Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Politicking in East Manatee

Political clubs were once a rariety in East Manatee, but now the area has as many of them as anywhere else.

In the new year, they plan to get busy right away. Here are some of the meetings:

The Lakewood Ranch Democratic Club meets 5-7 p.m. Jan. 5 at Lakewood Ranch Town Hall, 8175 Lakewood Ranch Blvd., for a discussion on the pros and cons of Lakewood Ranch becoming incorporated.

The East Manatee Republican Club will meet for luncheon 11:30 a.m. Jan. 14, at the Peridia Golf and Country Club; 4950 Peridia Blvd. Guest Speaker will be Rick Piccolo, executive director of the Sarasota-Bradenton International Airport. Also on the agenda will be the election of club officers.

The Southeast Manatee Co. Democratic Club will host Honey Rand, speaking on concerns about drilling for oil in the Gulf of Mexico at its 11:30 a.m. Jan. 21 luncheon, at The Peridia Country Clubt.


Farewell 2009, farewell Bible conference dorms

Before there was a Prime Outlets in Ellenton or an ice skating palace, there was a Bible conference center in the neighborhood, located just up the road at 7215 U.S. 301 North.

The dormitories, some built more than 50 years ago to house the visitors, had fallen into disrepair in recent years.

Today, the dilapidated buildings were demolished, removing a safety hazard.

Still standing is the old Victory Chapel, now home to My Father's Place. And the distinctive concrete-block billboard out front is still standing, too, for now.

For more, see Thursday's Herald.


Thursday, December 17, 2009

East-side, west-side, all around town

I had never met Ellie Ohlman until this week, and it was only for a few minutes Tuesday night at Lakewood Ranch Main Street.

Ellie was present to help welcome the Bradenton Marauders to town. The new Florida State League baseball team is part of the Pittsburgh Pirates organization. Ellie was there as Miss Lakewood Ranch High School, in the company of her mother and several members of the high school baseball team.

By this time, I would probably have already forgotten I had met Ellie, except for an answer she gave me when I asked her about the Marauders.

"It's exciting for Manatee County. I hope it will help bring the community together," she said.

And then I asked her about the Manatee High School Hurricanes and their quest for a state football championship.

"It's exciting, even though it's not my school," Ellie said.

Sometimes we, as a county, forget that there is a lot more that unites us, rather than divides us.

Go 'Canes! You have an entire county rooting for you.


Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Good works at schools and elsewhere

Getting an education is a full-time job these days for students at every level, from elementary school to college. I've got to say I'm happy that I'm not a student. I'm not sure if it's more difficult in 2009 than decades ago, or just seems that way.

Kathy Keebler of Braden River Elementary School got my attention this week with an email where she relayed that students at her school collected 1,672 cans to benefit the Salvation Army.

At Gullett Elementary, school guidance counselor Monica Rice wrote to say students there collected 1,848 canned good items for the Salvation Army. The two top classrooms were Mrs. Huber's and Mrs. Meckley's. And in those classrooms, respectively, student Collin Herbert brought in 265 cans and Victoria Lapek brought in 295.

Also at Lakewood Ranch, Kenneth Jarvis PLLC, a certified public accounting firm, is inviting new, unwrapped toys to be dropped off 9 a.m. - 5 p.m. Monday -Friday through Dec. 18 at 6311 Atrium Drive, Suite 206. The toys will go to needy children.

At Little Bookworms, through Dec. 18, customers can help brighten the holiday for a local child by purchasing a gift for the Giving Tree. All that's necessary is to select an ornament at the store with a child's first name and age and pick out a book or toy you think the child might enjoy. Little Bookworms is located at 8111 Lakewood Ranch Main Street.

Have a project to benefit children or the needy this holiday season? Let us know and we'll help you get the word out.


Friday, December 4, 2009

Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow

Turn on the radio this time of the year and you might hear seasonal music like "Sleigh Ride" by the Ronettes and "Rudolph the Red Nose Reindeer" by Gene Autrey.

This time of year also brings unpredictable weather, which today has been steadily deteriorating. Within the past hour, the decision was made to cancel Music on Main at Lakewood Ranch.


Music on Main tonight

Here's another indicator that 2009 is nearly history:

Music on Main at Lakewood Ranch has its final concert of the year 6- 9 p.m. today.

You can't beat the price. It's free as The Big Night Out band takes the stage with Latin, Caribbean and Motown dance music.

Santa will be visiting the M&I Bank tent from 6:30 – 8:30 p.m.


More political fundraising at Ranch

There's another political fundraising event at Lakewood Ranch today.

This one is for Rep. Vern Buchanan, R-Sarasota, and will be held 5:30 - 7:30 p.m. at the Gold Coast Eagle-Anheuser-Busch Hospitality Rotunda and Garden, 7051 Wireless Court

The fundraiser is chaired by Don and Denise Saputo. Members of the host committee include Senator Mike and Dee Bennett, Carlos Beruff, Darrin Chrisman, Jack and Andrea Cox, Larry Lieberman, and Robert and Michelle Messick. Organizers are suggesting $100 contributions.

Earlier this week, Bill McCollum attended a $50 a plate pancake breakfast at Lakewood Ranch, as he seeks the Republican nomination for governor. He faces a challenge from Sen. Paula Dockery, a Lakeland Republican.

Alex Sink, Florida's chief financial officer, is expected to be the Democrat's gubernatorial candidate.


Thursday, December 3, 2009

Driving Miss Daisy

Daisy Gant's tender care and encouragement of the thousands of school children she delivered to Manatee schools for 31 years as a bus driver have not been forgotten.

She has been chosen grand marshal of the Myakka Christmas parade set for 3 p.m. Saturday.

For more, see Friday's Bradenton Herald.


Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Windy, but so what?

Dawn Ogilvie holds onto her tent as a wind gust threatens to send it sailing across East Manatee.

Ogilvie of All Natural Artisan Soaps was one of the vendors on opening day of the Community Farmers Market at Health Park East, 6040 53rd Ave. E.

She talked to customers who journeyed all the way from west Bradenton, as well as those who came from across the street, like Audrey and Dave Snyder of River Landing, shown with Dawn.

There wasn't a discouraging word to be heard: good turnout, lots of fresh produce and other items, but it was windy.

The new market will open 2:30-6:30 p.m. Wednesdays through April.


Friday, November 27, 2009

Politics and pancakes

Politicians seeking high office in Florida are bringing their campaigns to East Manatee.

Recently, Marco Rubio, former Florida House speaker who is vying with Gov. Charlie Crist for the Republican gubernatorial nomination, campaigned at the East Manatee Republican Club meeting at the Peridia Country Club.

Republican Bill McCollum, Florida's attorney general who is seeking to replace Crist as governor, will be at the Country Pancake House, 8205 Natures Way, Lakewood Ranch, 7:30-8:30 a.m. Tuesday, Dec. 1, at $50 a plate.

Billed as Breakfast With Bill, the event is being hosted by County Commissioner Donna Hayes with John and Pat Colon, David Garofalo, Kathy King, Jamie Miller, Don O'Nesky and Eric Robinson.

Others seeking to replace Crist are State Senator Paula Dockery, R-Lakeland, and Democrat Alex Sink, chief financial officer for the state of Florida.


Saturday, November 21, 2009

Arts and athletics

This morning, more than 250 runners took part in the Harvest Hustle 5 kilometer run at Lakewood Ranch, raising money for the All Faiths Food Bank to help feed the hungry.

The run started at Harvest United Methodist Church and looped through the Country Club neighborhood. Rev. Stephen Price said it was the largest turnout in the history of the event. Last year, there were fewer than 190 runners.

Also today, the Fall Art Show of the Creative Arts Association of Lakewood Ranch is underway at Town Hall. The show continues until 4 p.m. Lots of arts to see, friendly artists to meet, good things to eat, performances to enjoy from the Southeast High School band, and therapeutic massage by Sarah J. Hunter.


Friday, November 20, 2009

It does make a difference

At the annual Church Women United Migrant Tea today, there were a couple of young men in the audience: Roy Garcia and Tomas Carrillo, both Lakewood Ranch High School graduates.

They are sons of farmworkers, with one spending part of his growing years at Falkner Farms near Myakka City and the other at Harllee Farms, at what later became Heritage Harbour.

Both have since gone on to college and are trying to help other children of farmworkers stay in school and get their education.

Friday, the chuch women were serenaded by preschoolers from Redlands Christian Migrant Association.

The blankets, clothing, and cookies the church women gave the youngsters are much appreciated in the farmworker community, Carrillo and Garcia said.

"It's wonderful and very beneficial to the migrant farmworker families and kids," Carrillo said. "They greatly appreciate everything given to them."

It's a bumpy road farmworker families travel in helping harvest U.S. crops. The church women helped smooth the way Friday.


Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Maersk Alabama attacked again

Last April, the Maersk Alabama, a cargo ship, was en route to Mombassa, Kenya, with an emergency shipment of food when pirates tried to take over the craft.

The crew, including second mate Ken Quinn of Lakewood Ranch, thwarted the takeover by barricading themselves in a room and eventually overpowering the pirates.

Early this morning, Somali pirates again attacked the same cargo ship. This time, however, the crew was able to keep the pirates from boarding.

Quinn was not aboard the Maresk Alabama today.

But when he came home in April, he said he continued to be concerned about piracy around the Horn of Africa and worried that effective, coordinated strategy had not been developed to deal with the problem.

Clearly, piracy in the region remains a problem and the Spanish this week paid $3 million in ransom to rescue another crew and ship.


Saturday, November 14, 2009

Farmer comes to town

The Lakewood Ranch Farmers Market reopened for the season today. It's open every Saturday from 8 a.m. – 1 p.m.

It's a good place for fresh produce, creative and crusty breads, honey, orchids and more. The people watching is fine, too.

Check it out, down at Lakewood Ranch Main Street.


Friday, November 13, 2009

A proper Veterans Day week observance

Braden River Middle School put the exclamation point on local Veterans Day observances this week with their celebration on Friday, Nov. 13.

Each year students complete another large, patriotic ceramic plaque that joins others on a wall of honor. The names of local veterans are inscribed on each new plaque. A highlight was seeing Vietnam vet Robert Somers learning that his name is on the new plaque, courtesy of his grandson,Cody Kaleskas.

"I am very proud of my grandson and all the kids here who put this on," Somers said.

Also, the Korean War Veterans Association annually awards U.S. Savings Bonds to students who submit winning patriotic essays. Winning a $500 bond for the first-place essay was Tayler Shreve. Second place with to Kayla McNulty and third place to Michael Sarna.

Below is Tayler's winning essay:

How Should We Honor Our Vets?
Braden River Middle School

“America, Land of the Brave.” We are indeed the land of the brave; men and women willing to give their life to fight for their country. Our war veterans are amazing and dedicated people and I think they should definitely be honored. I believe we should honor our veterans by sending letters and cards, visiting and spending time with veterans, respecting them and the sacrifices they made for America. Our veterans and troops are fighting for each and every one of us and they should be especially honored.

First, I think we should honor veterans by sending thank you notes and letters to them. I personally think veterans, elders especially, would appreciate people young and old to just say thanks for their hard work and sacrifices. Our veterans fought for us and if we mailed letters, cards, or just simply a note to say thank you and how much their commitment and determination means to us, would show them how much we appreciate them. Just imagine opening a card from a six-year-old boy saying “thank you.” I would just put a smile on your face and make you proud to be an American.

Second, I think visiting the elderly veterans in nursing homes or just in your neighborhood would honor them and show appreciation. If you know a veteran, they love sharing their stories, I know my uncle does. His name is Lewis and he served in Vietnam and he definitely has his share of war stories. I asked Lewis how he thinks we should honor veterans. He told me that he would personally just like to share his stories here and there and to talk to the youth of America. Lewis walks with a limp as his knee was blown apart while hiding in a dirt bunker during combat. But he says he loves being with “youngsters” and making sure we know what we take for granted. I think visiting with our veterans is a good way to honor them.

Lastly, respecting our veterans us a key part of honoring them. Honestly, as a 13-year-old, I know plenty of kids would see a man missing an arm or leg and just laugh. Personally, I would feel ashamed if that was me standing there. Respect means a lot to everyone, especially to someone who really deserves it; and to have fought for our country definitely qualifies, so the least we could do is respect them by acknowledging them by at least giving them a passing glance and just saying thanks. So when you see a veteran remember that song, “R-E-S-P-E-C-T, find out what it means to me.” Well, to those veterans it means a lot, so respect them.

To conclude, our beloved country wouldn’t be what it is today if it wasn’t for our veterans. Try to send a letter to a veteran, visit a veteran, and just respect them. Trust me, they deserve it.

For more about Friday's observance, see Saturday's Herald.


Sunday, November 1, 2009


BooFest started out as a nice little Halloween gathering a few years ago at Lakewood Ranch Main Street.

Now, it's a nice huge gathering. Friday night, it seemed like half of Manatee County was there. When we arrived shortly after 6 p.m., the Main Street and Town Hall parking lots were full and so was the Lakewood Ranch Medical Center parking lot and adjacent grassy field across the street. Cars parked up and down the boulevard. I've never seen that.

I think the community was looking to blow off a little steam and have some good clean, family Halloween fun. We enjoyed it, just mixing with thousands of others, seeing the parade and all the costumes. If you like people watching, this was the place to be.

It could be that Lakewood Ranch, as a community, took it to a new level Friday.

By the way, check out the conquistador from Bradenton, handing out beads. It's symbolic maybe of established Bradenton welcoming a younger sibling into the family. I like it, with the dramatic sky as a backdrop, the gleaming armor, and the angle of the shot.


Friday, October 30, 2009

Skunk ape at Lakewood Ranch

See this picture? Well, obviously it's a guy in a hunting outfit and what looks like a mop on his head.

What you can't see is the gorilla mask he was wearing when he jumped out of the woods this week and scared some reporters.

The reporters were riding through Heritage Ranch, 2,000 acres of unspoiled natural Florida at Lakewood Ranch on something called a bird buggy. It's actually a tall, open-air platform outfitted with seats that sit on the chassis of a 1972 Ford F-150 pickup truck. I guess they call it a bird buggy because you ride way up high. The seats are probably six or seven feet above ground level.

The bird buggy took us down a winding dirt road where spiders as big as your hand were suspended in their webs between tree limbs. We were busy looking out for the next big limb that was going to swat us in the face or blanket-size spider web, when, whoomp, the skunk ape attacked from the side. Nobody saw him coming.

The only thing better was when he took off the mask and we saw the ear-to-ear grin.

Get your candy ready. Saturday is Halloween. Don't mess with Sasquatch.


Friday, September 18, 2009

Burger King hiring in East Manatee

The first Burger King restaurant south of the Manatee River and east of Interstate 75 is expected to open in late October on State Road 70 near Braden Woods.

A trailer is on site conducting job interviews. The company-owned store expects to open with a staff of 32.

Paving crews were on site this week completing the parking lot.


Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Let there be chili

Due to all that rain Saturday, Sept. 12, the 'Tribute to Heroes' First Annual Chili Cook Off / Fire Expo had t0 be postponed.

It has been rescheduled for Saturday Sept. 19, with a 3 p.m. start. The chili tasting begins at 4 p.m. and the judging will be at 7 p.m.

Fire house chili is legendary. Plan to step by this free events and check it out.

In addition to the chili , there will be paddle cars, fire trucks, smoke house, junior firefighter combat challenge, face painting, concert ticket raffle and more.

All proceeds will go directly to the Manatee County Emergency Memorial Fund, says Michael Williamson, chairman.


Thursday, September 10, 2009

Talk to Jeb Bush via interactive video

Jeb Bush, former Florida governor, will be speaking to members of the Lakewood Ranch Republican Club live via interactive video on Sept. 18.

Following Bush's presentation, guests will have the opportunity to have a live discussion with him

The meeting will be at the Lakewood Ranch County Club, 7650 Legacy Boulevard. Registration will be 11 - 11:45 a.m., followed by a buffet lunch at noon.

Cost is $20, payable by cash or check.

For reservations visit

Guests are invited and welcome.

For more information, contact Dr. Craig Trigueiro at (941) 753-7843.

Fire house chili and more

Those Sept. 11, 2001, videos of the World Trade Center towers collapsing still have the power to shock. They are surreal and I find them hard to watch, considering how many lives were being lost.

In East Manatee, the day that changed the course of world history is being remembered in several ways.

East Manatee Fire Rescue, for the third year, will hold a 9/11 remembrance ceremony 9 a.m. Friday at Manatee Technical Institute’s campus at Lakewood Ranch. Firefighters will symbolically reenact the fire and subsequent collapse. The ceremony ends with helmets being placed at the base of the school flagpole in honor of those who died. The flag will be lowered to half staff by students, and a patriotic song will be played, ending the ceremony.

Tim Hyden, training officer for East Manatee Fire Rescue, says a C-130 cargo plane is scheduled to make a flyover near the end of the service.

On Saturday at 3 p.m., Main Street at Lakewood Ranch will host a Chili Cook-Off to benefit Manatee County Fire and Rescue.

Fire departments around the county will seek chili bragging rights. Also planned, two bands, fire trucks and rescue vehicles lining the streets.

Beer and food sale proceeds will go toward the Tribute to Heroes Emergency Services Memorial Fund.

For more, see Sara Kennedy's story in Friday's Herald.


Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Muddin' in East Manatee

I've never gone mudding, at least not on purpose.

Mudding is when you take a four-wheel drive vehicle and drive it through muck and deep water. I'm not sure if the object is to get to the other side without getting stuck, or to get your truck as dirty as possible. Probably both.

Sunday, we accidentally went mudding after a leaving Sunday worship. Leaving a crowded parking lot, I drove through a green lane, a swale, really, and got stuck. Under that nice green grass was nice black muck. No amount of four-wheel driving or rocking back and forth could get us out of the muck.

But five young guys came over and gave us a shove and got us unstuck.

The incident got me to thinking about all the rain that fell in August. It seemed like it might be a record.

But when I called the National Weather Service in Ruskin this week, I found that only half the normal rainfall for August, less than five inches, fell at Sarasota-Bradenton International Airport. That's the official, traditional location for recording weather in Manatee County.

Friday, in driving through the Myakka area, it seemed obvious that more than five inches of rain had fallen in the past few days.

If you want to know something about the weather, ask a farmer. Gary Reeder, who grows tomatoes in Duette, theorizes that airports are a bad place to record rainfall amounts. Too much concrete, he said.

A reader from Lakewood Ranch called to ask why the official measuring place for rainfall is SRQ. I had no good answer other than that's the location the Weather Service has always used.

BayNews9 had rain data for Lakewood Ranch and Ellenton, both of which recorded more than twice the rainfall in August as SRQ.

The conclusion: the official rain stats don't accurately reflect the rain picture for the entire county. Maybe there's no rain record locally for Manatee County in August. But ask any resident in the east, and they will tell you that it really did rain, and how!


Wednesday, August 26, 2009

North River helps keep kids safe

Michael Williamson, Battalion Chief of the North River Fire District, provided this photo as his department and Manatee County EMS teamed together to create awareness to motorists that school was back in session.

Picture, left to right, are Paramedic Amy Kemp, firefighter Logan Wells, Paramedic/Firefighter Sara Wells, and Captain Russ Emmons.

He offered special thanks to Gold Coast Distributors for the posters and to Fire Inspectors Leslie Adent and Diane Chrzanowski.


Emergency flasher gets attention

The traffic signal warning drivers to slow to 20 mph for a school crossing on State Road 70 and River Club Boulevard is getting some attention this morning. The flasher, which had been out since the start of school, is located on the north side of S.R. 70 facing west-bound traffic.

A maintenance crew was on the site to return it to service.


Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Cedar Hammock

Firefighters from Cedar Hammock Fire Rescue were on the job today, seeking to persuade drivers to watch for school children, especially at school crossing zones.
Photo courtesy of Diane Chrzanowski, Fire Safety Inspector and Life Safety Educator for
Cedar Hammock Fire Rescue

More school crossing safety

It's the first week of school and fire departments across the county have had trucks with banners and crews urging drivers to slow down. Here is a unit from the Myakka City Fire Department.
Dawn Graf, an office assistant at the fire department, said, "Hopefully they will make people think and be a little more careful!"
Myakka has positioned units along State Road 70 and Verna Bethany Road and on Wauchula Road, next to Myakka Elementary School.

Slow down out there

With one anemic school crossing light lazily flashing and the other not working at all, State Road 70 East at River Club Boulevard is a dangerous way for children to get to school.

To help get the school year off to a safe start, East Manatee Fire Rescue has parked a fire truck with its emergency lights flashing in the median of the six-lane highway, just west of the crossing zone. Parked just east of the crossing zone is an EMS ambulance, with a sign asking motorists to slow down and its emergency lights flashing.

The extra precautions were working this morning with most motorists slowing way down and allowing children headed to Braden River Elementary and Braden River Middle to get to class safely.

Much appreciated. Thanks for the extra attention folks.


Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Mustang Mania

Even though the first day of school in Manatee County isn't until Monday, Aug. 24, members of the Lakewood Ranch band and their supporters are already making ambitious plans.

In response to the severe recession, they are organizing the first Mustang Mania Festival, which could become an annual event.

The Lakewood Ranch Band Association is inviting performing groups to showcase their talents on the school stage Oct. 17 -18.

There will also be vendors to showcase their edible delights, products and services at the outdoor venue.

Also planned: carnival rides, food, and arts and crafts.

The association hopes to raise money for the Lakewood Ranch music program and other school related programs.

Anyone interested in participating is invited to contact the association at


Monday, August 17, 2009

What's so funny about peace, love and understanding?

As a life-long non-hippie, revisiting Woodstock through the memories of several who were there was an enlightening assignment for me (see Saturday's story on the 40th anniversary of that historic festival).

I most enjoyed hearing their recollections about the legendary bands and performers who took the stage back then.

But I was also fascinated by the adventures they shared about just getting there. It was a time when bus fare from Michigan to New York was $25 -- a lot of money to some back then.

Several of those I interviewed were curious about my past, and to learn that at the time I was serving in Vietnam with the U.S. Army. It was a time when those in short-hair almost stood out more than those with long hair.

Regardless of what side of the cultural divide you might have been on back then, most would have agreed that they would like to see more peace, love and understanding. Still do.

And the music lifted the spirits of a generation, whether they were in Haight-Asbury, Bradenton, or Long Binh.


Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Proud of these kids

Big inspiration can come in small packages.

Anna Higginbotham, 12, came up with the idea of collecting school backpacks for disadvantaged youth. She was close to being a one-girl band last year .

This year, the newly formed youth group at Our Lady of the Angels Catholic Church pitched in and Wednesday night announced they had gathered 530 of the backpacks.

Emily Mingote, who got a taste of community service at Braden River Middle School with the Empty Bowls project for the hungry, confirmed an old suspicion: it's better to give than receive.

"It gives you a good feeling," she said.

For more, see Thursday's Herald.


Thursday, August 6, 2009

Nurses thank Mike Bennett

The Florida Nurse Practitioner Coalition has named state Sen. Michael Bennett, R-Bradenton, "Legislator of the Year" for his support of Florida nurse practitioners and their patients.

During the 2009 legislative session, Bennett sponsored a bill, Senate Bill 426, that would allow nurse practitioners to prescribe controlled substances.

Florida is one of only two states where nurse practitioners cannot prescribe controlled substances, according to Cindy Drew, president of the Sarasota Council of Advanced Practice Nurses.

“This is well within the typical scope of practice in all states except Florida and Alabama,” she said.

Even a Florida Senate report in 2009 recommended that nurse practitioners be given the ability to prescribe controlled substances, she said.

“As a geriatric nurse practitioner, I treat patients with chronic debilitating diseases and patients at the end of life who require controlled substances for pain relief,” said Drew. “I hope that patients will very soon no longer have to wait for necessary treatment.”


Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Lou Gehrig Night

Last September, the Department of Veterans Affairs ruled that any service member or veteran diagnosed with ALS will be entitled to service connection and full benefits. The ruling is based on the fact that men and women who served in the military have a higher incidence of the paralyzing and fatal disease.

I immediately shared that information with my sisters, considering that our dad, an Army veteran of World War II, had died from the disease in 1987. Good news this VA ruling, I thought, but a little too late for my father.

However, this past weekend, I heard from my sister, Kathy, that the VA had awarded my stepmother a pension, based on my father's death, 22 years ago. Kathy asked me to share that with other families who may have been or are dealing with ALS.

For more about the ruling, refer to this press release:

Coincidentally, at 7 p.m. Thursday, August 6, the Sarasota Reds and the ALS Association Florida Chapter present Lou Gehrig Night at Ed Smith Stadium. Tickets to the game and all concession items are just $1. Raffle tickets will be sold to win signed Major League Baseball memorabilia; proceeds from the raffle will support the ALS Association Florida Chapter.


Monday, August 3, 2009

Red light camera objections

Little did I know when I wrote a column a few weeks ago on red light cameras how many emails I would receive from folks expressing reservations.

In many of the emails, the writer claims to actually support cameras to stop red light runners, but has some concerns: Do I get a ticket if I'm almost through the intersection and the light turns red?

Also, aren't the cameras just a revenue generator for local government? And do they apply equally to those who blatantly roar straight through an intersection and those who make a right turn on red, but never quite come to a complete halt?

There's also concern that red light cameras make for more rear-end collisions. Folks will try so hard to stop that they will get crunched from behind.

Here are a couple of thoughts in response:

Drivers making a right turn on red are required to come to a complete halt, look, and then proceed. That's the law. But so often, drivers do a roll-through on right-hand turns on red. There are also more than a few that barely slow down for the red as they make that right-hand turn.

As to the risk of creating more rear-end collisions because people slow down and prepare to stop on red? It's pretty self-evident, isn't it, that too many folks are following too closely? We need to stay a safe interval behind the car ahead of us.

One of the emailers asked why couldn't cops just do their job and ticket bad drivers? Good point. The police often say it's because they don't have enough resources, not enough money or officers on the road. The result is inconsistent law enforcement that leads some drivers to think they can speed with impunity or ignore those traffic signals.

Can all the bad behavior be unlearned? Good question.


Friday, July 31, 2009

An entire village of babies

Susan Meyers, president of the Lakewood Ranch Moms Club, had her children, a 3-year old and a nine-month-old, before moving to Lakewood Ranch.

But she can attest to the reputation of the Womens Center at Lakewood Ranch Medical Center, which is on track to deliver its 5,000th baby by year's end. And that's in just five years.

Many of the 110 moms in the club did have their children at the Ranch hospital. They speak highly of the care they received, and the deluxe hotel-like accommodations there, Meyers told me today.

It doesn't hurt that mom and dad get to enjoy a steak or lobster dinner after baby arrives.

We're looking forward to Sept. 12 when all the families which have had babies born at LWR are invited back for a group photo at 1 p.m.


Thursday, July 23, 2009

Chamber needs new door

The United Way of Manatee County and the Manatee Chamber of Commerce held a dedication and ribbon cutting ceremony Feb. 10 at the Dan and Corrine McClure Center, the new facility they share at 4215 Concept Court, Lakewood Ranch.

This week, a Good Samaritan delivering a donation of food for the collection barrel at the McClure Center accidentally crashed into the front door, while seeking the protection of an overhang during a rain storm.

Fortunately, there were no injuries: the office hadn't opened yet and no one was in the building. The Good Samaritan left a note accepting responsibility for the accident.

The Chamber is now seeking bids for a replacement door. The first bid received came in at more than $6,000, according to President Bob Bartz.

Expensive door. I got a bid recently for new roof, and it wasn't much more than that.


Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Speaking of chicken . . .

My sister Phyllis won't let me forget the day in the early 1960s when a rooster got loose and attacked me.

"I can still remember you running across the yard, screaming with that rooster on your head," Phyllis will tell me.

So, what's the significance of this you say?

It's this: chickens play a very large role in our lives. We always say, in trying to describe an unusual food item, "it tastes like chicken."

The Palmetto Agricultural Museum recognizes the importance of poultry and plans Chicken Day on Saturday. If your child wants to know why the chicken crossed the road, or where eggs come from before they landed on the grocery store shelf, you might want to sign them up for Chicken Day. Look for Nick Walter's story in the Wednesday Herald for all the details.

While we're talking chicken, Chick-fil-A is hosting a Customer Appreciation Week Extravaganza Celebration July 13 – 18 at the Creekwood restaurant with family activities and free food giveaways.

I really like Chick-fil-A's Classic chicken sandwich, and their chicken soup is good, too. So, OK, you can consider this an endorsement.

The franchise is located at the entrance to Creekwood near Interstate 75 and State Road 70.

The restaurant always seems to always be very busy, yet it's so well run that the wait is minimal.

Here's what's planned the rest of the week, from a Chick-fil-A press release:

•Tuesday, July 14, 2 – 5 p.m.: Customers will receive a free 14 oz. Hand-Spun Milkshake; 5 – 8 p.m.: Family Night Luau – Customers will receive a free Chick-fil-A® Nuggets Kid’s Meal (four-count) with the purchase of a Value Size Chick-fil-A Meal.

•Wednesday, July 15, 2 – 5 p.m.: Customers will receive free medium order of Waffle Potato Fries®.

•Thursday, July 16, 2 – 5 p.m.: Customers will receive a free Fudge Nut Brownie.

•Friday, July 17, 2 – 5 p.m.: Customers will receive free Chick-fil-A® Nuggets (eight-count); 5:30 – 7:30 p.m.: Pool Party – Join the Chick-fil-A at Creekwood team for a pool party at the YMCA Lakewood Ranch!

•Saturday, July 18, 10 a.m. – 2 p.m.: Chick-fil-A Family Day – Join the “Eat Mor Chikin” Cow for a day of family fun, including carnival games, giveaways and a chance to win free Chick-fil-A food for a year (52 Chick-fil-A Meal coupons)! 2 – 5 p.m.: Customers will receive a free Icedream® cone.

“The Bradenton community has been an essential part of our restaurant’s growth,” said Jonathan Ith, franchise operator of the restaurant. “We are excited to thank our customers with this fun week of family activities and great Chick-fil-A food!”


Wednesday, July 8, 2009

It's a panther, right?

This big cat, photographed recently in the backyard of Micky Wright’s Mote Ranch home, is a panther, right? Wrong, say state wildlife officials. The pointed ears, white spots on the ears and less than panther-sized tail give it away as a bobcat.

For more, see below what Gary Morse of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission had to say about telling the difference this week.

There are several clues that positively identify this cat species. The white ear patches on the backside of the ears, the black trim on the edge of the ear with pointed tips, along with the short tail are unmistakably, Florida bobcat. Typically, bobcats have a tail that reaches about half way to the hock, just like this one in the photo. The body type, tall and lanky is typical of wild bobcats in peninsular Florida. The size of the animal is also typical of Lynx rufus in Florida.

On the other hand, a panther’s tail is typically three-quarters the length of the body, with a strong thick base at the spine. The tail can reach to the ground and then some. Panthers have no ear markings. While very young panthers have some spots, they have a much longer tail and lack the white patches and black ear trimmings.

Pictures of bobcats on the Internet often look different than the wild bobcats we see in peninsular Florida, and for good reason – they’re well fed and not from Florida. However, a captive Florida bobcat that’s well fed and groomed, looks like that too. Wild bobcats pictured on the internet are mostly northern bobcats that have a need to store up energy for a hard winter. That survival strategy – storing fat, is a liability in the hot weather we have here in Florida. As a result, our wild bobcats are fast, lean machines.

Bobcats do quite well in neighborhood settings, eating squirrels, lizards, birds, and a variety of small mammals that make the suburbs home. Though generally secretive, if you live in a neighborhood on the edge of a forested area or park, you might be lucky enough to see a bobcat. We regularly get such reports from wildlife lovers from Brooksville to Venice wondering if a panther has visited their neighborhood. In almost every case, the reports that have accompanying photos show a bobcat strolling leisurely through a backyard setting.

Bobcats pose little threat to humans of any size and attacks are extremely rare. The only bobcat attacks against humans, in Florida have come from rabid felines. Rabies is not known to be prevalent in bobcats.

From my experience caring for both bobcats and panthers over the past 25 years, I can tell you bobcats are fascinating creatures. At the 2008 Florida State Fair we featured at our educational display, a live (hand raised) bobcat appropriately named … Bob. What ham and showoff! He was a heck of lot of fun to watch.

If you or your readers have any further questions about Florida’s wildlife, as always, don’t hesitate to shout.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

In Lakewood Ranch's future . . .

What does the future hold at Lakewood Ranch?

That's the question 14 district supervisors from Lakewood Ranch tried to assess, or maybe shape, on Tuesday.

No. 1 on their list was simplified government that reflects Lakewood Ranch as one community.

For more, see my story in Wednesday's Herald.


Monday, July 6, 2009

No leaning on columns?

It was a sign mounted on an outdoor walkway at a shopping center in Deerfield Beach Sunday. It read "No cigarettes or leaning on columns." No problem with banning cigarettes. I wish shopping center management good luck in trying to get smokers to stop their littering. But no leaning on columns? I am an habitual leaner on walls and columns. Good luck to anyone who wants leaners to stop leaning.

Another sign that caught my eye Sunday on a daytrip from Bradenton to Boca Raton was the "no dumping" sign near Okeechobee, where someone had parked an old sofa.

Beautiful day for a drive. Modest traffic. Early morning fog giving the roadside an other-worldy appearance. East of Arcadia we saw deer twice in the early morning light, enjoying the grass along the roadside. Maybe because the woods were so flooded we surmised.

It's Monday. Back to work.


Friday, July 3, 2009

Curiosity the key

Reporter Sara Kennedy, who did such a good job as lead writer on our Braden River series recently, was out on an assignment Thursday, when she saw something that stopped her in her tracks.

Two men were dropping something unusual into her favorite river from a bridge on Lakewood Ranch Boulevard.

Turns out they were hydrologic technicians for the U.S. Geological Survey in Tampa and they were measuring the flow of the Braden River, after all the rain we received.

Sara was intrigued by a torpedo shaped device the men dropped into the water, and how they were able to upload date through a solar powered satellite link back to the head office. Just a very few years ago, that would have been the stuff of science fiction, or technology that maybe only a few had access to, such as the military.

Now, it's a cool tool, but still just an everyday tool for the hydologists, one of whom confided that the Braden River was his favorite, too.

But the story didn't end there. Thanks to Sara's curiosity, we quickly learned the rain had pushed Myakka Head, parts of the Manatee River and the Little Manatee River to flood stage. But the high water was expected to receded with the approach of the weekend. That's very good news.

For more, see Friday's Bradenton Herald/Lakewood Ranch Herald or read the full story at


Friday, June 26, 2009

Sometimes the consent is not there

Worth noting that going into the June 23 county commission meeting that a “quick take” resolution for 3.86-acres of land owned by John Neal and Charles Varah was item No. 6 on the consent agenda.

When it comes to that piece of land, there is nothing routine about it. Certainly not to Neal and Varah who believe the county’s valuation is way too low.

And not to the residents in Tara, Mote Ranch, University Place and University Park, who either passionately oppose the bridge being built, or think that it makes good sense.

For more, see my East Word column in Sunday's Herald.


Bravo: Latin Art Comes to the Ranch

The Gulf Coast Latin Chamber of Commerce recently moved its office to the ComCenter at 9040 Town Center Parkway, Lakewood Ranch.

One very big advantage is an art exhibition in the halls of that business office that wouldn't otherwise be at Lakewood Ranch.

Owner Bernie Croghan is a big supporter of the arts and through his encouragement, the Chamber arranged to have the Coalition of Hispanic Artists bring an exhibition to the ComCenter.

It's called "Latin Art Comes to the Ranch." The exhibition is free Monday through Friday, 10 a.m. - 5 p.m.

With so much color and creativity, it will put a smile on anyone's face, I promise. For more, see the story in the June 29 Herald.


Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Visiting the Garden of Joy

While visiting Sarasota Baptist Church today to work on a story about their July 5 musical program, "Freedom: A Salute to American Liberty," I noticed that Central Church of Christ was just down the street at 6221 Proctor Road.

Afterward, as I headed back to our newsroom, I stopped at Central Church of Christ to visit "The Garden of Joy."

The garden is a memorial to Carlie Brucia, an 11-year-old girl who in 2004 was abducted from a public street in Sarasota and murdered. Her body was dumped behind the church. The tragedy touched a responsive chord in the public because of Carlie's sweetness and innocence and the fact that a surveillance camera captured the shocking crime.

I had never been to the garden before. What I found was a beautiful and wistful garden, a place where any child might enjoy playing. All alone in the garden, I said a little prayer for Carlie and her family. I left with a lump in my throat, still saddened by this senseless crime five years later.

Ironically, when I returned to the newsroom, there was a message on my answering machine from the "Keeping Kids Safe Project," who are planning a child safety program in Bradenton July 18-19. We'll keep you posted on that event.

If you've never been to the Garden of Joy, and you're in the neighborhood of I-75 and Bee Ridge Road some day, go south on Cattleman Road from Bee Ridge to Proctor and go east. Central Church of Christ is located just east of the I-75 overpass.


Wednesday, June 17, 2009

A rare honor . . .

Sue Curry, a fourth-grade teacher at Braden River Elementary School, is one of 200 teachers, chosen from a pool of 1,600 nationwide, to attend the 2009 Mickelson ExxonMobil Teachers Academy.

During the academy, July 19-24 at the Liberty Science Center in Jersey City, N.J., teachers will learn to do experiments they can share with students to generate enthusiasm for math and science.

Did we say this is an all-expense paid trip? Not a bad thing in this day and age.


Monday, June 15, 2009

Senior dining in East Manatee

The buzz that Meals on Wheels Plus of Manatee is hoping to open a Lakewood Ranch site for a Friendship Dining Center is good news for those who claim senior citizen status.

That’s because the four existing dining centers are one of the county’s best kept secrets for those age 60 and above.
You would think that the food served by Meals on Wheels Plus, which produces 4,000 meals a week, would be plenty good for you, but perhaps not adventurous.

But it turns out that the philosophy of Meals on Wheels Plus chef Pavel Hasenohrl is “hardy, homestyle comfort” food . On a typical week, diners might get Old World recipes like beef sauerbraten with garlic mashed potatoes and steamed broccoli . He also prepares tilapia with wild rice and mixed vegetables. Another is roast chicken over yellow rice with sautéed beets, pearl onions, and bean medley.

Prices of the meals vary depending on the diner’s individual income, Meals on Wheels Plus officials said.

For more, see story in the Wednesday Herald.


Saturday, June 13, 2009

Row, row, row your boat . . .

I can't get the image out of my head of reporter Sara Kennedy backing a pickup truck, loaded with an enormous canoe jutting out the back. Somehow, she missed a couple of big trees in the Linger Lodge parking lot.

Sara had hoped to put the boat in the water at the quirky restaurant's ramp, but the level of water was too low because of the drought.

So Sara and her daughter Kate drove over to Jiggs Landing and put in there, while a flock of vultures watched their every move from a nearby tree and wall. Spooky.

It was all in a day's reporting for the Herald's multi-part series on the Braden River which begins Sunday, June 14, and runs through Thursday.

It's a really nice piece of work. We hope you enjoy it.


Thursday, June 11, 2009

Southern Manatee getting new fire chief

Foster Gover, a 35-year veteran of the fire service in Manatee County, replaces Tom Hennessey as fire chief of Southern Manatee Fire Rescue on Friday.

Hennessey announced his retirement several weeks ago. Between the two men, they have more than 65 years of fire service experience.

Gover worked for the City of Bradenton Fire Department for 25 years. He has worked in the Southern Manatee Fire District for eight years as deputy chief and fire marshal.

Southern Manatee serves a 32-square-miles area of Southeast Manatee County. Gover will oversee the operation of five fire statiosn, an administration office, 94 personnel and an operating budget of more than $15 million.


Five tons of pull

What weighs five tons, has 30,000 times the magnetic pull of the earth and can actually run forever if it stays cooled by liquid helium?

It’s the magnet for the new $1 million Lakewood Ranch Medical Center MRI, built by Philips Healthcare.

The machine’s magnet is so powerful that it could cause a metal oxygen tank to fly toward it from across a room. That’s why the utmost in caution must be observed when it goes into use, probably sometime in late July.

For more, see Friday's Lakewood Ranch Herald.


Wednesday, June 10, 2009

New farmers market in Ellenton

If you’re a fruit and vegetable lover or just like to shop for the freshest local produce, you’ll want to attend the grand opening and ribbon cutting at the new Ellenton Farmers Market Saturday.

The market is planning its ribbon cutting ceremony at 10 a.m., featuring state Sen. Mike Bennett, R-Bradenton, and Manatee County Commissioners Carol Whitman and John Chappie.

The market at the Ellenton Ice and Sports Complex, north parking lot, 5309 29th St., Ellenton, will be open from 8 a.m.-1 p.m.

It is expected to be among the largest year-round markets in Florida specializing in "green" natural, organic and environmentally-friendly products that makes for a healthier lifestyle and a better environment, said owner Phil Pagano.

He is hoping local residents will rediscover the benefits of buying local produce that he says is fresher, tastier and more nutritious because it is harvested within hours of sale rather than weeks.

The market buys directly from local farmers, such as the True Family Farm, Dakin Dairy, and Sheppard Farms, to name a few, said Pagano, who added that “it also helps the local economy.”

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Villages of Lakewood Ranch South

Schroeder-Manatee Ranch, the developer of Lakewood Ranch, today is petitioning the Sarasota County Commission to approve comprehensive plan amendments that would waive certain greenbelt buffers on the perimeter of a new project, and OK the company’s request to remap a greenway area and remove a portion of wetlands from it, according to plans filed with the county.
The company is also seeking to designate Lakewood Ranch Boulevard through the project as a four-lane, rather than a two-lane, arterial roadway.
The company is planning nearly 5,500 homes on the same number of acres, along with 390,000 square feet of commercial space as part of its development, The Villages of Lakewood Ranch South, plans indicated.
The company envisions a mixed-use, pedestrian-oriented community south of University Parkway, north of Fruitville Road and east of I-75. It proposes approximately 25 percent of the project’s residential units as affordable and workforce housing product; with a significant portion in close proximity to two major employment centers – Lakewood Ranch Corporate Park and the International Trade Center.
Plans call for additional north/south roadways and connections designed to relieve I-75’s use as a local roadway.
The company also hopes to provide a multi-tiered greenway and trail system that would accommodate pedestrians and provide links to the larger Lakewood Ranch community, according to the company.
For the outcome of today's meeting, see Wednesday's Lakewood Ranch Herald.


For more information, click on the following links

The Villages of LWR South Master Plan Map
Map of Proposed Amendment Areas
Reasoning for Proposed Amendment Changes

Monday, June 8, 2009

New city of Lakewood Ranch

Roughly 100 involved in Lakewood Ranch governance will preview a proposed city charter next week, as incorporation moves back in the spotlight.

But, with the economy still struggling, is this the right time to be considering such documents, some wonder.

Supervisors from community development districts and homeowner associations as well as neighborhood chairs and their voting members are expected to attend one of two by-invitation-only events.

The events are scheduled 6:30 p.m. June 15 and 5:30 p.m. June 19 in a salon in Town Hall.

For more, see Tuesday's Lakewood Ranch Herald


Friday, June 5, 2009

What the doctor ordered

At the commissioning of eight students at Lake Erie College of Osteopathic Medicine-Bradenton this week, Army Lt. Col. Walt Stanish told the new officers to “always choose the hard right over the easy wrong. Integrity is non-negotiable. Once you lose it, you can never get it back.”

Good advice for all of us.


Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Happy season . . .

It's the season for high school graduations.

This is Manatee County's biggest graduation week with the community celebrating 12 commencements:

Wednesday, May 27, Palmetto High, 7 p.m. at the Manatee Convention and Civic Center

Thursday, May 28, Lakewood Ranch High , 7 p.m., at the Manatee Convention and Civic Center.

Thursday, May 28, Edison Academy, 6:30 p.m., Bayshore Gardens Park and Recreation Center, 6919 26th St. W., Bradenton

Friday, May 29, Southeast High graduation, 7 p.m., Manatee Convention and Civic Center

Friday, May 29, Saint Stephen’s graduation, 7:30 p.m., Bradenton Municipal Auditorium

Friday, May 29, Bradenton Christian School graduation, 7 p.m., First Church of the Nazarene on 59th Street West

Friday, May 29, Manatee School for the Arts, 7-9 p.m. MCC Neel Auditorium

Saturday, May 30, Bayshore High graduation, 9 a.m., Manatee Convention and Civic Center

Saturday, May 30, Braden River High graduation, noon, Manatee Convention and Civic Center

Saturday, May 30, Out-of-Door Academy graduation, 2 p.m. Thunderdome at the Uihlein Campus, 5950 Deer Drive, Lakewood Ranch.

Saturday, May 30, Central High/Horizons graduation, 4 p.m., Manatee Convention and Civic Center

Saturday, May 30, Manatee High graduation, 8 p.m., Manatee High’s Hawkins Stadium.

Congratulations to the grads and their families!


Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Keep those canned goods coming!

Did you remember to put your canned goods out for your postal carrier on Saturday? It's the kind of thing I might often forget, but not this time. We contributed several cans of tuna, chicken breast and lemon pudding for the cause.

Later in the week, I had the opportunity to write a story about the Stamp Out Hunger food drive, and the last report I heard was that more than 140,000 pounds of canned goods were collected.

Nancy Thurkettle, who coordinates the postal carrier drive, said the support was heart-warming, and marveled that if every household put out at least one canned-good item, what a mountain of food that might be.

I can't remember a time when it seemed so possible that any of us could find ourselves in the predictament of needing help feeding our families.

Depending on the post office, postal carriers delivered their goods collected to either the Food Bank of Manatee or St. Joseph's Church. I had a pretty good idea about the scope of the wonderful work done by the Food Bank of Manatee, but I didn't know so much about St. Joseph's. It was eye-opening the scope of the pantry operation there.

As Kristen Theisen of the Food Bank noted, however, Saturday was a great day, but the need is so immense that unfortunately local hunger is far from defeated.

For everyone who gave, good job! And those who forgot, contact your favorite food pantry. They would love to hear from you!


Friday, May 8, 2009

Operation Prom

Operation Prom is quite an ambitious program aimed at local high school kids to give them pause about drinking and driving.

It includes a dramatized accident complete with first responders and real life testimony from the folks who have to deal with the carnage.

More than 800 Lakewood Ranch High School students received the program Thursday, and it will be presented at Bayshore High today.

Here's a note from a reader on today's article:

"I read you wonderful article this morning on the consequences of bad choices. We can only hope and pray that the reenactment shows our students what really does happen. It is with the help of all the dedicated departments you printed, however, you did leave out one company. Matt's Express Towing & Recovery, Inc., (Matt McKinnon, owner) is the company that stores the two DUI vehicles and sets up that portion of the scenario's for the high schools (at least LWR Ranch and Bayshore this year). Last year it was Braden River High School.

"Matt is moved each time he sees the reenactment. This is a contribution he does because as you may know, he sees the other side too. It's hard for a towing company to go on scene after these terrible accidents and deal with the families aftewards. Of course, he never fully knows the impact that the families go through, he can only imagine. Thank you."


Thursday, May 7, 2009

On the road again...

Saturday, I attended a mature drivers class, and wrote a column about it, that got more than the usual reaction.

Here's an email from one reader:

"I hate to burst your bubble, Mr. Jones, but my savings on my insurance after taking this course was only $3.03!!

"When my renewal came up with Travelers Insurance, it did not have a deduction listed for the safe driving course. When I checked, I found my three years were up and I needed to take the course again. So I did. I found you could take the course over the computer for $14.95. After I successfully completed the course (only 2 wrong out of 40 questions), I submitted my certificate to Travelers. Their response was a deduction of $3.03! Previously it had been $36.90 per each six months period. I am a safe driver, the only ticket I ever got was for parking at the school where I worked. I have never submitted a claim, been in an accident, etc. $3.03!!!!!

"If you get a better discount, I would like to know what company. Needless to say, I am searching for a better contract."

Others were amused at how I had swallowed my pride, and others still wanted to know how to sign-up for the class.

You can contact the MCC Traffic Safety Institute for a class schedule at 752-5286.

I was fortunate to have as my instructor Pat McCabe, who retired Tuesday. The class appreciated that Pat bought everyone coffee and donuts in the morning and pizza at lunch. Who else does that?

Here's a note I received from Pat:

"I want to thank you for all of the kind words directed toward myself and the Mature Driver class in last Sunday’s paper. You have made me a hero among my peers. It is a great way to end what has been such a rewarding career. "

my pleasure,


Friday, May 1, 2009

Old Florida, the real deal

As a boy growing up in St. Augustine in the 1950s, I remember visiting fishing camps a time or two along the St. Johns River. They were and still are unique places with wonderful views, fresh air, and plenty of characters.

But they seem to be disappearing. On Friday, Manatee County unveiled plans for Jiggs Landing Park, and a fomer resident who lived there from 1953 to 1964, was present. Understandably, she became emotional, but in a good way. Some of what she remembers will live on for future generations.

For more, see Saturday's Bradenton Herald.

Speaking of history, my mailbox lately has been seeing more letters advertising hearing aids, financial planning for retirement, and even inviting me to a mature drivers course. Is someone trying to tell me something? For more, see my column in Sunday's Herald.


Monday, April 27, 2009

Got fossils?

Long before there was a United States of America, or before Europeans ever suspected there was anything on this side of the Atlantic, this area teemed with life.

The history of the area 10,000 years ago is written in the fossils of animals found in, among other places, Creekwood in East Manatee.

In a story published in the Herald April 24, Liz Sullivan called our attention to ancient bone fragments that residents had found in a lake there.

Subsequently, Liz said she has had a conversation with with Jeff Rodgers of the South Florida Museum in Bradenton and learned that a fragment suspected of being a tusk was actually rib bone from a Dugong, which is similar to a manatee.

The other pieces could belong to a horse or other creature, but it will be difficult to tell without more scientific study.

Charlie Hunsicker, director of the Manatee Natural Resources Department, said while the area was never home to dinosaurs, it did have mastodons, sabre-tooth cat, and giant ground sloths among others.

For more, visit


Friday, April 24, 2009

Tuberculosis watch

It was big news last week when it was reported that students at Lakewood Ranch High School and Nolan Middle School may have been exposed to someone diagnosed with tuberculosis.

School and health department officials went into overdrive to get the word out to students, faculty and parents. The key points were that the disease is treatable and that the person who was diagnosed can no longer spread it.

Today, testing is underway for those who may have been exposed. Nancy High, principal at Nolan Middle School, says students have been matter of fact about the process and results will be read on Monday.

Public officials and the Herald did their job in getting the word out without sensationalizing it. There's been no panic. And a forum at Lakewood Ranch High School on Monday night attracted fewer than 10 parents. Good job all the way 'round.