Welcome to Citrus County

July 11, 2018.  The following letter was published in the Citrus County Chronicle on this date.

Methinks Citrus County is in for an impending tourism and population boom.

Decades of environmental mismanagement and persistent polluted runoff from Big Sugar are once again having catastrophic effects in Lake Okeechobee and associated estuarine areas as far away as St. Lucie to the east, Fort Myers to the west and The Everglades to the south.  Much to the chagrin of our neighbors to the south and east, the summertime slime events coupled with recurring red tide bloom and doom phenomena are becoming the new normal.

Residents of Tampa – St. Pete and other concrete jungles in the Sunshine State are coping with increasing urban sprawl and worsening traffic jams.  Attempts to escape the rat race and spend relaxing weekends on adjoining waterways are met with more traffic jams at boat ramps and on the water.  Finding spots of their own to float their boats and cast a line have become a challenge.

If I lived down there, I’d be looking north toward the more relaxed Nature Coast where bumper to bumper traffic is more tolerable, and I could paddle for hours in relatively pristine backcountry with only a few shorebirds and dolphins for company.

Our waters haven’t escaped the effects of nutrient overloading and reduced spring flow, however, we haven’t seen the widespread pollution, recurrent algae blooms and resultant die offs of fish, birds and other critters recently experienced in the Indian River, Mosquito Lagoon, Charlotte Harbor and other areas. Thanks to the joint efforts of local volunteers, interest groups and public officials, conservation lands have been protected and our bays and rivers are being rehabilitated.

Years of silt and lyngbya accumulation are being removed and restored areas are being replanted with native seagrasses. Contrary to some skepticism on my part, the new plantings are reportedly withstanding our annual migrations of munching manatees eyeing their new found salad bar.

Like it or not, the Suncoast Parkway is coming, making us a more desirable bedroom community and more popular visitor use destination.  Mr. Tamposi at Terra Vista has cleared large tracts expecting to welcome a new wave of boomers seeking to build above flood stage, hoping to improve their odds of riding out the next Big Blow and avoid the next mass evacuation, while still living within a 15 minute drive of awesome boating, paddling and fishing.

Methinks that Citrus County is in for an impending tourism and population boom.

 

Gary Rankel