Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Fort Zachary Beach

I wasn't sure what to think; he appeared to be giving her a quick riding lesson in the parking lot on their rented scooter. It's a good thing I supposed, as there are altogether too many scooter rental wrecks in Key West, though it turned out he was actually getting her to pose while he took a picture. As long as they don't take to drinking and driving they should, statistically, be okay.An annual Florida parks pass means Fort Zachary Taylor is accessible anytime I want to spend fifteen minutes by the water before the start of my night shift job at the police department. I am the guy wearing black shoes, long pants and a dark blue polo shirt. Other people are in a far greater state of undress, which is not surprising as they are at the beach and it's 90 degrees (32C).Locals like Fort Zach because the entry fee keeps out the professional residentially challenged who also like to hang out at the beach, though they prefer the free access choices. It's also a nice swimming beach, not because it has tons of sand but because the bottom drops away close to shore and instead of wading up to your ankles for a quarter of a mile offshore, here you get to actually swim:This is a family park, supervised by rangers where alcohol is sort of not allowed and fights and rowdiness are definitely not allowed which means this is a good place for the generations to mix:
There are picnic tables in the shade... ...and sufficient young women sunning themselves and swimming to retain the interest of the prurient among us:And before w we get carried away let's check out those casuarina trees one more time. This is the place where a public uproar guaranteed these pines would not be removed for at least another decade. So called Australian pines are a source of irritation in South Florida between scientists and members of the public. Scientists argue these trees are non native, acidic in nature and thus prevent other native growth and though the trees provide shade they do not provide food for native animals and migrating birds. Lots of birds come charging through the Keys to and from the Caribbean each year it seems. Supporters of the pines got their knickers seriously twisted when plans were announced by the Park Service to tear them up and replace them with piddly little native shrubs and cement ramadas to provide shade while the bushes grew. The Park Service underestimated the popular revolt and after hearings and shouting matches and innumerable letters to the Editor the Park Service yielded and here we are with pines intact.
You can see the point of both sides, especially if you live in Key West and would like to retain one, bum-free, shady spot to hang out by the water. The Park Service, in my opinion, would have done better to import a few decent sized native trees and started encroaching on the casuarinas piecemeal by showing that sea grapes and buttonwoods can grow to full size and provide decent shade. The funny thing was that after the people won the fight the Park Service was forced to waste $200,000 shoring up the pines which were getting eroded around their bases. Very funny of course at a time of shrinking park funds...Key West inspires passion so I suppose it's inevitable that shade trees will do the same.On the other hand, here we are almost to October and people are still swimming happily in the salt waters of the Straits of Florida:
I don't know how much longer I will keep swimming. My wife and I were sitting out watching the sun do it's thing from our porch Sunday evening and we remarked the temperatures seem to be dropping a tiny little bit. Not enough for sweatshirts and pullovers just yet.Indeed this is the perfect time for a picnic at the Fort, no crowds, not suffocatingly hot (by local standards) with a slight but appreciated sea breeze:Though the sun is hot enough to tan by, apparently: Construction began at the fort in 1845 according to the indispensable The Streets of Key West, by J Wills Burke, who says a major storm wiped out the fort's beginnings in 1846 and work had to be started all over again. Before the harbor was dredged for modern shipping and the spoil piled up around the fort, it was in fact conceived as an island at the end of a human built causeway:The fort was finished in time for the Civil War in 1861 and was named for President Zachary Taylor, an Indian War hero who served as commander-in-chief for 16 months before he died suddenly of one of those unspecified 19th century illnesses while occupying the White House. If you want more pictures of the fort check out this previous essay on my blog:http://conchscooter.blogspot.com/2008/02/fort-zachary-taylor.html Today I content myself with looking out to sea, dipping into my book and alternating with a few sporadic photographs to remind myself of the pleasure of a few moments snatched from the day and spent doing next to nothing at the water's edge.The empty parking lot on a gorgeous September afternoon will not be replicated during the winter months so I figured it was worth noting, in passing:And so to work, ready for a night of answering 9-1-1 calls.