Monday, May 4, 2009

Salt Ponds

On May 28th 2008 I posted an essay on the Bridle Path, the strip of sandy roadway that parallels South Roosevelt Boulevard across from Smathers Beach, and the path is still there:
And the city signage is still there promising hellfire and brimstone to any forlorn soul daring to park, camp, drink or anything else (including "tresspass," sic) along this scenic strip:There was a time when tents popped up along the Bridle Path and people took to living in the mangroves, which prompted the city to declare the area, including the salt ponds behind the bushes, an area of critical environmental concern so they could force the campers off the land and restore South Roosevelt Boulevard to it's pristine state for motorists to enjoy an uninterrupted view of nature.
The unfortunate part of the story is that by prohibiting parking the city has discouraged people, vehicle dependent people, from stopping by and enjoying this natural wilderness.So I decided to break the trend by dropping a couple of quarters in the meter, and with an hour's safe parking, I went for an explore.Visitors tend to think that coconut palms are native to these islands but they aren't. They are well liked by many people because their traditional "palm of hand" shape denotes the exotic tropics and coconuts are wilderness survival food. But in fact sub tropical islands like the Keys and the Bahamian Out Islands are covered by scrubby little trees, torn bushes and mangroves. The buttonwoods and mangroves surrounding the salt ponds are typical of these limestone islands:I have the greatest difficulty telling apart black or white mangroves and buttonwoods, which all look much of a muchness to my anti-botanist's eye. White mangroves have yellowy-green leaves and little salt glands supposedly, while black mangroves are easier to identify because they sprout needles out of the ground called pneumatophores like these which feed air to the roots!While I started my walk by finding an elderly path through the bushes, I straightened up as I came into the more open canopy under the trees, and thought I was observing a dead man in an attitude of prayer: It was actually an empty, abandoned wet suit, and it was indicative of the general lack of care of the mangrove forest, for though there was a trash can on the Bridle Path humans seem to prefer to dump their trash:It seemed an especial shame to see my favorite brand of beer bottle nestled in the leaves. For all the litter the salt ponds are a pretty spot once you work your way out of sight of the road. Naturally the sounds of traffic can be heard over it all, but it is remarkably rural:The salt ponds are a remnant, even though they extend across a fair bit of acreage between the airport,...and Key West By The Sea condos:The salt ponds on other side of the island were filled in to make rail beds for Flagler's rail/ferry terminus at Trumbo Point. These ponds have suffered from being enclosed by development but the canal access across the island has been cleaned out in an effort to encourage tidal flow and the ponds themselves might well be a bird watcher's paradise, not that I would know. I just like the beauty:It has been a particularly dry Spring with very little rain and lots of dry south east winds. All of which has helped keep the mosquito population down, and the mud flats dry. Soon it will be rainy season again and the mud will disappear underneath the rain waters. The view to the north is much the same, looking towards Government Road and the houses along the Riviera Canal beyond that:I found a log to sit on, and get my feet out of the mud, which allowed me a happy ten minutes to admire the antics of the bait fish swarming in the shallows......which hard as I tried, only appeared in my camera as darting shadows:The view across the water was delightful, far from the proverbial crowds:A far cry from the bed races of Duval Street a mile away.