Eric and I are back from Florida, where his grandparents live in a golf course community. During Saturday brunch, two of the younger cousins (10 and 5) got restless, so I took them on a nature walk. One problem: the only nature in this former corner of the Everglades is found on the golf course. There’s no woods, no natural bits of swamp, nothing that wasn’t made by people. Only acres and acres of perfect green grass with a few water trap ponds.
So I did my best with the golf course ponds. This being Florida, the lakes had a few anhingas, egrets, and a great blue heron. We couldn’t find any amphibians at all, though the ponds did have some big freshwater apple snails. As we wandered through the featureless green plain, the kids got a kick out of collecting broken golf tees.
Though we had fun – the 5 year old does a great egret impression – I got really sad. Are these kids going to think that a golf course is all there is to the outdoors? They don’t even know how to catch frogs, or how to turn over a log to look for cool bugs. Talk about shifting baselines.
I did cheer up a bit when visiting Green Cay, a restored wetland used for water treatment. It probably doesn’t look much like a natural Florida wetland (though to be honest I have no idea what those look like), since the plants were all selected based on their ability to take up nutrients. However, there was so much bird life – the usual egrets and herons, but also ibis and moorhens and ducks galore. We even saw some endangered wood storks. (Eric got so excited that he’s starting a life list. I fear I have created a birding monster. Is it wrong that this makes me really happy?)
Best of all, even on a threatening-rain day, there were at least 100 people strolling on the boardwalks through the reserve, enjoying the swamp. Clearly people have an urge to see Florida as more than vast tracts of hideous sprawl. Maybe there could be a network of restored wetlands, one for each planned community. That way kids could catch frogs and tadpoles instead of settling for golf tees.