by Mark Gluckman
(Gilchrist County, Florida)
Barns, Backroads, & Burgs In The Suwannee Valley
I’m a native Floridian, born in Orlando pre Disney.
I moved to a horse farm in Gilchrist County in 1992, to protect an investment, explore retirement and be near our kids at UF. Circumstances led to reopening my consulting practice to specialize in rural planning.
Driving the back roads I was amazed at the number of abandoned barns and started sketching them because I found them unique and picturesque (per attached). They were everywhere. I wondered why. Investigation revealed that the family farm was disappearing, yet a higher and better use had not come along.
It was simple. The barns were abandoned because of obsolescence, still standing because there was no reason to tear them down. Times have changed. The barns are now gone. The land is in transition. Sprawl is coming, it just hasn’t yet consumed the countryside along the Suwannee.
Thanks for the link to the Suwannee River page. I wish you had been around when the Suwannee River Wilderness Trail was born in May of 2001. Your perspective would have been very helpful cultivating the Hubs concept and keeping the project relevant and purposeful.
I’ve paddled the entire river in sections at different times over a 10 year period helping the Water Management District create the trail. And a few over nighters. It’s an amazing waterway with incredible linkages and opportunities for public engagement.
Unfortunately Parks and Rec (DEP) took over management and forced the project into a “park box”. And just as the barns are gone, all the linkages got lost. Continuity disappeared. Connections got severed. Potential impact to protect water gone.
I look for any and all sources and strategies to protect water, the landscape and rural quality of life in the Suwannee Valley. The river is a resource for all. Besides the song, many things noteworthy.
From a paddlers perspective the venue is constantly yet seamlessly changing along the 200 miles from the FL/GA line to the Gulf. From steeply sloped banks of 100’ at low water in White Springs to swampy, riverine floodplain below Fanning.
Twisty turny creek wide to more than a quarter mile at the Gulf. Natural and wild in some places, agricultural, second and permanent home sites in others. Residential and historic in scale. One location with structures more than two stories. Sand bars in the upper reaches, springs in the middle and marsh as the rivers stretches into the gulf.
Beautiful sandy beaches on the soft side of hard river bends. Suwannee Sturgeon spawning in only two areas over a hundred miles upriver. There is also a growing colony of year round manatees. And look to the spring for blooming atamasco lilies and the return of the swallow tailed kites.
As a mode of transportation the river carried settlers south ending when energies ended.. I.e. lots of 5th & 6th generations in north reaches, whereas in Gilchrist County, not many 3rd generation families around.
Also look at the river as a separator, like an interstate highway, development patterns affected by crossings (similar to interchanges). There are many sounds of the river from Bobs River Place to the red shoulder hawk, human to natural.
By far the greatest sound is not heard but exists in the mind of every person on or near the Suwannee. It’s an essential ingredient in the culture and fabric of the Suwannee Valley.
But, I see the river as a great connector – physical, economic, educational, recreational. It’s all connected. Like rain that falls on the land. Some runs off into rivers. Some is absorbed and recharges the aquifer, some of which finds cracks in the limerock and up swells to form springs, which flow into the creeks and rivers and into the gulf.
And these millions of gallons of fresh water get diverted back towards the land by oyster reefs to create estuaries and the amazing sea grasses of the big bend coastal region. Largest areas left along the state. It’s all connected. It is also changing.
Enough rambling. Perhaps of interest to you because of Florida heritage that is disappearing. Travel, even by back roads, is changing. Build a few toll roads north as the legislature wants to do and the transition will happen sooner. Perhaps even in our lifetime. Sad. Scary.
In the meanwhile, keep writing and sharing the Florida heritage.