There is a preturnaturally sacred place in northeast Florida that provides sanctuary for shore creatures you can imagine, and perhaps some that you can't. Various species of sea turtles nest here; ancient land tortoises burrow and breed here. Birds as elegant as egrets and as ludicrously beautiful as roseate spoonbills find peace here. North Atlantic Right Whales - a species estimated to number 350-400 at present - pass through these waters as they move south to bear their live young. Many acres and several beautiful miles of marshland and pristine beaches can be found here, with no development and relatively few visitors. This is the breathtaking Guana Tolomato Matanzas Marine Estuarine Reserve, which celebrates its 10th anniversary this month under the care and supervision of Mike Shirley and a dedicated staff including law enforcement personnel, biologists and volunteers. (Thank you, Folio Weekly, for including mention of this milestone in your December 28 issue.)
None of this is news to you if you read here regularly (and my apologies for being repetitive) but I think it's an anniversary worth of celebration. Quiet success stories like this one give hope to anyone hoping to share unspoiled natural glories with the children of the next generations. Pay the $3 and walk across A1A to take a look for yourself. Remind yourself that this is prime real estate, stretching out between expensive properties on both the beach- and riverside fronts, but preserved for the joy of every one of us regardless of means. If you're visiting the area, don't miss it. Either way, if you happen to see the volunteer sea turtle patrol, or run into one of the law enforcement guys who keep the place safe, or notice someone marking sea turtle nests or taking notes, stop and offer your thanks. Oh, and maybe your congratulations. It's a big anniversary.