Florida Mess

August 22, 2018.  This letter to the editor was published in the Citrus County Chronicle on this date.

Articles in Sunday’s Chronicle by John Moran and staff writers Michael Bates and Carly Zervis highlight the horrific conditions caused by the toxic summer slime and red tide events south of us.  State of Emergency declarations, and reports of fish kills, “dead zones” and human health alerts have become the new normal.

Tourism in the affected areas is down, businesses are closing and folks are being advised to stay off the water as noxious odors and fumes in the surrounding air can cause nausea and dizziness.  Long term health implications, especially for the very young, are causing anxiety among parents.

I suspect folks living in these areas will soon begin looking for new communities to live, work and play, and that Citrus County will be on their list of places to explore.

While our waterways haven’t escaped the effects of nutrient overloading and reduced spring flows, we haven’t seen the widespread pollution and devastation experienced throughout much of the Sunshine State.  Thanks to the efforts of interest groups, volunteers and concerned public officials, conservation lands are being protected and our waterways are being restored.

Unlike larger cities to our south and east, where folks seeking to escape the rat race on weekends are lucky to find spots of their own to float their boats and cast a line, anglers here can paddle around near pristine backcountry for hours with only a few dolphins and seabirds for company.

The Suncoast Parkway extension will make Citrus County more desirable as a bedroom community.  The Central Ridge region is one of the few places in the entire Florida Peninsula where people can live well above flood stage and still be within a 20 minute drive of great freshwater and saltwater fishing.

I’ve already begun running into more anglers launching their kayaks around Ozello and Fort Island who traveled up here for the weekend to escape conditions in their home areas.  The stories they tell about the situations they’re facing turn my stomach and make me glad I live on the Nature Coast.

Big Sugar and elected leaders in this state have much to answer for.  Hopefully, the articles will help sway voters to cast their ballots for environmentally conscious candidates in the upcoming election.

Gary Rankel