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Published on: Love Letters to Florida

Dear Florida: Growing Up Swampy

published on: October 15, 2019

By Ken Mundy
Lakeland, FL

I am a native Floridian, as are my parents and my grandparents, and I grew up in a small town in central Florida. I was raised at a time when I could leave the house after school and not come home until dark. I was fascinated by swamps, lakes, rivers, wildlife, and storms and explored the wildlands surrounding my town whether rain or shine. In essence, I was fascinated by Florida’s natural heritage. Trips to the beach were my favorite, as I both loved and feared the ocean, though now as a surfer and snorkeler I feel absolutely at home. The smell of an old Florida oak tree stand after a thunderstorm is seared in my memory, as is the never-ending greenery. The variety of wildlife was amazing. I remember fireflies in my nearby woods, fish in lakes, snakes, gators, bobcats, manatees, birds and the rest of what Florida had to offer

Unfortunately, today’s Florida is a sad remnant of my childhood. It is astounding to see the unbridled growth and complete disregard for our natural heritage. Beautiful wooded areas have been knocked down and turned into strip-malls, and wetlands that were replete with life are now parking lots. This is profoundly disturbing as it is ruining the beauty of the state. It is also making our environment more polluted and increasing the heat that used to be mitigated by woods and wetlands. Our waterways are full of algae blooms and runoff from over-fertilized lawns.

I had a love story, but now it is a story of heartbreak and sadness. The state has been sold out to the highest bidders, and unfortunately, much of what has been done is irreversible. I only hope that the current incentives to build, build, build will be tempered by common sense and the political will to save what remains.