Thursday, February 7, 2019

Fort Zachary Taylor

I admit I went to Fort Zachary specifically to check out the Civil War Heritage camp out and it was great fun. But there again I am very fond of history as it helps me understand where we are as a civilization. Luckily I had no clue where the reenactors hung out so I made a beeline for the beach and parked in the handicapped parking (I have a temporary placard through April though I'm hoping I will ditch it before then) and stumped off with camera around my neck and walking stick in hand.
It was a glorious day, edging up t 80 degrees, but not humid and slightly breezy. I got a hankering to go for a swim but I am quite well aware the water would be freezing by my elevated standards. 
This is a state park one of almost two hundred in Florida and they are all worth a visit. This flat state has more stuff to see than most critics have any idea of but if you check out the state parks you'll be off to a great start.
I was hardly alone in taking joy in the day. 
Danger Will Robinson!
This beach has  rock break waters that give a photography something to focus on and provide foreground for a picture looking south toward the Straits of Florida.
I'm not sure he cared about the break waters but I think they serve a couple of purposes and mainly to help break up wave action and keep the sandy beach intact but they also provide a safe boat-free swimming area.
This photograph made me want to throw aside my cane like Lazarus abandoning his funeral garb and walk unhindered into the water. 

I think you can argue this is hands down the nicest  beach in Key West. There's lots of sand, there are no bums thanks to the entrance fee, there are fresh water showers, a concession stand, park workers cleaning and rangers patrolling. It's about the most peaceful beach experience you can have and it cost me $4:50 to come in alone in my car.
Then there are a multitude of picnic tables, and I mean lots of them scattered under the pine trees. Bring a  picnic and no alcohol of course as it is forbidden, but you can have a nice day here drinking whatever from a thermos flask and snoozing in the shade in between swims.
I couldn't move around like in days past before my accident and sometime sit does wear on me my inability to crouch or lean or swivel or dodge to get a better angle. Every limited change in posture takes me ages and even then I am not at all sure I can get a good angle. So I found a spot and swiveled around as best I could shooting in a  rather peculiar static sort of way and glad to have a big telephoto lense on my Lumix.  

There is the question, and a vexed question it is about the fate of the pine forest at Fort Zachary.
I took a bunch of pictures in black and white and also in color so you can decide which you prefer, if either of this wooded portion of the fort. The black and white looked interesting to me but honestly I wanted to record the place in its natural color because some days I wonder how long it will be here after all the shouting that went on a few years ago.
The state has a policy, reasonable enough on its  face of requiring non native vegetation to be removed from state lands. These so called pine trees are actually casuarina tees or Australian pines an they are very acidic so when they drop their needles nothing grows under them. They spread by projecting their roots and they are rampant. Also they don't dig deep and strong winds tend to topple them. All of which is very bad, right?
The thing is the pines of Fort Zachary have been here since long before the anti-invasive policy put about by the state parks and in a town like Key West with limited land for picnics and family beach gatherings no one wanted to see this shade stand cut down and replaced by scrubby little bushes as planted elsewhere in the park.
Boy did people get riled up! Half the city turned out and threatened mayhem and I tell you honestly I didn't give them a chance when you lined them up against state law. I was wrong. They sent the state packing and the pines have been allowed to stay. It was an uneasy truce and I dare say the subject won't come back up for a while but I don' think the state has given up on he idea of getting rid of the shade trees. 
I think they need to build up the native plants growing, slowly on the edge of the meadow across the parking lot and perhaps we might see a slow transfer of shade to another part of the park. But it will all take time.
The new plantings are behind the parked cars and vans in the picture below:
You can see why no one outside of the park system wanted these trees uprooted:
My buddy Robert, an eco-warrior of impeccable credentials opposes the presence of the pines but it's not a subject we bring up between us. I like the way the pines look and I like the clear ground underneath and I have happy memories of fun picnics here like everyone else. Call me sentimental. I'd like tow watch my wife eat a few more helpings of bright green Fausto's seaweed at a  picnic table before the place changes too much. There again why anyone likes seaweed baffles me.
This picture seemed like the perfect foil for all those people Up North under snow. They always get annoyed when I seem to enjoy perpetual summer in the Keys. Sorry about that but I do. I live here because I like summer year round. I don't ski, I don't like seeing my breath, I like turquoise water, impossibly high rents and ridiculously small amounts of land to live on.  What can I say?
This is the meadow. Dogs are allowed anywhere in the park outside buildings which means no walks in the fort and not on the beach as no one wants a surprise in the sand and not enough people pick up after their animals unfortunately. Even I who walks like a drunken sailor can pick up after Rusty, with difficulty but I can do it. 
The fort when it was built was an island with a long causeway back to land. Then they dredged the harbor and threw up the dirt from the bottom and built up the land around the fort which was supposed to guard the entrance to Key West. Nowadays it's a low brick shadow on the horizon. 
It's odd too because the view from the top of the walls is lovely and I'll walk the steps as soon as I am able. I took these pictures in 2013 when I could climb stairs three at a  time and not lose my breath!