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Arthur R. Marshall key to Florida’s environmental movement

Last week we mentioned the 60th anniversary of the Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge, which was established June 8, 1951.

While most just call it “the Loxahatchee refuge,” its official name is Arthur R. Marshall Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge.

Here’s what we wrote in 2004:

The biologist, naturalist, lecturer, writer and philosopher, who died at 65 in 1985, is hailed as the father of Florida’s environmental movement.

Marshall’s love of nature sprang from his boyhood. In 1925, when he was 6, his family moved to West Palm Beach, where he lived until he was 12 and spent hours fishing in Lake Worth.

The biologist was a voice in the wilderness as far back as 1955, when he began 15 years with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service before becoming a University of Miami professor.

He even had his own “Marshall Plan,’’ a blueprint for repairing the Kissimmee River-Lake Okeechobee-Everglades system that evolved into the Save Our Everglades program.

Marshall suggested measures some called Draconian, others visionary. One water agency memo called him “a fanatic.’’

“Growth should be stopped rather than managed or controlled,’’ Marshall once said.

“In the same way a lake can have too much nutrients in it … and a farm can have too much fertilizer on it, a city can have too many people in it,” he said.

Marshall helped establish Biscayne National Park. And he helped expand Indian River County’s Pelican Island National Wildlife Refuge, first in the nation, from 3 acres to 750 acres.

He also wrote the 1969 report that helped kill a jetport planned for the heart of the Everglades and an expressway to serve it. That led to establishment of the Big Cypress National Preserve.

Marshall’s nephew, John Arthur Marshall, set up the Arthur R. Marshall Foundation, now based in Lake Worth. Among other projects, it helped raise money for art in the new visitor center and helped restore the cypress forest landscape by planting trees.

Arthur R. Marshall speaking at the West Palm Beach Garden Club in 1977 (Palm Beach Post staff photo)

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Posted in Eliot Kleinberg June 16, 2011 at 8:45 am.

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Loxahatchee Wildlife Refuge turns 60

This week marks the 60th anniversary of one of Palm Beach County’s natural jewels.

Once the northern Everglades sprawled to Lake Okeechobee. Most have gone to sugar fields and neighborhoods. Only one piece remains, and it’s in the shape of a teardrop.

On June 8, 1951, the Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge was established “for use as an inviolate sanctuary” to protect and manage the north end of the southern Everglades.

It was the 216th refuge established in a network that’s now up to 553 and protects 150 million acres.

Owned by the South Florida Water Management District and leased to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the refuge covers 221 square miles west of State Road 7 from Southern Boulevard to the Broward-Palm Beach county line. A 57-mile levee surrounds classic Everglades environment: marshes, wet prairies, and tree islands from 1 acre to more than 300 acres.

The refuge protects endangered species such as the snail kite, wood stork and tropical curly grass fern, as well as alligators and red-bellied turtles. It’s composed of five different habitat types: tree islands, wet prairies, sloughs, sawgrass communities, and the largest remnant of a cypress swamp in Palm Beach County.

The refuge draws more than 300,000 visitors a year.

The Visitor Center off State Road 7 between Boynton Beach Boulevard and Atlantic Avenue, renovated in 2008-09, features interactive exhibits and an introductory refuge video, as well as an observation tower and observation platform, a fishing platform, nature trails and a 5½-mile canoe trail.

From the nearly half-mile Cypress Swamp Boardwalk, visitors can see several types of ferns and lichens as well as the majestic cardinal wild pine. The Marsh Trail, which runs eight-tenths of a mile, is an open levee trail that features views of wading birds, shorebirds, and migratory waterfowl. Boat ramps are at the main entrance, at the end of Lox Road west of Boca Raton, and at 20-Mile Bend. The Visitor Center is open 9 a.m.-4 p.m. every day except Thanksgiving and Christmas. Fees: $5 per vehicle or $1 per pedestrian.

Next Week: Art Marshall

Shawn Beale, 9, tries to attract the attention of his brother Keith, 7, and sister Beth, 4, as he watches the smoke from a controlled burning at the Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge in 1987. (Palm Beach Post staff file photo)

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Posted in Eliot Kleinberg June 9, 2011 at 11:35 am.


This week in history: Camp Murphy site turned over to state for use as a park

On June 9, 1947, the federal government transferred the 11,000-acre Camp Murphy to the state of Florida. The World War II radar operation training base was officially decommissioned in 1944 and used for migrant worker housing during the fall and winter of 1945. The state had planned to use the base’s hospital buildings as a tuberculosis sanatorium, but those plans were scrapped because the site was too isolated, making it difficult for employees to travel to and from nearby cities. Jonathan Dickinson State Park opened in July 1950.

Family taking a break at Jonathan Dickinson State Park. (Photo courtesy of the Florida Photographic Collection, on the Florida Memory website of the State Library and Archives of Florida)

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Posted in Flashback blog June 6, 2011 at 6:00 am.


‘Mr. Democrat’ Lake Lytal integrated courthouse facilities

Last week we noted the end of Black History Month. Not enough can be said for the role African-Americans played in securing for themselves the rights the rest of us take for granted.

But it’s also important to note the efforts of whites — some halfhearted, some brave and at the risk of life and limb.

And some subtle, yet powerful.

Lake Lytal Park in suburban West Palm Beach is a popular destination.

And last month the law firm of Lytal & Reiter merged with another to become Lytal, Reiter, Smith, Ivey & Fronrath.

But many might not know the story of the original Lake Lytal.

Lytal in 1989 (Palm Beach Post staff file photo)

He served 32 years on the Palm Beach County Commission, a record that still stands. Associates called him “Mr. Democrat” and described him as a politician who believed in using government to help the less fortunate.

His most dramatic act was one he likely hoped few would notice.

People like Lytal and Gov. LeRoy Collins (1955-61) were Southerners, raised under Jim Crow laws.

They knew integration was coming, and Florida could accept it with a minimum of fuss or count on the world seeing images that would drive away tourism for decades.

One weekend in the early 1960s, Lytal summoned workers to the Palm Beach County Courthouse, where they quietly painted over signs at drinking fountains that read “white” and “colored.”

The following Monday, “I do remember there were people, after it happened, that were upset about it,” lawyer Lake Lytal Jr., then a Florida State University student, said last month.

He recalled a white woman who saw a black woman in the restroom and “was going crazy.”

But like it or not, the woman found that county facilities had been integrated. And for good.

Lake Lytal, who moved from Louisiana at 12 in 1918 and graduated from Palm Beach High School in 1924, lived most of his life in Lake Clarke Shores with his wife, Ruth, a schoolteacher, who died in 1998.

In 1975, Lake Lytal Park, on Gun Club Road, was named for him. Then 68, he leaped from the high dive to celebrate.

He died at 85 in 1992.


Then-Palm Beach County Commissioner Lake Lytal made a splash at the dedication of a new county swimming pool in March 1975. He was 68 when he dove into the pool at the park named for him. (Palm Beach Post staff file photo)

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Posted in Eliot Kleinberg March 3, 2011 at 10:26 am.

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Avalon State Park used as training ground for World War II “frogmen”

We’re taking a minute to profile a jewel on the Treasure Coast.

Twenty-five years ago this weekend, on Dec. 12, 1985, the state bought a mile-long oceanfront parcel in extreme northeastern St. Lucie County. It would open seven years later as Avalon State Park.

On a stretch of North Hutchinson Island, about a half mile south of the Indian River County line, 540 acres stand, surrounded by high-rise condos.

Wooden bridges cross dunes, sea grapes and sea oats swaying in the wind.

The park had a much less prosaic beginning.

In World War II, the U.S. Navy used the site for secret training for its underwater demolition team.

Jagged concrete and steel beach obstacles were placed in water for the “frogmen” to find. All of this was training for the D-Day invasion; the Allies knew Germans had sown the shallow offshore waters with objects designed to puncture the hulls of arriving ships.

The park warns swimmers, snorkelers and surfers that at least one “jack” is still offshore and will come just below the surface in low tide.

The Navy had given the beach the code name Avalon, for reasons lost to history. A Celtic legend says Avalon was the paradise that greeted King Arthur and his knights.

Later, locals cherished the area they called “the Pines” for its views and seclusion. When development began to encroach, the state stepped in.

“When the people can get a piece of land, we ought to get it,” then-Florida Department of Natural Resources Director Elton Gissendanner said in August 1985.

Hurricanes Frances and Jeanne, striking three weeks apart in 2004, pummeled the park. A surge inundated the north end, destroying a paved parking lot and structures as well as much of the beach, dunes and vegetation. Repairs took nearly a year. Now, Avalon State Park offers fishing, birding, lazing in the sand, and of course spectacular ocean views. Avalon State Park: (772) 468-3985.  

An unspoiled Avalon beachfront in the 1980s.

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Posted in Eliot Kleinberg December 9, 2010 at 9:46 am.

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