Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Deer Bridge

This is a story of a government project that was carried out a few years ago (about eight I think), in the Lower Florida Keys, and as such is subject to scathing remarks from people who think the role of government should be that of an organization stuck in the late 18th century. I am pretty sure the Founding Fathers had no clue the great State of Florida (which then belonged to Spain, through no fault of Florida's) would elect to build a bridge in Big Pine Key (then unnamed AND unknown) so this whole public work is probably unconstitutional. But here it is anyway in all it's Big Government glory:There was a problem once upon a time on the stretch of Highway One on north Big Pine Key and it involved a herd of Key Deer getting run down with irritating regularity by passing motorists. Naturally any normal person would have shrugged their shoulders and said,"tough luck" and got on with the business of ignoring their neighbors, but Big Government intervened and decided to make things better. So those horrid bureaucrats imposed a speed limit and decided some cement would make things better. These flashing signs are meant to warn strangers that Key Deer might leap out at a moment's notice. They are all over Big Pine Key. Locals use them as bike racks: Big Gummint also instituted a dual speed limit in the hope cagers could put down their brown paper bags long enough to figure this subtlety out. Tourists have a hell of a time with it. If you can see the number "45" that is the limit imposed by an over arching government bureaucrat. If it is too dark to see the "45" then the "35" will be reflected in your headlight and thus that is your limit as imposed by those socialistic Stalinists. The penalty for violating these draconian limitations on free expression is not getting sent to the Gulag (the road prison just around the corner), instead the penalty would be the imposition a tax lightly disguised as a fine. Be aware that in special speed zones like this one, or construction or school zones for example Florida's generous "speed limit plus five" law doesn't count and you could get an actual fine for exceeding the speed limit by 5mph or less.
All this to protect those non-voting Key Deer. They must have powerful lobbyists in Tallahassee.
The ridge over this portion of the Key Deer refuge looks like a solid piece of engineering to a non-engineer. It includes fences tall enough to keep the deer out, as well as a form of cattle guard at each point where the roadway exits the area surrounded by fencing.Critics call Key Deer small white tailed deer and I have featured pictures of them on my blog and will again I am sure. Scientists tell us these animals migrated to the islands (like all deer they are able swimmers) and ended up living in these rather harsh habitats. If you support evolutionary theory it will be easy for you to understand that the deer adapted to their reduced circumstances by reducing their bulk; either that or Noah dropped a couple of them off on his way to beach the Ark on Mount Ararat. In either case we are stuck with them, and people who like nice flower gardens like they had Up North have to suffer not only the iguanas (escaped pets, possibly also from the Ark) but also the Key Deer. The habitat of these cute little herbivores was split in two by US Highway One and the deer versus vehicle count was rising. So the Gummint decided to build an eight million dollar over/underpass to solve the problem.
Nowadays vehicles can drive the northern tip of Big Pine Key in perfect confidence that they won't ram a Key Deer. Indeed while I was wandering around sweating in the bogs alongside the highway an emergency vehicle made its speeding presence heard as it went by: If one could look out over the parapet to the west of Highway One, a passenger might glimpse a view of water and mangrove islands stretching towards Coupon Bight and Newfound Harbor. Talking a walk alongside the highway produces a much better view of the glories of the Florida Keys:
I parked the motorcycle at the entrance to St Peter's catholic Church at the southern end of the ramp:
And from here I got back on the bike and rode a slow couple of miles to the opposite end of the Key Deer elevated roadway. Somewhere near Mile Marker 32 there is a side street, Beach Drive which is only a block long but connects the Highway to another hidden Big Pine Key subdivision- really just a few homes in the mangroves. Notice this exit too has a cattle guard:
In all the years since this raised highway was built I have never seen a deer on the roadway so from my empirical evidence I suggest this government project works flawlessly: human and deer lives are being saved daily. I love the blue signs advertising Highway One as a hurricane evacuation route. Like there is any other roadway available that might lead an evacuee astray. And here we see more of those confusing 45/35 speed limit signs. I have on occasion seen Highway Patrol cars parked on the shoulder here so I advise caution to inveterate speeders. I pull over onto the shoulder myself to let tailgaters rush ahead and get the ticket. There is a little hump in the roadway at the northern end which obscures the view as you drive south eager to reach Key West, just 28 miles away. And as you cruise over the hump at 60 miles per hour there is a the radar gun. Oops. The oddity I photographed below is an osprey nest built atop a pole planted for the purpose. This is my Bonneville which I recently named Samantha in honor of the witch of Bewitched fame.
That's a lie I made up on the spur of the moment (us socialists do that a lot, lying). I don't give inanimate objects names even though the Bonneville has bewitched me. The northern end of the ramp splits into two separate lanes with turning lanes to allow cars to turn off to Long Beach Drive which meanders down another subdivision on a far flung piece of Big Pine Key. Thats why the island is called "Big."
And then the end of Big Pine finally appears at Spanish Harbor Channel which also marks the northern tip of this Key Deer refuge. People who say they know estimate the population at under a thousand though the deer are staging a comeback. Which also annoys people as the business of protecting endangered species also puts a mild crimp in development plans and we all know that Gummint likes to hamper the creation of malls and box stores and unrestricted fields of neon. For my part I am a little tired of the 45/35 mile per hour restriction. I don't understand why, at the risk of giving ammunition to the anti-government nutters, why these limits are maintained when this stretch of unobstructed rural highway could easily have a limit of 50 or even-gasp!- 55 whole miles per hour. Instead, despite the perfect operation of the fencing we continue to snore our way through here at 35 miles per hour (60kph) during those dread hours of darkness. When I'm driving home from Miami at midnight all I want to do is get to my bed five miles away, and 35mph is an invitation to a ticket. Bless those Key Deer, and thanks to Noah for dropping them off for us.