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. But life wasn’t always kind to Willie in his early years. 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 and the Gamble Rogers Festival and at blues competitions. Willie even had the opportunity to perform with Eric Clapton in Jacksonville, FL in front of a crowd of three to four thousand people. 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.
Willie playing Baby You Mine
Willie singing a song about Muddy Waters called Hoochie Coochie Man
Willie performing Blue With A Feelin
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.
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.
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.”
Hankinson 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
To read two other interesting articles about Hankinson’s legacy go to the Orlando Sentinel at the following link:
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)
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.
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.
A 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.
The 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
By the time I met Will McLeanhe 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.
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.
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.
The 1928 stormwas 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.
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.
Before 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
and here’s the recording of Will McLean, Murphy Henry and me singing “Hold Back The Waters.”
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
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 Festivalyou 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.
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 Seegersaid, “Will McLean’s songs will be sung as long as there is a Florida.” Rest in Peace Will McLean, my friend.
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.
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
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
Permit Number: 91926-4
Notice Of Rights
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
UPDATE: 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.
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
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.
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
Four senior staff resign from water management district
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.
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
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:
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
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.
April 30, 2015
(update from the St. John’s River Water Management District website)
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.
Scroll down to see archive pictures and video and to hear audio on this continuing story below):
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.
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 email@example.com. The event was sponsored by Karen Ahlers and Jeri Baldwin, Putnam County Environmental Council, Blue Water Bay and Southern Legal Counsel.
Update September 3, 2014: (from the SJRWMD website)
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.
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 approvalto Canadian billionaire Frank Stronach’s request to pump 1.12 million gallons of water per day for his Sleepy CreekLands (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.
“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.”
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.
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 Districtwebsite 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.
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.
“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 Districtin 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.”
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.
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:
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 :
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:
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
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
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:
September 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)
Full documentary (58:09)
“Jody’s Story” was edited and produced by Donna Green-Townsend with production assistance from Bill Beckett
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
Immediately 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.
It 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.
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.
I 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.
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.
In 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.
The 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.
I hope the museum and the September 11th Memorial Site will help future generations to realize that “freedom is not free.”
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.
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.”
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:
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
What a memorable Florida Folk Festival for Jessie and Lee Townsend. Thanks to Jeanie Fitchen and Mark Smith for giving special stage time to them this year. There were some magic moments as this brother-sister duo performed “Dumbarton’s Drums” on the historic Old Marble Stage with Jeanie on her 50th year performing at the Florida Folk Festival. Of special note is the fact Jeanie received the first ever “Legacy Award” from the Florida Folk Festival organizers this year.
Another magic moment was having the opportunity to perform the late Jim Ballew’s beautiful song, “When I Die,” on the Ann Thomas River Gazebo Stage. Though Jim Ballew is best known for his incredible guitar picking, it’s been said that the last time he played on the Gazebo Stage he played “When I Die” on a banjo in honor of his music buddy and great banjo player, the late Paul Champion. It was especially memorable to Lee and the band to learn about that memory since Lee just happened to play banjo on the song that day. As they performed you could hear the audience singing along. It was a goosebump moment for sure. Jessie and Lee were joined by Andy Garfield on guitar and David McBrady on bass.
Jessie and Lee’s performance set at the River Gazebo Stage included a variety of songs that will soon be added to their latest CD project which they’re calling, “Tribute.” In all there will be 12 songs which pay tribute to some of Florida’s best songwriters past and present and more. Six songs have already been mastered and are available on their CD Sampler. In addition to “When I Die,” (the song above) the upcoming CD will feature a song originally written by environmental troubadour Dale Crider from Windsor, FL. Here are Jessie, Lee, Andy Garfield and David McBrady performing, “Oh Kissimmee River” which points out the environmental boondoggle of the government for trying to straighten Florida’s Kissimmee River.
Gainesville Singer-Songwriter Mark Smith asked Jessie and Lee to join him on the River Gazebo Stage on the last day of the Florida Folk Festival to sing one of his songs, “Florida Lullabye.”
It’s a tradition to end the final set on the Gazebo Stage at the Florida Folk Festival with the performers and audience singing together on “Old Folks At Home.”
(Here is the feature which aired on WUFT on October 31st, 2013, the day before Chris Thile performed on the UF campus)
Mandolin virtuoso Chris Thile, who has served as guest host several times on the popular radio variety program, “A Prairie Home Companion,” will replace Garrison Keillor as host of the show after Keillor retires this summer. Thile starts hosting a 13-episode run of the show in October.
On November 1st, 2013 Thile performed solo in University Auditorium on the University of Florida campus and received three standing ovations.
Thile, who is known for his influence on progressive bluegrass, performed Johann Sebastian Bach’s classical compositions as well as several of his own unique compositions taking the audience on a serious and fun musical journey.
At age 8, Chris Thile began performing with the groundbreaking trio, Nickel Creek, taking traditional bluegrass to new levels. He toured with the group for 15 years, released three albums, sold two million records and won a Grammy Award. After leaving Nickel Creek, he founded the progressive bluegrass band, The Punch Brothers, for which he is lead singer.
Thile said he loves all music, from bluegrass and rock to jazz and classical. He fell in love with Bach after two of his grandparents independently gave him Bach recordings when he was a teenager. He eventually studied music at Murray State University. On Friday night (November 1st), Thile performed “Bach: Sonatas and Partitas, Vol. 1″ and other non-classical selections in University Auditorium.
Thile has been on quite a musical run in the past few years. In 2012, he was named a MacArthur Fellow. His selection also provided him with $500,000 in support for five years. He said the phone call was a complete surprise.
“Completely out of the blue,” he said. “You have no idea that you’ve even been submitted for consideration. You can’t apply for it or anything.”
He said at first he didn’t even pick up the phone when the call came in. He thought his friends were playing a prank on him. He finally realized it was the “real deal.”
The prize was based on Thile’s creativity, originality and potential to make important musical contributions in the future as a mandolinist and composer. The fellowship comes without stipulations or reporting requirements.
Thile said he has remained inspired.
“It serves to kind of stoke the fire that I’ve lit under myself,” he said. “I live to work, and I love to work. I absolutely adore music.”
Thile said he takes the responsibility very seriously and is humbled and honored to be chosen.
Music critics have praised Thile for his ability to cross over genres, from Bill Monroe tunes on the mandolin to performing classical with cellist Yo-Yo Ma, guitarist Michael Daves and double bassist/composer Edgar Meyer. Thile said he doesn’t really think of music in terms of genres, but appreciates all music performed well.
“When you talk about genres, to me there’s like two genres of music and those are No. 1 good music and No. 2 bad music,” he said. “The best instances of music sort of rise to the top of their respective genres and enter the good music club. You know I consider JS Bach to sort of be the president of that club.”
Thile said he loves hearing that he’s inspiring other young musicians to “step out of the box” and try new things.
“It almost feels like, you know, a camera just switched on and it gives me a whole new perspective again on what it means to be alive, so if anything I ever do does that for anyone, I’m just delighted,” he said.
Click below to hear the full interview recorded by Donna Green-Townsend before his arrival in Gainesville:
On March 25th, 2009 Thile and the entire Punch Brothers band were in town for a performance at the Phillips Center for the Performing Arts. While in town the band stopped by the WUFT Studios and gave a short performance: