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