivers for homes, agriculture and businesses within a region of more than 5 million people.

The district’s acting executive director, Mike Register, declined to say why the four resigned.  Click here to see the rest of the story

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Environmentalists vow to fight ruling they say threatens Silver Springs
By  (from Florida Politics.com)

Florida environmental groups say they’ll keep fighting after an administrative law judge approved a plan for a ng>cattle operation they say threatens the state’s iconic Silver Springs and the Ocklawaha River Aquatic Preserve.

“The 9,500 head of cattle planned … will produce nearly 158 million pounds of manure and 11 million gallons of urine per year. In addition, 700,000 pounds of nitrogen from fertilizer will be used to grow grass and crops to feed the cattle,” said St. Johns Riverkeeper Lisa Rinaman.

“Our experts and attorneys presented evidence that the aquifer is critically over-tapped in the Silver Springs springshed, and that the fertilizer and manure will increase nutrient pollution in the Silver and Ocklawaha rivers.”

Rinaman and the St. Johns Riverkeeper organization have joined with the Sierra Club and other parties in a legal challenge to Canadian billionaire Frank Stronach.

Stronach is one of Marion County’s largest landowners. He had asked the St. Johns River Water Management District for permission to move water rights involving his cattle operation at Sleepy Creek Lands from sod farms to a larger cattle ranch a few miles north.

A granted permit would approve the pumping of 1.46 million gallons a day from the Floridan Aquifer. The water would be used for the first phase of a multiphase beef operation.

Administrative Law Judge Gary Early ruled Wednesday in Stronach’s favor, saying petitioners have failed to prove the water withdrawal threatens the environment.

The SJRWMD Governing Board will vote on the permit at an upcoming meeting. However, environmentalists across the state are also alarmed at news this week that four senior staffers are abruptly departing the SJRWMD, calling it evidence of further erosion of water quality protections in Florida.

The fragility and decline of Silver Springs has long been a clarion call for environmentalists in the Sunshine State, and has received national publicity.

“One of the most troubling parts of the judge’s conclusions is his finding that the proposed withdrawal is ‘consistent with the public interest.’ Allowing our over-pumped aquifer and polluted waterways to be further degraded for the economic benefit of a private landowner is completely contrary to the public interest,” Rinaman said.

The Riverkeeper and other groups say they’ll demonstrate opposition to the permit  when the SJRWMD Governing Board meets to vote on the permit.

Gallery Photos below taken by Donna Green-Townsend

 

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May 6, 2015
Central Florida’s water agency roils with resignations

Simultaneous and unexplained departures by four executives from the agency that protects Central Florida’s wetlands, rivers and aquifer triggered complaints Wednesday that the moves were orchestrated to weaken the region’s environmental safeguards.

Two of the four executives said in resignation letters they were leaving rather than be fired by the St. Johns River Water Management District, which already was roiling from the earlier resignation of its executive director. The four had a combined 89 years of service at the agency, and all had excellent or high marks in performance reviews.  click here to see more of this story by:  Kevin Spear of the Orlando Sentinel:

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May 5, 2015

Response has been swift from the Head of Florida Defenders of the Environment Karen Ahlers to an administrative law judge’s recommendation to the St. John’s River Water Management District to approve a comprehensive use plan by Sleepy Creek Lands……

(press release from Florida Defenders of the Environment)

RULING BY JUDGE THREATENS SILVER SPRINGS

Judge recommends approval for controversial cattle operation

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Posters from a recent protest rally on the Silver River

SILVER SPRINGS, FL — Despite evidence that Florida’s iconic Silver Springs would be further degraded from the over-pumping of groundwater and increased nutrient pollution, an Administrative Law Judge has recommended approval of a permit for the massive cattle operation, Sleepy Creek Lands (formerly known as Adena Springs Ranch). The Judge’s ruling is the result of a legal challenge by Sierra Club, St. Johns Riverkeeper, and two citizens, Jeri Baldwin and Karen Ahlers. Florida Defenders of the Environment also supported this challenge as an Intervener.

Sleepy Creek Lands and its owner, Canadian billionaire Frank Stronach, are seeking a permit to pump 1.46 million gallons a day (mgd) from the already-stressed Floridan Aquifer for the first phase of a multi-phase beef operation located close to Silver Springs and the Ocklawaha River Aquatic Preserve. The proposed project has created uproar from concerned citizens throughout the state.

“The declining health of Silver Springs is emblematic of the significant water quality and water use problems we are facing throughout Florida,” says Karen Ahlers. “The Sleepy Creek permit represents everything that is wrong with our regulatory process and the way we allocate the public’s water, and is a classic example of the state’s ongoing failure to protect our most important water resources.”

During the administrative hearing, it was revealed that the 9,500 head of cattle planned for Phase I will produce nearly 158 million pounds of manure and 11 million gallons of urine per year. In addition, 700,000 pounds of nitrogen from fertilizer will be used to grow grass and crops to feed the cattle.

The petitioners presented evidence that the aquifer is critically over-tapped in the Silver Springs springshed, and that the fertilizer and manure will increase nutrient pollution in the Silver and Ocklawaha Rivers. The flow of Silver Springs has already declined on average by more than 30 percent, and nitrate concentrations have increased 20-fold over healthy background levels. In 2012, the state of Florida introduced a cleanup plan calling for a 79% reduction in nutrient pollution from existing users to protect Silver Springs and the upper Silver River.

The legal challenge was in response to the proposal by St. Johns River Water Management District staff to grant the requested permit to Sleepy Creek Lands despite overwhelming evidence that groundwater in the area is already over-allocated and that existing permitted withdrawals are contributing to the significant flow reductions at Silver Springs.

While disappointed, the petitioners say the battle is not over. The parties first have an opportunity to file written exceptions to the Recommended Order, explaining where they think the Judge erred in his determinations. The Judge’s recommendation and these exceptions will then be considered by the St Johns River Water Management District Governing Board when they vote on the permit at a to-be-determined upcoming meeting.

One of the weakest parts of the Judge’s conclusions is his finding that the proposed withdrawal is “consistent with the public interest,” says to St. Johns Riverkeeper Lisa Rinaman. “Allowing our over-pumped aquifer and polluted waterways to be further degraded for the economic benefit of a private landowner is completely contrary to the public interest. The Judge’s recommendation elevates the economic interests of a few about the damage that will likely occur to Silver Springs, Silver River and the Ocklawaha River, and ignores the testimony of nearly 50 citizens who spoke as part of the administrative hearing process.”

Sierra Club’s Linda Bremer echoed Rinaman’s sentiments. “The water management district is tasked with protecting the springs, rivers, and groundwater that belongs to the citizens of this state. We should not have to fight so hard to protect our water resources and hold our regulatory agencies accountable.”

A copy of the Recommended Order by Administrative Law Judge Gary Early is available upon request.

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April 30, 2015

SleepCreekLands(update from the St. John’s River Water Management District website)

Sleepy Creek Lands (formerly known as Adena Springs Ranch) in Marion County submitted two consumptive use permit (CUP) modification requests to the St. Johns River Water Management District.

One request is an application to consolidate two existing sod farm permits on Sleepy Creek’s East Tract (see map) that have current combined allocations of 1.46 mgd into a single permit. The request further seeks to allow 0.96 mgd of the existing East Tract allocation to be withdrawn from the North Tract.

District staff completed the review of this request on May 14, 2014, and recommended that the District’s Governing Board approve that application. The staff’s recommendation to approve, was based, in part, on:

The modification does not increase currently permitted water use allocations. The original allocations were approved in 2001 (0.55 mgd) and 2006 (0.91 mgd) and the applicant is not requesting additional water.
At least 0.96 mgd of the allocated groundwater withdrawals would be located approximately 2.7 miles further away from Silver Springs (a total distance of 12.2 miles from the springs).

The District’s analysis projects that the relocation of the allocated groundwater withdrawals would result in some benefit to the modeled spring flows.

The applicant obtained an environmental resource permit (ERP) on May 12, 2014, to address potential water quality issues. The ERP requires additional water quality treatment through the establishment of vegetated upland buffers, retention berms, redistribution swales, and the implementation of other conservation practices.

The District received two petitions on June 2, 2014, challenging the proposed CUP issuance. The District referred the petitions to the Florida Division of Administrative Hearings (DOAH) for assignment of an independent administrative law judge (ALJ). An administrative hearing was held Aug. 25–29, 2014, in Palatka. At that hearing, District staff presented the facts and the law that led to their recommendation for the permit’s approval.

On April 29, 2015, the ALJ issued a recommended order that the District issue the CUP. The District will review the recommended order as well as any exceptions (objections) to the recommended order that may be filed by the parties. The District’s Governing Board will enter a final order to approve or deny the CUP at an upcoming public meeting. A date has not been set for that meeting. When entering a final order, the District has limited authority to modify the recommended order.

The other permit request seeks a new allocation of 1.12 million gallons of water per day (mgd) for use on Sleepy Creek’s North Tract (see map).

District staff completed its review of the request in July 2014 and, based on cumulative impacts to Silver Springs and the Silver River, recommended that the Governing Board deny the application at the Board’s August 2014 public meeting.

The applicant subsequently waived permitting timeframes and third parties filed petitions raising other grounds for denial in addition to cumulative impacts to Silver Springs and the Silver River. Therefore, the application is not currently scheduled to be considered by the Governing Board.

Additional details about the staff’s recommendation are available in the Technical Staff Report.

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Scroll down to see archive pictures and video and to hear audio on this continuing story below):

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(Photos courtesy of Putnam County Environmental Council)

On Saturday, September 13th, 2014 opponents of the Sleepy Creek Lands (formerly Adena Springs Ranch) held their 3rd annual Adena Protest Event. The event was a benefit to raise funds for the Water Protection Fund through Southern Legal Counsel.  Net proceeds are going toward the legal challenge to the Sleepy Creek Lands grassfed beef project in Ft. McCoy, Florida.

The event got underway at 1:00 with a flotilla of paddlers in the Silver River carrying protest signs opposing the proposed water permit requests from the Sleepy Creek Lands. The event also included an afternoon of live music, games and food.

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Entertainers for the Saturday event included Grant Peeples, the Ashley Gang, Bob Patterson & Charley Simmons, Whitey Markle, Bill & Eli Perras, the Wild Shiners, and Tom Ellis.  For more information go to www.water-first.org, call 352-546-3560, or email ahlers.karen@gmail.com. The event was sponsored by Karen Ahlers and Jeri Baldwin, Putnam County Environmental Council, Blue Water Bay and Southern Legal Counsel.

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One of many protest signs over Sleepy Creek’s water permit request.

Update September 3, 2014:  (from the SJRWMD website)

Sleepy Creek Lands (formerly known as Adena Springs Ranch) in Marion County recently submitted two consumptive use permit (CUP) modification requests to the St. Johns River Water Management District.

 

 

 

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  • One request seeks a new allocation of 1.12 million gallons of water per day (mgd) for use on Sleepy Creek’s North Tract (see map).District staff completed its review of the request in July 2014 and, based on cumulative impacts to Silver Springs and the Silver River, recommended that the Governing Board deny the application at the Board’s August 2014 public meeting.The applicant subsequently waived permitting timeframes and third parties filed petitions raising other grounds for denial in addition to cumulative impacts to Silver Springs and the Silver River. Therefore, the application is not currently scheduled to be considered by the Governing Board.  Additional details about the staff’s recommendation are available in theTechnical Staff Report. 
  • The other request is a separate permit application to consolidate two existing sod farm permits on Sleepy Creek’s East Tract (see map) that have current combined allocations of 1.46 mgd into a single permit. The request further seeks to allow 0.96 mgd of the existing East Tract allocation to be withdrawn from the North Tract.District staff completed the review of this request on May 14, 2014, and recommended that the District’s Governing Board approve that application. The staff’s recommendation to approve, was based, in part, on:
    • The modification does not increase currently permitted water use allocations. The original allocations were approved in 2001 (0.55 mgd) and 2006 (0.91 mgd) and the applicant is not requesting additional water.
    • At least 0.96 mgd of the allocated groundwater withdrawals would be located approximately 2.7 miles further away from Silver Springs (a total distance of 12.2 miles from the springs).
    • The District’s analysis projects that the relocation of the allocated groundwater withdrawals would result in some benefit to the modeled spring flows.
    • The applicant obtained an environmental resource permit (ERP) on May 12, 2014, to address potential water quality issues. The ERP requires additional water quality treatment through the establishment of vegetated upland buffers, retention berms, redistribution swales, and the implementation of other conservation practices.

    The District received two petitions on June 2, 2014, challenging the proposed CUP issuance. The District referred the petitions to the Florida Division of Administrative Hearings (DOAH) for assignment of an independent administrative law judge (ALJ). An administrative hearing was held Aug. 25–29, 2014, in Palatka. At that hearing, District staff presented the facts and the law that led to their recommendation for the permit’s approval. The ALJ will issue a recommended order at a later date.

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One of many different signs protesting water permit request for Adena Ranch in Marion County.
One of many different signs protesting the water permit request for Adena Sprngs Ranch.

Update July 16, 2014:  The staff of the St. John’s River Water Management District is recommending the Board of the water management district deny approval to Canadian billionaire Frank Stronach’s request to pump 1.12 million gallons of water per day for his Sleepy Creek Lands (formerly known as Adena Springs Ranch) in Marion County.  The District Governing Board will take up the issue at a public meeting on August 12th and at an administrative hearing scheduled for August 25th, 2014 in Palatka.

In its report, the staff indicated Stronach’s request for 1.12 mgd could “contribute to cumulative harm to the ecology of Silver Springs and the Silver River.”  According to the St. John’s River Water Management District website, the staff utilized scientific studies conducted in the development of minimum flows and levels for Silver Springs and the Silver River.  Additional details about the staff’s recommendation are available in the Technical Staff Report.

In a press release Karen Ahlers, Executive Director of Florida Defenders of the Environment and activist with the Water Action Team, said she was pleased about the staff’s recommendation,

“Kudos to SJRWMD for standing by the science and recommending denial of this permit modification. The additional water requested by Sleepy Creek Lands would have made a bad permit that much worse for Outstanding Florida Waters that are already impaired and degraded.”

Although pleased with the staff’s recommendation for denial of the permit Ahlers says she is still concerned about other permit requests coming for separate land tracts owned by Stronach.

Stronach, who is the largest landowner in Marion County, is asking permission from the Water Management District to consolidate two existing sod farm permits on Sleepy Creek’s East Tract that have current combined allocations of 1.46 mgd into a single permit. In addition, Stronach wants to allow 0.96 mgd of the existing East Tract allocation to be withdrawn from the North Tract.  The district staff reviewed this request on May 14, 2014 and recommends the District’s Governing Board approve that application.

Two environmental groups are contesting this  water swap request by Adena Springs Ranch.  St. Johns Riverkeeper and Sierra Club Northeast are filing a complaint with the St. John’s River Water Management District against Adena’s request to  use its sod farm water permit at its proposed cattle operation.  The two environmental groups will plead their case before an administrative law judge later this summer.

The Adena plan is to use the vast majority of the water to irrigate grasses needed to feed the cattle on the ranch, but the environmental groups say they remain concerned about potential negative ramifications of cattle manure on the Silver Springs Watershed.

“Impacts to the Ocklawaha River from groundwater contamination and surface water runoff have been all but ignored,” said Ahlers.  “The ranch was historically used to grow pine trees and provided significant habitat for wildlife. It has now been denuded to make way for irrigated pasture to support 9,500 head of cattle. The pollution runoff from this site will be horrific.”

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Owner of Sleepy Creek Lands, Frank Stronach (4th from left) with a variety of dignitaries at the ribbon-cutting ceremony for the IFAS research facility named in his honor

UPDATE April 11th, 2014:  The St. John’s River Water Management District has issued the latest development on the hotly debated Adena Springs Ranch water permit request.  The SJRWMD website published where the application process stands:

“… The applicant has elected to split its project into three phases: Phase I (the North Tract); Phase II (the Advanced Practices Pilot Project); and Phase III (the South Tract). With its RAI (request for additional information) response, the applicant has modified its pending application to include only the North Tract and has reduced its withdrawal request to 2.389 mgd average daily use. In its RAI response, the applicant also states that it will be filing a second permit application for an Advanced Practices Pilot Project (APPP). The purpose of the APPP is to more accurately determine 1) the level of nutrient treatment provided by proposed retention ponds and 2) the amount of reuse water that can be provided by the retention ponds for irrigation. The applicant further states that a permit application for the southern portion of the project, Phase III, will be pursued in the future and will incorporate the findings from the APPP.”

In the early days of the process Adena Springs Ranch owner Frank Stronach had discussed wanting 27 million gallons of water per day.

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UPDATE March 12th, 2014:  The Adena Springs Ranch has received a one month extension on its request to pump more than 5.3 million gallons of water per day for its cattle ranching operation in North Central Florida.  The permit request has been hotly debated because the cattle operation is in the Silver Springs watershed.  Posted on the St. John’s River Water Management District website on March 12th, 2014:  “At the applicant’s request, the District granted a third time extension until April 10, 2014, to respond to the request for additional information or to request an extension of the response time frame.” (additional video and pics of Frank Stronach added near the bottom of this post)

Adena Springs Ranch had already received extensions in September and December of 2013. The SJRWMD water managers want Adena to conduct tests to explore potential environmental effects from withdrawing water.  The SJRWMD says when the application is complete, District staff will determine if the requested allocation of water meets District permitting criteria.

Frank Stronach stands next to Florida Senate President Mike Haridopolos at an IFAS building dedication ceremony.
Frank Stronach stands next to Florida Senate President Mike Haridopolos at an IFAS building dedication ceremony.

Many of those who oppose the water permit request from Adena have expressed concern that a cattle ranch will exacerbate the already degraded condition of water in Silver Springs and the Silver River.  Since the original permit request process began, the State has officially taken over as the owner of the former Silver Springs Tourist attraction and has begun work on a series of infrastructure improvements to the park. 

Senator Bob Graham is opposed to Adena Springs Ranch getting a water permit.  Graham, who helped initiate the Florida Conservation Coalition, says Florida has two problems.

Former Florida Governor and U.S. Senator Bob Graham
Former Florida Governor and U.S. Senator Bob Graham

“We have a quantity problem, which is a product of the long-running drought we had through much of the last decade, but also the permanent issue of overconsumption,” says Graham. “Many of the rivers and streams in Florida have more water committed to various purposes from cooling utility plants to putting water in our bathroom faucet than there is water in the system.”

Graham says the second problem is quality, “There’s been a very big spike particularly in phosphorus and nitrogen in our water supply and that is changing the character of our rivers and streams.  So we’ve got to fight both of those battles concurrently.”

When asked directly about his opinion over the Adena Springs Ranch permit request, Graham says he thinks it should be denied, “because I think that is a very large consumptive use permit in an area that has already shown the serious signs of the consequences of overuse and drawing the amount of water in the system below that which is necessary to sustain itself,” says Graham.

He says since the State of Florida has taken over Silver Springs, “there’s the potential to take better care of the springs because now it’s going to be the state’s responsibility and provide more appropriate and adequate access to the springs for all the kinds of happy experiences that I had at Silver Springs growing up in Florida and most young Floridians of my age had available to them.”

Original story:  Today (09/16/2013) is the deadline for the staff of the Adena Springs Ranch in Marion County  to respond to a third request for needed information from the St. John’s River Water Management District in the company’s ongoing request for a consumptive use permit to pump more than 5.3 million gallons of water per day for its cattle ranching operation.  The original request was for more than 13 million gallons of water per day.  According to the SJRWMD website, prior to the official application for a consumptive use permit, Adena Springs Ranch owner Frank Stronach had discussed wanting 27 million gallons of water per day.

Adena Springs Ranch, owned by billionaire Frank Stronach, comprises nearly 25,000 acres of land in northeastern Marion County.  Stronach also owns 35,000 acres in Levy County.  Stronach’s plan is to grass-feed his cattle in a stress-free environment with plans to harvest the animals in a way that he says, “protects his neighbors and the environment.”

Protesters turn out at Frank Stronach Bldg. Dedication over his Adena Springs Ranch water permit application
Protesters turn out at the IFAS Frank Stronach bldg. dedication over his Adena Springs Ranch water permit application

But many thousands of residents have voiced concern about the potential negative impact of the nutrients from the manure of so many cows on the Silver Springs watershed. Many have also staged protests over the amount of water Stronach wants pumped for his operation, especially in light of Florida’s drought last year.

Donna Green-Townsend talked with both Republican State Representative Dennis Baxley from Ocala and the Director of the Howard T. Odum Florida Springs Institute, Bob Knight about both sides of the controversial cattle operation.

 

Republican State Representative from Ocala Dennis Baxley
Republican State Representative from Ocala Dennis Baxley

Representative Baxley says he believes Frank Stronach is a good environmental steward.  He also says a cattle ranch would be a better use of the property than another large retirement community:

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Bob Knight
Bob Knight, President of the Howard T. Odum Florida Springs Institute

Springs Institute Director Knight says he doesn’t feel Adena Springs Ranch needs the water when it could be utilizing other conservation measures by storing rainfall and other techniques.  He says the aquifer has not recovered from over pumping that has already occurred from a wide variety of industries, including agricultural use.  He’s worried the St. John’s River Water Management District will feel pressured to give a consumptive use permit to the Adena Springs Ranch because Stronach has spent a lot of money in the community :

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Frank Stronach

At the May 2012 IFAS building dedication ceremony to name the Plant Science Research Center after him, Stronach gave a short interview to Donna Green-Townsend.  He says for the past two decades he has been a good neighbor:

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Stronach says the cattlemen in Florida wanted him to build a processing plant in North Central Florida to keep from sending their cows off to other states for slaughter

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and he added he is aware there have been some dry years in Florida, but he feels he will rely on experts who will use the best science to determine the right process for his business

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Here is a video recording of Frank Stronach’s speech at the IFAS building dedication ceremony in May of 2012. Stronach expresses sadness about the number of protestors who were outside the building and across the street who oppose his water permit application for Adena Springs Ranch.

The website for Adena Springs Ranch indicates the business does care about its neighbors and the environment and disputes the claim that a consumptive use permit will change the water flow of Silver Springs. The company website says technical experts have been hired to study and prevent any potential environmental concerns regarding nearby wells of property owners or nutrient issues from the cow manure. The website also includes a short video explaining the Adena Springs Ranch operation:

 

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The Cades’ Christmas Display Near Orange Springs, A Gift to the Community

For 19 years the public has been treated to a beautiful Christmas display of lights near Orange Springs, just a few miles north of Ft. McCoy. Charlie and Sally Cade say the light show is the family’s gift to the community.  Charlie says he has fond memories of his years growing up in Miami when his family couldn’t afford a lot at Christmas time.  He remembers how his family would drive around the city to see Christmas lights.  Now his family’s display of more than 200-thousand lights is a way of providing that joyful experience for others.

More than 450 yard figures dazzle thousands of children and adult visitors alike.  Charlie encourages everyone to sign his guest book.  The Cades’ walk-thru Christmas light display is free to the public through New Year’s Day from 6 to 10 p.m.  It’s located at 23373 NE 112th Ct, Orange Springs, FL 32182.

Florida cleans up after Hurricane Matthew and experts say remember past history

Update November, 2016: Florida’s East coast experienced serious beach erosion from Hurricane Matthew and many businesses and homes suffered severe damage from the huge tidal wave associated with the hurricane.  In particular, Florida Highway A1A in Flagler County was washed out and many homes along North A1A from Vilano Beach northward have been declared uninhabitable because the sand dunes were washed away underneath the homes. Many streets in St. Augustine are filled with debris piles waiting to be removed.  Several businesses along the waterfront in downtown St. Augustine have not yet reopened as they are still under rennovation from the water that pushed through during high tide during the storm.  Below are pictures of just some of the damage caused by Hurricane Matthew just north of St. Augustine on North A1A as well as on South A1A. See also pictures of the hired road crew working feverishly to fix the highway on Flagler Beach that gave way during the hurricane.  Not only is the highway up and running, but dump trucks and shovels are putting down large rocks alongside the highway to help hold the sand and roadway in place.

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Additional footage and information about the overal impact of Hurricane Matthew can be viewed on this Weather channel link.
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Original story: Friday, October 7th, 2016

214531w5_nl_smAt 5 p.m. the National Hurricane Center reports extremely dangerous Hurricane Matthew is causing devastation on Florida’s northeast coast.  Matthew is located at 30.2 N, 80.7 W.  Winds are 110 (175 km). Jacksonville reports indicated wind gusts up to 82 mph at times.  The storm is 948 mb (28.0).  Hurricane Matthew is expected to turn toward the N/NE and then NE on Saturday.  Matthew should begin to weaken in the the next 48 hours. Meanwhile Matthew is continuing to bring high winds inland and serious storm surge to beaches on Florida’s northeast coastline.

214531The National Hurricane Center reports Hurricane-force winds extend outward up to 60 miles (95 km) from the center and tropical-storm-force winds extend outward to 185 miles (295 km).  The minimum central pressure recently reported by reconnaissance aircraft was 947mb (27.97 in).  Matthew is expected to remain a hurricane until it begins to move away from the U.S.

huirFloridians and visitors can go to FloridaEvacuates.com or download the Florida-Evacuates app to enter their location and see shelters available in their area.

Damage from Hurricane Hermine (Photo Credit CNN)
Damage from Hurricane Hermine (Photo Credit CNN)

Following the most recent update from the National Hurricane Center on

Hurricane Matthew, Governor Scott has activated an additional 1,000 National Guard members. 3,500 members have now been activated.  This is over half of the available troops that may be activated.  Governor Scott has continued to activate more members to help with important life-saving operations, including evacuations and preparing for search and rescue missions.  Governor Scott is requesting President Obama to send additional federal resources to Florida, including generators and pumps, that the state can preposition to help impacted areas.

The Florida Department of Health will be updating hospital evacuation information at FLHealth.gov

TOLLS

  • Governor Scott directed DOT to suspend all tolls in the affected areas of the state, which includes the entire Florida Turnpike, Alligator Alley, Central Florida Expressway Authority and the Miami-Dade Expressway Authority.

Many beach communities are being evacuated because of expected storm surge.  Governor Scott says people need to have a plan, know where evacuation centers will be located and have food and supplies to last at least 3 days including water, medicine and batteries.  Scott says gather together important documents such as insurance papers.   Make plans for how to deal with your pet in an emergency evacuation.  A complete list of disaster planning suggestions are located on the Florida Division of Emergency Management Website.

Boats washed ashore from Hurricane Hermine (photo credit AP)
Boats washed ashore from Hurricane Hermine (photo credit AP)

Even though Hurricane Hermine hit on Labor Day Weekend this year, it’s been 12 years since Florida experienced a major tropical system. That’s when Hurricane Wilma struck South Florida.  Just a year before Wilma, 2004 became one for the history books as Hurricanes Charley, Frances, Jeanne and Ivan wreaked their havoc on the Sunshine State.

It was 11 years ago on August 29th when Hurricane Katrina hit the Gulf Coast near Buras, Louisiana and took its toll on New Orleans and the Mississippi coastline, becoming one of the most costly storms in U.S. history.  According to NOAA, the damage estimates from Katrina reached $108 billion dollars.  The official death toll from Katrina is 1,200 making it the 3rd deadliest storm in history behind the 1900 hurricane which hit Galveston, TX leaving 8,000 dead.  The 2nd deadliest storm was the Lake Okeechobee storm in Florida in 1928  killing approximately 3,000 people.

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Scene from the aftermath of the 1900 hurricane that struck Galveston, TX

For Floridians who lived in South Florida during Hurricane Andrew, the thought of any tropical system possibly heading toward the Sunshine State brings back painful memories.

Hurricane Andrew, August 1992
Hurricane Andrew, August 1992

It was on August 24th, 1992 when the catastrophic storm struck Homestead and South Florida with winds of 150 miles an hour with gusts up to 175 miles an hour.  Andrew is listed as the 4th worst hurricane to hit the United States with a damage total of more than 25-billion dollars.  Nearly four dozen people were killed.

In 2011 Homestead resident (and former mayor) Steve Bateman, talked with Donna Green-Townsend about living through Hurricane Andrew and how Homestead has worked toward economic recovery.  At the time of the interview, Hurricane Irene was churning in the Atlantic. (from Donna’s audio archives).

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truck carrying victims of 1928 hurricaneFlorida has experienced many devastating hurricanes through the years.  Some of the worst storms didn’t even have names.  The 1928 Category 4 storm that pushed Lake Okeechobee over its banks offically killed 3,000 people, but is believed by many to have drowned 4,000 souls.  Many were migrant workers who ended up in mass graves following the storm….some marked and some unmarked.  There are many accounts from people recalling the storm describing how they were tied to trees by their families so they wouldn’t be swept away.

The late singer songwriter Will McLean wrote his most famous song about that tragedy.  “Hold Back The Waters” has become somewhat of a Florida anthem in folk circles.  McLean was the first folk artist inducted into the Florida Artists Hall of Fame. See a video of the late singer-songwriter singing his famous song below:

The 1928 storm was before television and the weather channel so there was no real advance knowledge about the hurricane. It’s been written that the Seminoles living in Florida may have warned the storm was coming but people didn’t pay attention.  This storm is the reason there is now a dike all around Lake Okeechobee in South Florida. As the category 4 hurricane moved inland, the strong winds piled the water up at the south end of the lake.  Ultimately the weaker earthen levee gave way flooding an area 6 miles wide and 75 miles long.

 

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Hurricane Frances as a Category 4 storm off the coast of Hispaniola. Source: NOAA

Closer to North Central Florida residents who are watching the current track for Tropical Storm Hermine can’t help but remember the chaos wreaked on the area from Tropical Storm Frances and Jeanne in 2004.  Many residents and businesses lost power for days causing grocery stores to lose fresh and frozen food products.  ATMs were down.  Traffic lights were out.  Trees fell across many streets and homes and houses were flooded in low lying areas.

 

 

From her audio archives here’s a snippet of what the community was experiencing just after Frances moved through North Central Florida in September of 2004.

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An early report on flooding in Northwest  Gainesville after the rain from Tropical Storm Frances in 2004.

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A few weeks before Tropical Storms Frances and Jeanne came through North Central Florida, Hurricane Charley wreaked havoc on Southwest, FL, especially Charlotte County.   Many firefighters, law enforcement officers and medical personnel travelled to the area to give relief and assistance.  Here’s another audio archive story from 2004.

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Remembering Janet Reno

janet-reno-photo-credit-barry-thumma-associated-press
Janet Reno (photo credit Barry Thumma/Associated Press)

Janet Reno, the first female U.S. Attorney General, has died at the age of 78.  Reno suffered from Parkinson’s Disease which had been diagnosed in November 1995.  Reno died at her home in Miami, Florida.  Reno, a native of the Sunshine State, spent eight years as the attorney general of the United States during the Clinton Administration.  During that time Reno made controversial decisions including the botched federal raid of the Branch Davidian compound in Waco, Texas in 1993.  The long siege involved hundreds of military and law-enforcement officers and left the compound in flames.  The Branch Davidian’s leader, David Koresh, and 75 others died, one-third of which were children.

Reno also made the key decision in 2000 in the emotional return of Elián González, the 6-year-old Cuban boy who was found floating on an inner tube off Florida’s coast. González’s mother and 10 others drowned while trying to reach the United States from Cuba by small boat.  The decision about what to do with the young boy sparked major controversy with the Cuban exiles in South Florida.  They wanted González to stay in the U.S. because of their opposition to Cuba’s leader, Fidel Castro.

Reno took full responsibility for both controversial actions.

Early in 2001, after her term ended as Attorney General, Reno returned to Florida.  In 2002 she made an unsuccessful run for governor.  She was trying to unseat Governor Jeb Bush. She decided to name her campaign after a red pickup truck she had purchased.  She traveled across Florida with her “Red Truck Campaign.”

One of her campaign stops was in Gainesville.  After touring an after-school program for young African American girls she gave a campaign speech downtown at what is now known as the “Bo Diddley Plaza.”  The late Bo Diddley even performed and changed up his famous guitar riff to include lyrics about Reno.

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In 2002 Alachua County Commissioner Dave Newport introduced Janet Reno to the crowd.

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janet-reno-photo-credit-robert-giroux-agence-france-presse-getty-images
Janet Reno (photo credit Robert Giroux/Agence France Presse Getty Images)

After the rally at the downtown plaza in Gainesville Reno talked briefly with Donna Green-Townsend about whether her eight-year tie to the Clinton Administration would help or hurt her campaign given Bill Clinton’s sex scandal with White House Intern Monica Lewinsky.

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Reno also gave another short press conference during her campaign stop in Gainesville where she outlined her priorities if elected as Florida’s governor and also addressed the issue of whether it would help her campaign if Bill Clinton would give his support to her campaign.

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According to the New York Times, under Reno the Justice Department initiated prosecutions in the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center and in the 1995 bombing of the Oklahoma City federal building, helping to lay the groundwork for the pursuit of terrorists in the 21st century.

Under Reno the agency also prosecuted spies like the C.I.A. mole Aldrich H. Ames; it filed an antitrust suit against Microsoft, a milestone in the new-technology era; and it sued the tobacco industry to reclaim federal health care dollars spent on treating illnesses caused by smoking.

Before accepting the position of U.S. Attorney General, Janet Reno held positions in Florida as general counsel to the Judiciary Committee of the Florida House of Representatives and  prosecuting attorney for the state attorney’s office in Dade County. In 1978 she was named by then governor Reuben Askew as an interim state attorney,  the first woman to hold the position in Florida.