Florida’s Indian River Lagoon (IRL) has made international news recently for all the wrong reasons. The once magnificent 156 mile long coast estuary is plagued by fish kills, algae blooms, polluted discharges from Lake Okeechobee, habitat loss from development - a veritable death by a thousand cuts.
The Surfrider Foundation Sebastian Inlet Chapter is thoroughly engaged in restoration efforts at multiple levels, because no other chapter covers as much of the lagoon as we do. We have a board seat on the Brevard Indian River Lagoon Coalition, a lobbying group modeled after the successful Chesapeake Bay Foundation. We also have fought, and will continue to fight, for fertilizer ordinances and increased funding directed at IRL restoration.
Not afraid to get our hands dirty, the chapter has done Ocean Friendly Gardens projects that directly benefit the waters and provide models for local property owners and governments. One of those occurred on July 16, 2016.
Melbourne Beach is the oldest beach community in Brevard, founded in 1883. Early residents were pineapple farmers, and this commerce was based around a pier and railroad spur that was used both as a loading point for crops and the only means of commuting back and forth to mainland civilization. The only roads in town were ‘’paved’’ with shell marl from a huge Native American shell midden (dump) located just north of the pier. Today, the historically iconic Melbourne Beach Pier is part of Ryckman Park, site of our project.
Nichole Perna and Bill DeLuccia led the project, dubbed Restore the Shore by the Surfrider Foundation Sebastian Inlet Vice-Chair Alec Buchness: from the conception and several meetings with the Town to get approval, to final design, selection of plants, and even doing the site prep work in the days just before the event. More than one participant noted that this was ‘’the best organized event I’ve ever attended’." Nichole is an Assistant Land Manager with the Brevard County Environmentally Endangered Lands (EEL) program. They did an outstanding job! (They are pictured at right, with Ray Mojica, Brevard EEL Land Manager, in between). We were proud to partner with EEL on this project. Bill is our chapter’s OFG leader and a native plant expert in his own right.
More than 150 volunteers turned out on a beautiful, but hot, Saturday morning and completely transformed the Park’s shoreline from sod, which ran right down to Lagoon, into native plant beds. Among our volunteers were the Mayor of Melbourne Beach, Jim Simmons (above left, with bandana, next to Chapter Chair, Mike Daniel), and Dr. Duane De Freese, the Executive Director of the IRL National Estuary Program (below, using wheel barrel).
Both are longtime Surfrider Foundation members and active surfers (~100 years combined experience; I mention that at hazard to friendships). Neither was there for a photo opportunity: Jim probably pitch-forked five yards of mulch by himself; Duane was fresh off an airplane from DC and ‘’just glad to be out of a suit’’.
The new shoreline buffer will filter runoff into IRL, require no irrigation or fertilizer, and provide habitat important to the IRL’s restoration. It’s also beautiful - especially to those who love our Indian River Lagoon.
And lots of people heard about it because media showed up to film it, including interviewing Bill (at left).
Photo credits: kilbyphotollc