If you lived in Florida during the early
sixties, your family might have taken a “car vacation”
to a pre-Disney attraction. Before
I-95, the Florida Turnpike and I-4 joined the coasts,
two-lane routes featured thirty-five mile per hour speed limits which encouraged staring out the car window
for hours of wilderness, wetlands and pasture views.
The only sign of humankind were hand-painted roadside boards that teased cross-state adventurers forward with messages like: “Swim with Flipper!”;“Alligator Wrestling Shows Daily”; “See the World’s Largest Seashell” “10 cents All You Can Drink Orange Juice Ahead”; “1,000 Deadly Snakes”; “Glass Bottom Boat Tours” and my favorite “Just Ahead– The Spring of the Mermaids!”
Vast stretches of land between these signs and attractions appeared to be pre-historic. The viewer could not help but realize the overwhelming importance of fresh water.
A few state crossings and one received the feeling that this peninsula was basically a giant limestone sponge that gobbled up just the right amount of rainwater in all seasons.
From mid-state downward, patches of surface water collected in wetlands, ran southward in streamlets and lakes– then flowed through the shallows of the Everglades “river of grass”. By the time this fresh water mixed with the salty Florida Keys, it had been polished and purified by a plethora of plants. You could stop your car by a small bridge on the original Alligator Alley and witness a current of gin-clear water. Nature’s machinery functioned perfectly–this same water nurished millions of acres of exotic flora and fauna along its journey.
North of mid-state, things appeared differently. The cloudbursts were less frequent, and the air cooler in winter. The rain accumulated in deep lakes which inspired giant trees or seeped downward where it was compressed in the geologic depths until it miraculously emerged with gusto aeons later as frigid and sparkling springs.
In 2000, The U.S. Congress passed the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan, but recent politicians allowed it to expire, rather than face its monetary cost.
Every Floridan who loves to drink clean water, swim in clean waters, or values the scenic wilderness that defines the state should take a moment to
read the plan online.