Tag Archives: Donna Green-Townsend

Bluesman Willie Green- The Real Deal

Willie Green 1 2007 FL Folk FestBluesman Willie Green has just won the 2017 Florida State Heritage Award!  

 Patrons of the Yearling Restaurant in Cross Creek, FL are treated every weekend with the Delta blues sound of Willie Green.  Music is Willie’s life.  He began playing harmonica as a teenager and eventually picked up the guitar after being inspired by the music he heard in Florida clubs like the Blue Chip, the Down Beat and the Diamond Club.

Life wasn’t always kind to Willie in his early years.  He was born in the mid-1930s to a family of sharecroppers and migrant laborers in Pine Level, AL, outside of Mongtomery.  He had to quit school at a young age to help support his family by travelling from farm to farm throughout the Southeast harvesting peanuts, fruit and vegetables.  Later in life he ended up in Ocala, FL, though the 1980s were also hard times for Willie as well.

Now in his “golden years” he’s attracting a tremendous following for his authentic blues music.  He’s become a favorite at various state festivals such as the Florida Folk Festival, Magnolia Fest, Springing the Blues, the Gamble Rogers Festival and at blues competitions such as the International Blues Challenge in Memphis, TN.  Willie has opened for well-known blues musicians including Robert Cray and Eric Clapton, Grammy-winning blues musician John Hammond, shared the stage with the late “Honeyboy” Edwards and collaborated with Southern rock group J.J. Grey and Mofro.   In 2010, he received Stetson Kennedy’s Fellow Man and Mother Earth Award.

Reporter Trimmel Gomes and Donna Green-Townsend brought Willie into the WUFT studios in 2005 to hear the story of his life and to hear him play a little blues.

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Below are a few more of the songs Willie performed at the Yearling Restaurant in Cross Creek on June 15, 2014:

Song 2

Song 3

Song 4

Song 5

Song 6

 

Willie playing Baby You Mine

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Willie singing a song about Muddy Waters called Hoochie Coochie Man

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Willie performing Blue With A Feelin

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OCL-LOGO

Willie Green

On October 15th, 1935, or there abouts, a baby boy was born in a rural Alabama sharecropper’s cabin. His mother Mattie and father Willie Green Sr. named him Willie Grant Green. The Grant comes from the famous Union general. Willie doesn’t know the name of the little farm hamlet, only that it was near the city of Montgomery. He doesn’t have any family photos or even a birth certificate. Only that his family were sharecroppers and travelling migrant workers. He was lucky to go school for a of couple years, but was soon pulled from the 4th grade to start working in the fields, picking everything from peanuts to potatoes. Travelling around the southeast in the back of a truck, field to field, farm to farm, he picked vegetables and fruits through his teenage years and into his twenties. By then he had left the family following the crop harvest north as far as Maine, he met a girl there, a local farmer’s daughter. He says he always wished he would have stayed, but time to head back south: more crops coming in the spring. His brother was called to Vietnam. Willie never saw him again.

While still at home as a teenager, Willie would sneak out at night, sometimes catching a ride on a passing freight into Montgomery to the juke joints. He wanted to hear the music, the BLUES music, from the greats like John Lee Hooker, Little Walter, Muddy Waters; all those cats getting home before sunrise to the welcome of a belt in the hands of Mama Mattie, who wasn’t fond of the juke joint scene.

Willie-Green Old City Life
Photo Courtesy of Old City Life publication

One day an old boy gave Willie a harp, and the rest is history. He continued his migrant worker job, with the harp in his back pocket, playing when he could, sitting in with anyone he could. In the 1960s Willie found his way to Florida, were some cousins lived in Pompano Beach. During this time he was called back to Alabama one time. Mama Mattie had passed away on the farm. This was the last time he saw the place and his only relatives there. Willie remembers he inherited her refrigerator, but had no way to haul it home on the Greyhound bus. Back in Florida he found new jobs like pipe laying, driving a pulp wood truck, laying cement roads; anything that made a little dough. Heven started learning to play some guitar to go with the harp. He got to sit in with some of the great blues players travelling through. Cash was king, no bank account needed…..

To continue reading more from this article in the publication, “Old City Life” about blues singer and performer Willie Green click here.

Apalachicola Documentary

Official website of the Murrow Award-Winning Documentary, “Apalachicola Doin’ Time” and various updates

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Rally for Apalachicola Bay in August before a Senate field hearing on the health of the bay. (photo by Donna Green-Townsend)

June 1, 2017 UPDATE:  Florida asks U.S. Supreme Court to Save Apalachicola River, Oyster Industry:

TALLAHASSEE — Florida is telling the U.S. Supreme Court that it represents the state’s last legal remedy for saving the Apalachicola River and the oysters and people who depend on it.  Gov. Rick Scott in 2013 sued Georgia in the Supreme Court, seeking to cap Georgia’s water use upstream on the Chattahoochee and Flint rivers. But a court official recommended in February that the case be dismissed because Florida had not included the Army Corps of Engineers, which operates federal reservoirs on the Chattahoochee River. In a brief filed Wednesday, Florida argues that the court had never found that a state was harmed by upstream water use but then determined it was powerless to do anything about it. If the court dismisses the case, Georgia would be free to continue or increase its water use, Florida said. ….Click here for the full story.

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October 2013 UPDATE:   Florida Governor Rick Scott and Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi have moved forward with their plans to file a lawsuit in the U.S. Supreme Court over the decades old Tri-State Water War.  The lawsuit is primarily aimed at Georgia over that state’s withdrawals of water from the Chattahoochee-Apalachicola-Flint River system—a river system Alabama, Florida and Georgia all share.  At the heart of the ongoing debate is the health of Apalachicola Bay and Florida’s seafood industry.

Click here to view highlights of the Senate field hearing held in Apalachicola on the issue in August of 2013. To learn more about how the Apalachicola community is affected by the “water war” listen and view segments below: Apalachicola Doin' Time

2000 Edward R. Murrow Award Winning Documentary

Pic I took at Apalachicola off Paddlewheel used for CD cover later
Fishing boats along the Apalachicola River bayfront (photo by Donna Green-Townsend)
Donna voicing the "Apalachicola Doin' Time" documentary at WUFT with co-hosts Daniel Beasley and Josh Azriel in 1999
Donna voicing the “Apalachicola Doin’ Time” documentary at WUFT with co-hosts Daniel Beasley and Josh Azriel in 1999
Introduction- to Re-Release of the Documentary

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Part One- The Issues

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Part Two- Florida’s Oyster Capitol

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Part Three- Apalachicola’s Waterfront

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Part Four- Water Quality and the Tri-State Water War

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Part Five- Apalachicola’s History

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Part Six- Tourism on the Rise

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Part Seven- Water Quantity and the Tri-State Water War

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Part Eight- Close and Credits

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Part Nine- Epilogue

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The Producers of Apalachicola Doin’ Time

Musicians Featured In Apalachicola Doin’ Time (featuring a sample of their music)

Dale Willfest 2001
Dale Crider

Dale Crider – Apalachicola Doin’ Time

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"Changes In The Wind" Jeanie Fitchen
Jeanie Fitchen

Jeanie Fitchen – Changes In The Wind

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"The River" Steve Gillette
Steve Gillette

Steve Gillette – The River

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"Music Drifts" and "Margaret" Mike Jurgensen
Mike Jurgenson

Mike Jurgensen – Music Drifts

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and Margaret

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Harvey Reid

Harvey Reid – Circles

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ken skeens
Ken Skeens

Ken Skeens – Old Florida River

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"Wisdom of the River" Mark Smith
Mark Smith

Mark Smith – Wisdom of the River

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Various locations around Apalachicola, Florida and some of the people interviewed for the documentary.

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Musical Murrow Celebration

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Just prior to the RTDNA Murrow Award ceremony in Minneapolis, MN, singer songwriter Mark Smith had a celebration at his home which included several of the songwriters who had music utilized in the documentary. In this video Dale Crider sings the song that inspired the documentary.

Holding a portrait given to him by Donna Green-Townsend and George Floyd painted by Mary Ann DiNella
Crider holding a portrait given to him by Donna Green-Townsend and George Floyd painted by Mary Ann DiNella

For more than three decades Dale Crider worked as a wildlife biologist for the Florida Game and Freshwater Fish Commission.  During that time he also followed his other passion, songwriting.  Crider wrote many songs about environmental conditions in Florida.  “Apalachicola Doin’ Time” was one such song.  It was by chance nearly 30 years after Crider penned the song that Apalachicola resident, George Floyd, happened upon one of Crider’s music tapes and heard his song.  On that day the concept for the need to tell the story of the Tri-State Water War was born.  Crider is considered to be Florida’s Environmental Troubadour.  He has inspired musicians across Florida to write songs about the environment.

Listen to an hour-long special on Across the Prairie on WUFT regarding the Re-release and update of the Apalachicola Doin’ Time Documentary Dale and documentary co-producer Donna Green-Townsend were special guests on the longtime Sunday afternoon program on WUFT, Across the Prairie with host Cathy DeWitt.  Click on the audio button below.

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Cover of Apalachicola Doin’ Time CD

Copies of the two-CD set of “Apalachicola Doin’ Time,” including the music companion CD, are available through the non-profit Will McLean Foundation. Will McLean is considered the “Father of Florida Folk.”  He’s the first folk artist inducted into the Florida Artists Hall of Fame.  It was his mission to save Florida through music.

 

 

 

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In 2001 several of the musicians whose songs were used in the documentary were featured at not only the Will McLean Festival (March, 2001) but also the state’s official festival, The Florida Folk Festival (May, 2001). Click on the audio button below to hear the live presentation at the Will McLean Festival.  The late Jan Glidewell, longtime columnist with the Tampa Bay Times, introduced Donna Green-Townsend who hosted the special musical event.

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The late Homer Marks from Apalachicola

One of the key characters of the documentary, Homer Marks, lived to be 102.  (Homer died in 2005).  Click here to go to a special page dedicated to Homer Marks.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dale Crider, Josh Azriel, Donna Green-Townsend and George Floyd and friend
Dale Crider, Josh Azriel, Donna Green-Townsend and George Floyd and friend

Funding for the “Apalachicola Doin’ Time” documentary was provided by a grant from George Floyd in memory of Jim Floyd and George Kirvin, two of the earliest heralds of the rivers and bays and their value as an undisturbed natural resource.

 

 

 

 

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Apalachicola Documentary Awards

1st Place National RTDNA Edward R. Murrow Award, Best Documentary

1st Place Southeast Regional RTDNA Edward R. Murrow Award, Best Documentary

1st Place Florida Associated Press Broadcasters, Public Affairs category

Silver Reel from the National Federation of Community Broadcasters, documentary category

Finalist, Atlanta Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists, Green Eye Shade awards (Southeast 11 state Region)

Finalist, Society of Professional Journalists Sunshine State Awards, Public Affairs category

1st Place, BEA Student Interactive Multimedia competition in the Online category

Silver Addy in the Collateral Material – CD Category for the Apalachicola Doin’ Time CD cover, insert and tray card.

 

Some of the stations that have carried Apalachicola Doin’ Time:

KBAQ Mesa, Arizona
KBOO Portland, Oregon
KERA Dallas, Texas
KJZZ Phoenix, Arizona
Utah Public Radio/KUSU FM Logan, Utah
WABE Atlanta, Georgia
WETS Johnson City, Tennessee
WFSU Tallahassee, Florida
WFSW Panama City, Florida
WJUF-FM Inverness, Florida
WKGC Panama City, Florida
WQCS  Asheville, North Carolina
WSLU Canton, New York
WUFT-FM Gainesville, Florida
California Public Radio
Georgia Public Radio

ADT quote 2ADT 3   Documentary Summary by- Co-Producer, Donna Green-Townsend Two hundred yards below the Appalachian Trail in Georgia, the waters of the Chattahoochee River begin a 500 mile journey south.  The river flows each day through Atlanta, past Western Georgia cities like Columbus and along the state boundary between Georgia and Alabama — past more than a dozen dams and locks on the way to the Gulf of Mexico.  At the Florida-Georgia border the Chattahoochee meets up with Georgia’s Flint River and  takes on a new name –The Apalachicola. Sixteen billion gallons of water flow down the Apalachicola into the Bay every day making it Florida’s largest waterway and it’s at the heart of a tri-state water war.

This documentary is an audio journey to the community at the end of the drainpipe so to speak — Apalachicola: a Florida seafood community that worries about being at the mercy of its northern water using neighbors. We journey to the city’s famous waterfront, hear about the history of this unique river town and find out how the community’s affected by the rapid development of ecotourism and growth.  We also talk with the key negotiators involved in the current water war involving Alabama, Florida and Georgia as the clock ticks down on a deadline to resolve differences over shared river resources.

There’s a lot at stake for all three southern states: rapid growth in Atlanta creates a strong need to secure drinking water for the future. Farmers want to maintain the ability to irrigate their crops, Alabama residents want to maintain peak hydropower and navigational use, and in Florida, at the end of the Apalachicola River, the seafood industry worries about the future of its oysters, scallops, crabs and shrimp.

unfortunately

 

 

 

 

 

 

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 Update: U.S. Senators Nelson and Rubio Hold Senate Field Hearing in Apalachicola while Governor Rick Scott says Florida will file a lawsuit seeking to limit the amount of Apalachicola headwaters Georgia can use. (aired August 13, 2013)

 

Apalachicola’s oyster industry see historic collapse in 2012 from drought and salinity  (originally aired April 26, 2013)

The severe drought in 2012 caused an historic collapse of Florida’s oyster industry.  During the past year a variety of state agencies have been working for the Florida Sea Grant Program to try and understand all the causes for the fishery disaster.  The cooperative effort is working toward designing a plan to help restore and manage the industry in the future.  WUFT’s Donna Green-Townsend talked with the Director of the Florida Sea Grant College Program, Karl Havens, who is heading up the University of Florida’s Oyster Recovery Team, about the findings outlined in the group’s special report this week.

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Links to Environmental Data

United States Geological Service — Water Resources of Georgia: The overall website for the USGS water resources program in Georgia. Links to a variety of pollution data, answers to common questions and USGS publications.

Upper Chattahoochee River Keeper: The website of the non-profit organization that keeps tabs on everything that deals with the Chattahoochee, including a section on tri-state water issues. Background information on the river, legal issues, and information about joining the group.

Georgia Department of Natural Resources: An extensive section on Georgia’s plan to deal with water issues among the three states

Alabama Department of Economic and Community Affairs: The specific details of Alabama’s water plans for the ACF river basin and the Alabama-Coosa-Tallapoosa River basin.

Apalachicola Chamber of Commerce: The online home to the Apalachicola area. Find out about the historic nature of “Florida’s Forgotten Coast.”

Tupelo Honey: The largest and densest stands of Tupelo trees grow in the swamps of the lower Apalachicola and Chipola Rivers. Nowhere are Tupelos so dense that honey can be made from and certified pure Tupelo.

Florida Department of Environmental Protection: The site provides the latest information on proposed environmental legislation, appointments, and programs.

Apalachicola National Estuarine Research Reserve: The Apalachicola Reserve includes two barrier islands and a portion of a third. The Reserve also includes the lower 52 miles of the Apalachicola River and its associated floodplain, small portions of adjoining uplands, and the Apalachicola Bay system. The overall high water quality of the Apalachicola estuary, with the combined effects of other factors, provide the ideal living conditions for estuarine biota and have resulted in the creation of a highly productive estuarine system. The myriad of habitats found within the Reserve support a wide range of plant and animal species, many of which are threatened or endangered.

Apalachicola River and Bay Ecosystem Plan: A 183-page plan to balance human needs with wildlife needs. Developed by Florida State University for the Florida Department of Environmental Protection and the Army Corp of Engineers.

Corps of Engineers: The various recreation sites on the Chattahoochee, Flint and Apalachicola river system, including various lakes, locks, dams, and campgrounds.

 

Read the original 1999 interviews with key players in the tri-state water war:

Sally Bethea — Executive Director of Upper Chattahoochee River Keeper

Matt Kales — Program Director at Upper Chattahoochee River Keeper

Bob Kerr — Director, Pollution Prevention Assistance Division, Georgia Department of Natural Resources

Steve Leitman — Environmental Scientist, NW FL Water Management District

Woody Miley — Director, Apalachicola National Marine Estuary

Lindsey Thomas — Federal Commissioner of the ACT – ACF River Basin Commission

Now Available: The full transcript of the documentary.

A true “Mother’s Day” story about courtship in Cross Creek

DSC08728Editor’s note: I’m tickled to say that even though he didn’t use his rifle to shoot down this year’s magnolia blossom, my husband kept his Mother’s Day tradition alive this year (2017).

 

 

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Here’s the audio version of the chapter called, “Mother’s Day” by Shelley Fraser Mickle. (full written text with pictures can be found below)

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I’m proud to call Shelley Fraser Mickle a friend.  Shelley is one of the most entertaining writers I’ve ever met.  For many years radio listeners were able to hear her commentaries on life on not only WUFT-FM, but also nationally as she contributed her talent doing commentaries for NPR‘s “Morning Edition.”  She’s also an award-winning author of several novels.

I always looked forward to the days she would come in to the station and record her commentaries because on those days we had the opportunity to catch up on life.  That being said, as a journalist I should have known that some of the “Cross Creek” stories I shared with her would one day make it into print.  I’m actually quite pleased she was listening so closely.  My family is very proud of the chapter she wrote on my Cross Creek romance called, “Mother’s Day.”  She genuinely captured some of the unique qualities of my husband Lee Townsend in our “courting days.”

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(Full text of chapter called “Mother’s Day” from Shelley Fraser Mickle’s book, The Kids are gone; The Dog is Depressed & Mom’s On The Loose.)

 

 

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.

scan0001And you’ll know when the courting gets serious if a fella invites you to ride a boat out into the cypress woods after a big rain to watch the water run into the lake.

 

 

 

Let's Go Fishin'But no matter if you are fishing, gigging, or watching water, it’s a pretty sure fact that all the while, a certain magic is being practiced on you. So that afterward, it is very likely, your life will never be the same.

Creek men are aware of their power. And they strut it comfortably. For instance, it was reported that at the Marjorie Rawlings’ house, the staff spotted a snake sneaking into one of the rooms, and out of desperation, called one of the Creek men. After all, a man who has grown up at the Creek knows more than you ever want to know about snakes and how to handle them.

Chicken Snake MKR pump house A 2012-11-04_12-36-26_781As the story goes, this Creek man sauntered up the steps to the house, saying he’d handle that snake, just point him to it. Then went into the room where the snake was and shut the door. In a few minutes he came back out and announced, “That’s a female chicken snake. And it won’t take me but a minute to get her to move on out of here.”  One of the caretakers was really curious and asked, “But how do you know it’s a female snake?”  The creek man didn’t even blink. “Because she quivered when she looked at me,” he said.

sweethearts 1985I guess that really does say it all. Yes, the men at the Creek have a certain powerful charm. And it’s said that everybody knows when a creek man is seriously courting a woman, because that’s the only time he wears shoes.

 

scan0002So after my friend fell under the spell of one and married him, then stayed there to raise a family with him, she had to learn how to take on all sorts of new ways of thinking and saying things.

 

 

 

Pregnant with Ellie

When she became pregnant with their first child, she says she had to relearn how to announce that fact. For out at the Creek no one is ever pregnant. No. Rather it’s that you’re fixin’ to have a youngin’.

 

Baby Ellie

And then when the second one came, it was that she was fixin’ to have another one.Jessie

In fact, my friend says, since she has made her life at the Creek, she has found that almost everything she does has the word fixin’ it it.

File0009Last year on Mother’s Day, she was in the kitchen fixin’ to have a cup of tea when her husband sauntered up behind her, put his arms around her waist, and said to follow him, that he was fixin’ to give her a Mother’s Day present.

 

 

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He then led her outside, and on the way, grabbed his rifle, so that in only a minute they were standing under the giant magnolia that shades the whole side of the backyard. Then he propped his rifle on his shoulder and aimed it up toward the tree.

My friend says the blooms were like round white stars, perfuming the air with a sweetness that was like the smell of warm honey, or of spun sugar. Then her husband said to her, “Pick out one darlin’.”

And when she raised her hand toward a bloom near the top, he focused his eye down the rifle’s barrel and shot it down.

“Happy Mother’s Day,” he said, as he bent down and picked up the sweet white blossom that had fallen at her feet.

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.

 

Alachua-County-Courthouse
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
Includes rare video of the late Idella Parker, Cousin Thelma Boltin, Will McLean and Gamble Rogers.

 

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.

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

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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.

 

 

 

SleepCreekLands_lrg

  • 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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Jody’s Story—- Surviving 9/11

World-Trade-Center-AttackSeptember 11th, 2001 changed the life of Jody Blanchard forever.  After escaping from the World Trade Center complex after the first plane hit, Jody packed her belongings and escaped NYC and moved for a short period of time to Gainesville, FL.  She was hoping to put the horrific images she saw behind her.   That proved to be a difficult task.  Jody shared her story with WUFT reporter Raquel Garcia not long after she moved to Gainesville.  This is her story…. “Jody’s Story.”

Short version (8:52)

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Full documentary (58:09)

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“Jody’s Story” was edited and produced by Donna Green-Townsend with production assistance from Bill Beckett

Music for the documentary provided by Rod MacDonald

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The 9/11 Museum and September 11th, 2001—A Personal Reflection

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Sign in front of 9/11 Memorial Museum in October, 2013

(My personal reflection follows this story)  

September 11th, 2016 marks 15 years since the terrorist attacks which took the lives of nearly 3,000 people in New York City, Washington and Pennsylvania.  On May 21st, 2014  the 9/11 Memorial Museum opened to the public for the first time.  Those in charge of its design have had to be sensitive to exhibiting artifacts which capture the historical moments of that day in 2001 with the emotions of the families who continue to grieve for their lost loved ones.

The museum sits 70 feet deep beneath what was formerly called “Ground Zero” after the attacks.  Among the 10,000 artifacts are audio and video recordings made that tragic day, including sounds of emergency radio calls and cellphone messages from workers in the Twin Towers calling loved ones.

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View looking into the museum in October before construction was complete

The museum features 23,000 still photos, mangled rescue vehicles and plane parts as well as the last steel column removed during the cleanup.  Various personal artifacts found in the rubble are also on display.  The goal of the privately funded museum is to tell the story of the nearly 3,000 people killed in not only the 2001 attacks but also the 1993 trade center bombing. President Barack Obama along with families and others officially dedicated the museum on Thursday, May 15th, 2014.

 

 

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One of the special fountains built on one of the footprints of the former Twin Towers

The museum is adjacent to the Memorial Plaza where the footprints of the twin towers now feature unique water fountains surrounded by the engraved names of those who died on September 11th when terrorists commandeered United Flight 175 and American Airlines Flight 11 and crashed into the Twin Towers.

 

 

 

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The plaza memorial also includes the names of those who died when American Airlines Flight 77 hit the Pentagon and those who died on United Airlines Flight 93 that crashed in a Shanksville, Pennsylvania field after passengers revolted against the hijackers.  

 

 

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The new Freedom Tower

The new “Freedom Tower” stands next to the Memorial Plaza.  The Freedom Tower, which stands 1,776 feet tall on the site of the former World Trade Center, is the work of the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation.   According to the website, the “Freedom Tower” serves as a beacon of freedom, and demonstrates the resolve of the United States, and the people of New York City.

 

My Personal Reflection

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Donna Green-Townsend and Cameron Taylor

All of the photos featured above I took in October, 2013 when I travelled to New York City to attend the National Edward R. Murrow Awards Ceremony.  I was there to accompany Cameron Taylor, one of my Telecommunication students from the College of Journalism and Communications at the University of Florida, who was being presented a Murrow for a radio feature he had produced on the oyster collapse in Cedar Key, FL.

 

It had been 29 years since I had last visited NYC and I was anxious to see the 9/11 Memorial site.  Even though I was in Florida when the terrorist attacks occurred, the tragedy had definite ramifications all over the country.  The day before the attacks I sent one of my feature reporters, Susie Losco, to Jacksonville to cover President George W. Bush’s “Reading” campaign.  Susie came back telling me how excited she was about getting the opportunity to shake the president’s hand.

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(AP Photo/Doug Mills)

As everyone now knows, the reading campaign was the reason President Bush next visited the Emma E. Booker elementary school in Sarasota where the now infamous photo was taken of his Chief of Staff Andy Card informing him that the country was under attack.

 

 

twin-towersImmediately on that day in 2001 I began to see various emails exploding on my computer from various acquaintances who were concerned about why their flights were forced to land at various airports around the country.  I was particularly interested in talking to the woman who had a cousin who was a flight attendant on one of the flights which ripped through one of the Twin Towers.  Even the mere thought of that was unfathomable.

WTC collapseIt was a very emotional day in the newsroom and around the country as we watched in horror as the towers collapsed on live television.  The University of Florida and other state facilities closed early for security purposes given our current governor, Jeb Bush, was the president’s brother.

There were no guidebooks on how to go about covering such a tragic event that affected American civilians on our home soil.  Most of us just went on autopilot and reached out to talk to not only those who had relatives in NYC, but also to blood centers and others involved in forensic, medical and law enforcement triage.

Donna in front of World Trade Center Twin Towers 1984
Donna in front of World Trade Center Twin Towers 1984

Throughout the day, as additional news reports came through about the flight that crashed into the Pentagon and Flight 93 that crashed in Pennsylvania when the passengers took over the hijackers, I couldn’t help but reflect  back to the day I first saw the Twin Towers in June of 1984 and literally stood on top of the North Tower.  I was visiting with a former colleague who lived in Connecticut, Carmen Bayles and her sister Jane. Carmen had planned a 14-hour walk around Manhattan that began near the Brooklyn Bridge and included a visit to Wall Street.

 

World Trade Center Observation Deck ticket 1984
1984 WTC Observation Deck ticket

Donna on top of World Trade Center Twin Towers 1984 in New YorkI can still remember how large the elevators were that took us up to the 106th and 107th floors of the North Tower to a restaurant called “Windows On The World.”  But the view from the restaurant didn’t compare to how it looked and felt to go out on the very top of the building on the observation deck.  I can still recall how windy it was up there and how spectacular the view of the city was from that vantage point. It’s an eerie feeling knowing that the spot where I stood looking out over the Hudson River and NYC no longer exists.

 

The events of 9/11 also brought back memories of when I was a young journalist at the University of Missouri in Columbia in the late 1970s.  I had a strong desire to follow in the footsteps of many of my student counterparts who were from the Northeast.  I remember the semester everyone was applying for internships for the summer while attending the School of Journalism at MU.  Many were heading to NYC.  I had never been there and thought such an internship would be great for my resume.  But a certain phone call changed all that.

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Donna with “Mr. CBS” Dave Dugan at MU

My advisor just happened to be Dave Dugan, “Mr. CBS” himself.  Dave had worked for more than 25 years for CBS both in radio and television.  I learned through longtime CBS network anchor Dan Rather’s book, “The Camera Never Blinks,” that Dave Dugan actually trained Dan on his first day working for CBS, a day when a plane crashed into Jamaica Bay. That’s another story for another day.  Needless to say, when Dave Dugan talked, I listened.  On this particular morning back in 1978 I received a call from Dave who said I needed to come to his office.  I went right away.  It was then he told me he had a dream about me the night before in which he says I was assaulted in the bus terminal in NYC and he just couldn’t allow me to go there.  My internship desire to go to the “Big Apple” turned into an internship at KWIX-KRES radio in Moberly, MO instead.  I say all that because it adds even more to the emotions I felt when I finally made my first visit to NYC in 1984.  I recently learned that Dave Dugan passed away earlier this year.  Before he died his family told him of my memories of his dream and he still remembered it.

2013-10-14_13-38-57_45In October of 2013, 29 years after my first visit to NYC, the only thing I wanted to do outside of attending the Murrow Awards was visit the 9/11 Memorial.  It’s hard to describe how it felt to touch the names of those engraved around the fountains in the WTC footprints knowing the horror they all must have felt on that day.  I wish the museum had been open that October, but having experienced  9/11 as a reporter in 2001 it isn’t really necessary for me to hear the audio or see the video that’s being shown there because I saw it and heard it on the actual day in the newsroom at WUFT.

2013-10-14_13-31-30_543The tragedy of 9/11 will forever be etched in my memory just as the tragedy of Pearl Harbor was etched in the memory of my parents.  My dad, a former marine, had always wanted to visit the Pearl Harbor Memorial in Hawaii when he retired.  Sadly, he died at the young age of 52 before he could make that trip.  I’m glad that I had the opportunity to go back to NYC before my retirement.  It made me think of my dad.

2013-10-14_13-05-45_348I hope the museum and the September 11th Memorial Site will help future generations to realize that “freedom is not free.”

 

 

 

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(from left to right) Katiana Krawchenko, Donna Green-Townsend, Cameron Taylor and Miles Doran

One more little personal thought…. after sharing the dream of “Mr. CBS” Dave Dugan earlier in the post, I thought it was a bit ironic that on my last trip to NYC I actually visited the CBS network studios.  Having won an Edward R. Murrow Award myself in 2000, it was great to be standing next to two other Murrow Award winners, Miles Doran and Cameron Taylor, both UF grads.  Miles currently works for CBS as does  UF grad Katiana Krawchenko (pictured to the left).  On that day it felt as if I had come full-circle.  I think that’s a very good thing.

Remembering the Hippodrome’s Rusty Salling

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Rusty Salling as he conjured up a rendition of his infamous, “Bah Humbug” line from “A Christmas Carol” during an interview with Donna Green-Townsend

The halls of the Hippodrome State Theatre in Gainesville feel a little darker this week with the passing of one of its most beloved actors.

Rusty Salling died on Sunday, June 12th at the age of 67 after battling cancer for more than a year.

Salling, who is best known for his role as Ebenezer Scrooge in the annual production of “A Christmas Carol,” graced the stage of the Hippodrome State Theatre over the past four decades. It was one of the many roles he had at the Hipp, but there were several Salling handled the general public never even realized.

In November of 2010 Salling came in to the studios of WUFT to talk with Donna Green-Townsend about his longtime role as “Scrooge.”

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Over the weekend this Hippodrome Facebook post appeared:

We are heartbroken to share that early this morning we lost our dear Rusty Salling after a courageous 14 month battle with cancer. Today the Hipp’s halls are dark… and hearts are heavy all over the world. The Hippodrome was Rusty’s home for over 40 years. Beloved by all who knew him, we know you join us in forever holding Rusty close in your heart. Farewell, Sweet Scrooge. You will live forever in the memories of thousands.

“When he shall die take him and cut him out into stars and he shall make the face of heaven so fine that all the world will be in love with night and pay no worship to the garish sun.” (William Shakespeare)

Here’s a beautiful tribute to Rusty Salling posted on Facebook by his friend and colleague Marilyn Wall:

Marilyn A. Wall

Rusty my dear dear friend, did you think it was final dress rehearsal? You have left us to soon. We still have ten more years of stories to tell…..here is what I will carry in my heart forever…….we have been close friends since we were eighteen. We met at freshmen orientation . We used to meet after rehearsals and share our dreams and study our lines. Rusty played a Hand (really!). And Lenny in of Mice and Men..the theatre department took notice of him. I earned a lead in my senior year and Rusty was on in front row center to cheer me on. It was a glorious year for us. Rusty went to New York and I gathered with five other wild and passionate friends and rented an empty connivence store. We named it the Hippodrome Theatre. We traveled to New York a number of times in a beat up van with no air conditioner. We always invited Rusty to join us and star in The Caretaker. He was so good and Gainesville began their 40 year love affair with Rusty Warren Salling, a stunningly brilliant theatre talent. With insight beyond his comprehension, Rusty played young men with a cause, old men, princes and kings, children and wicked clowns, gay and straight couples, killers and Angels and Spirts, my husband twice, Nell’s husband three times, and caused us to all wet our pants laughing at his one man pig puppet show, while his wife ( me) dropped her Christmas roast on the floor and dumped the gravy all over them both! Oh God we had fun! Sara Morsey played a few of Rusty’s wives too, along with funny funny Dana Moser. Men, women,young and old, he just understood all of their souls, their tragedy, their redemption. His heart was steel and velvet. Rusty will truly be a legend……….. Once upon a time a golden prince walked among us. He carried hundreds of stories and in the wake of a million stars and a hundred voices, he promised to return and build another tower in the sky. May your flight be full of light and memories and more memories……….thank you Jessica Hereof and Dan Jesse and Lauren Warhol for holding him, and knowing when it was time to let go………….Marilyn

Here’s a link to his obituary: