Thursday, June 11, 2009

Postcards From Nuke Beach

Fort Island Gulf Beach Entrance
Fort Island Gulf Beach in Crystal River, Florida. Its nickname is "Nuke Beach" due to the plant visible to the right of the sign: "Stay Safe and Have Fun!"

I find it a bit disconcerting to live about 15 miles from a coal and nuclear power plant, especially given some of the problems experienced at this particular one. During Three Mile Island's near-meltdown in 1979, I had lived in the wind path of any potential fallout, estimated to reach my then-neighborhood in Staten Island in three days. That incident had started my protest years in earnest.

Yet here I am, settled in a nuke's back yard, with another plant recently approved for Levy County just to the north of us. C'est la vie drôle.

In the shadow of those ominous cooling towers, Mary and I still had a lovely day... (continued)

Our expedition began with a bit of a challenge. Mary wanted to keep up the driving on her 1987 Ford Ranger, and we got a bit warm on the long approach road to the beach. A flick of the fan (no A/C) and the Ranger's engine sputtered to a halt.

Fort Island Gulf Beach approach

All things considered, we couldn't have stalled out at a better place, given the number of blind curves on this road. After pondering a call to AAA, Mary noticed the temperature gauge, I remembered the fan, and we did the math. That gave me some photo ops while the truck cooled down. Here, some lush foliage frames the Crystal River power plant seen across the wetlands.

Approach toward "Nuke Beach"

You wait by the road; I walk to get the car.
We have fished for trash by the estuary,
pulled a Diehard battery from the grassy shore.
Nuke plant cooling towers steam beyond.
Behind us, tropic-colored bikinis
cavort on a manmade beach by a placid gulf.
Above us, vermilion flycatchers
flit like tiny fires amidst the palms.

-- excerpt from "Mentor," which appeared in the 2005 We'Moon calendar. Reprinted that same year in Anthology 23 from the Florida State Poets Association.

Fort Island Gulf Beach estuary

I didn't have my camera with me during our previous visit, which had inspired "Mentor." Above is the estuary mentioned in the poem. The beach had been fairly crowded during that weekend visit years ago. In contrast, Wednesday's expedition occurred during regular work hours and traffic was light.

Fort Island Gulf Beach

We spent some time sitting in the shade of a picnic table and doing people-, crow-, gull-, and grackle-watching. When we were ready to move on, I noticed this pair of child's sneakers left in the sand beside the table. I thought their reptilian design was pretty cool.

Sneakers at Fort Island Gulf Beach

We set out for the pier and passed this waystation not far from the boardwalk. I don't know whose blanket and umbrella this was, but three birds decided it was theirs.

Three Birds on a Blanket

The crow (grackle?) at center has found a prize, which has garnered it some pretty fierce attention from its buddies. More visible in the large view.

The boardwalk connects the beach and the pier. That's Mary up ahead.

Boardwalk to the Pier

Here's the view to the right:

View from the Boardwalk

We reached the pier about an hour past high tide.

Fishing Pier 1

Fishing Pier 2

From here we could look back toward the beach...

Beach View from the Pier

... or out toward the cooling towers:

The Power of Fishing

Small fish seemed the preferred form of bait. Here's one that got away -- after a fashion.

Wayward Bait

Not far from the fishing pier, we came across the boat ramp.

Boat Ramp

We could see minnows from the pier if we tried hard enough. Conditions at the boat ramp were just right, revealing thousands of them by our unscientific estimate.


Minnows, close up
Large view

On our way back to the beach, we passed outcroppings of lantanas (see here for a shot of lantanas in our neighborhood). It made the flowers below stand out. Their trumpet shape suggests morning glories to me.

Morning Glories?

The mosquitos started nabbing us right about this time, so we started thinking about heading for dinner and home. These birds (grackles are my guess) were already out for a meal.

Dinner With a View

Female Grackle?
Large view

A final look at the estuary, before a sumptuous dinner of Chinese food in downtown Crystal River.

Bird by the Estuary
Large view

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Anonymous waitress said...

I think i would be a little uneasie in "Nuke" county. Thanks for the blog.

8:38 AM  

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