Oil Company Eyes Florida Preserve

Florida Everglades

Oil and water don’t mix. Florida Everglades.

Florida has long been a popular site for tourists and developers, now oil companies are trying to cash in on the “Sunshine State.” Oil and water don’t mix but that is not stopping one oil company.

Big Cypress¬†National Preserve is being targeted by a Texas Company looking for oil 2 miles beneath its surface. Burnett Oil of Fort Worth, Texas has been given the go ahead by Florida and the National Park Service. Currently Big Cypress wells produce 30,000 barrels a month. Burnett Oil states the survey will be conducted with “great care.” As Matthew Schwartz of the South Florida Wildlife Association states “there’s a limit to how Eco friendly you can make an oil well.”

The National Park Service believes that the environmental impact will be minimal. For some reason the Government is always an optimist when it comes to oil companies. I guess that is why they are still getting oil subsidies in spite of record profits.

Protecting Big Cypress swampland is key to the preservation of the Florida Everglades and Florida wildlife. Big Cypress is a national preserve that provides water to the Florida Everglades.

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Everglades Drilling

Palm trees in the Everglades

I prefer palm tree to oil platforms.

Having just visited the oil blackened shores of Mississippi, an article in USA today about Kanter Real Estate’s request to drill for oil in the Everglades hit a raw nerve. Sure they own 20,000 undeveloped acres of the Everglades but this sounds like a wolf in sheep’s clothing.

Sights and Sounds

Pensacola Lighthouse copyrighted by Elaine Marie.

Pensacola Lighthouse copyrighted by Elaine Marie.

I was excited about visiting the Pensacola Lighthouse at Naval Air Station Pensacola. I donned my tennis shoes and gathered my sketch pad.

After spending a few days disheartened by the oil blackened water in Mississippi, I anticipated seeing the pristine beaches of the Florida panhandle. I also made a mental note to write my Congressman about banishing oil exploration off the coast of Florida. There’s still six to 10 million gallons of oil left from the BP oil spill to reckon with according to Inquistor.com.

We entered NAS Pensacola after going through security. The guard was cordial and gave us directions.

The Pensacola Lighthouse overlooks the Gulf of Mexico and is across the street from the Naval Aviation Museum.

The azure ocean and soaring Blue Angels made for an awe-inspiring day. I stood spell-bound as I watched the Blue Angels perform different flight formations. It had been years since I had seen them. I gaped my mouth looking up into the sky. It made me proud as an American and renewed my profound appreciation for our military servicemen.

The Blue Angels are a precision team worth seeing. I was happy I had visited during their practice drills. Since the lighthouse tower was closed, I spent the morning admiring the Blue Angels and drawing. The sights and sounds of the day were spectacular.

The Lighthouse at the Big Easy

The New Canal Lighthouse.

The New Canal Lighthouse in New Orleans. Copyrighted by Elaine Marie.

I visited the New Canal Lighthouse during a one day stay in New Orleans. I know the typical New Orleans visitor does not book a room to see a lighthouse but I was surprised the Concierge at Springhill Suites had never heard of New Canal. Granted she was also the check-in clerk. But when I asked for the Concierge she said she was it!

Undaunted, I pulled up the address on the GPS and headed to Lake Pontchartrain 15 minutes away. I went during peak traffic but had a smooth ride because I was headed in the opposite direction. I arrived a few hours before the lighthouse opened and enjoyed a breeze as I sketched. The view of Lake Pontchartrain was magnificent. It is one of the largest estuarine systems in the Gulf of Mexico.

The New Canal Lighthouse opened promptly at 10 am. I had debated about doing the tour because the reviews said it wasn’t worthwhile. Still I wanted the full experience even if there was no lighthouse tower climb.

I learned a lot about Lake Pontchartrain and a little about the lighthouse. Still it was a worthwhile tour that helped me to understand the role the New Canal Lighthouse played. I never realized how important canals were to the livelihood of New Orleans. It gave me a new perspective on the outrage about the levees during Hurricane Katrina. The New Canal Lighthouse was severely damaged during the hurricane but has since been restored by the Lake Pontchartrain Basin Foundation.

I was the only person on the tour so I appreciated the opportunity to ask questions without annoying other people. I also had to shortened my visit because I wanted to see another lighthouse before hitting the road for Pensacola.

When I bought my ticket I was told about the Port Pontchartrain Lighthouse a couple of miles away.

The New Canal Lighthouse is operated by the Lake Pontchartrain Basin Foundation. The foundation works to restore and reclaim Lake Pontchartrain and habitats for future generations. For more information, visit http://www.saveourlake.org

Lost Cause

A peaceful protest.

A peaceful protest.

I never thought I would approach a crowd of confederate flag supporters. But there I stood asking questions and listening to complaints. “They are taking our freedom away.” Upset about the removal of the confederate flag but no mention of the 9 people murdered in South Carolina. One person even made a peace sign and another said it was about “Heritage not Hate.”

Attending a family reunion, I could understand their sense of history and the loss of tradition.

Still old wounds that never heal are considered cancerous. I wondered if they understood that this wound was self inflicted. It was possibly one from their ranks that caused the trouble not the 9 people praying in South Carolina.

Hidden Treasure: Port Pontchartrain Lighthouse

Port Pontchartrain Lighthouse

Port Pontchartrain Lighthouse copyrighted by Elaine Marie Austin.

I am not sure why I really connected with this abandoned lighthouse. It was sitting on the campus of the University of New Orleans without any fanfare or sign. Perhaps it’s quiet majesty; the compelling colors or it being abandoned that touched me. Anyway it was love at first sight.
I wasn’t allowed to walk on the grass or to get very close to where it was sitting. I hurriedly did a quick sketch, snapped a few photos and left. I was on my way to Pensacola.

I didn’t know anything about this lighthouse. I had come to New Orleans to visit the New Canal Lighthouse and was told about this lighthouse during my visit. What a hidden treasure!

I later called the New Canal Lighthouse to learn this one’s name and history. According to the Lighthouse ¬†Friends website Port Pontchartrain Lighthouse or Milneburg Lighthouse was erected in 1855.

Remembering Katrina

Biloxi lighthouse

Biloxi Lighthouse copyright by Elaine Marie Austin.

I heard on the radio that people tend to get sentimental during the summer. My summer trip to Biloxi Mississippi was full of remembrances of Hurricane Katrina. With this being the 15th year since Katrina, there was an exhibit recalling the hurricane. I also saw wooden sculptures carved from oak trees that died during the hurricane.

The Biloxi Lighthouse has become an emblem for the city. The lighthouse has survived over 20 hurricanes, the Civil War and Civil Rights protests since it was built in 1848. It thrives on a busy 4 lane highway oblivious to the hustle and bustle around it.