A Look Back to the Orange Groves of Today’s ACOE-SFWMD’s C-44 Reservoir/STA, 1964, SLR/IRL

C-44 canal with Coca Coal's Minute Maid Orange Groves, 1963. Photo Arthur Ruhnke courtesy of historian Sandra Henderson Thurlow.
C-44 canal with Coca Cola’s Minute Maid Orange Groves, 1964. Photo Arthur Ruhnke courtesy of historian Sandra Henderson Thurlow.
SFWMD including C-44 R/STA in blue, 2014.
SFWMD including C-44 R/STA in blue, 2014. This area was once Minute Maid’s orange groves.

The C-44 Reservoir and Storm Water Treatment Area has been in the news over the past few years. Once completed by the SFWMD and ACOE with help funds raised locally, it will clean water from the tremendous and polluting C-44 basin. It is one component of the  Indian River Lagoon South Project that is part of the Central Everglades Restoration Plan. But what was all that land used for in the past? That land was orange groves. Thousands and thousands of acres of orange groves! As far as the eye could see….

Today even with the area’s transformation to STA/Reservoir, “Coca Cola” and “Minute Maid” roads remain as reminders of an all too distant past…when oranges were healthy and the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon was not impaired.

Today I will share eleven incredible 1964 aerial Ruhnke aerials my mother stumbled upon while creating a presentation for the Martin County Property Appraiser’s office. Arthur Ruhnke photographs are so important to our understanding of our history and I thank my mother for sharing these treasures. Art was a well-known photographer in his day and my parents acquired many of his photos.

The following is an exchange with my mother, Sandy, and long time family friend Jack Norris, who was an executive for Minute Maid. In the exchange, they “talk”about these photographs. Their interplay tells the story best, so I have gotten permission to share.

—-Jack, Tonight Fred asked me if I had any images to illustrate the his Citrus Program. These are from a packet of 10 Ruhnke negatives marked Minute Maid Groves, Indiantown, 1964. Surely the canal shown isn’t C-44? Are those workers’ houses? Sandy 


—- Sandy”Hi Sandy – The barn, equipment storage & office are located in the NW  corner of the intersection,  the buildings in the SW and NE  are workers houses, and the buildings in the SE corner are supervisors houses.   The canal running N&S was the main source of irrigation, originating at the St. Lucie at the site of the rodeo bowl. It is now substantially enlarged by the SFWMD to carry water to the new reservoir. The NS canal and l the main drainage canal was owned and operated by the Troup – Indiantown Drainage District.”  Jack 

So then my mother sends this email to me:

—-Jacqui, I am working on my program for the Property Appraisers and thought I needed to say something about western Martin County. I thought I might show the old Minute Maid Grove and say it is now a reservoir. I couldn’t find my aerials. I have finally found them and thought I would share them with you. Understanding them would be an education. Jack Norris was in charge of planting all of those millions of citrus trees.

So I today I am sharing the photos and started researching Minute Maid and the land purchase for the C-44 STA/R; this is what I found: According to a 2011 Stuart News article bout C-44 R/STA by Jim Mayfield:

“The project site, 12,000 acres of former citrus land, was purchased in 2007 for $168 million, $27 million of which came from Martin County taxpayers through the one-cent sales tax for conservation lands, South Florida Water Management officials said. The property is south of the Allapattah Flats Wildlife Management Area near Indiantown. Over the last year, the water management district has spent roughly $5 million to remove trees and rid the topsoil of copper deposits, officials said.” Jim Mayfield

I hope you enjoy these historic photos today. I find these aerials amazing!  It is my hope that one day even more of this agricultural land will be converted to hold water as Nature intended. The C-44 STA/Reservoir is a great start.

Orange Groves and C-44 canal 1964. A Ruhnke.
Orange Groves and C-44 canal. All photographs below taken in 1964 by Arthur Ruhnke and shared by historian Sandra Henderson Thurlow.
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Jacqui Thurlow-Lippisch

Jacqui Thurlow-Lippisch

about Jacqui:

Although born at Travis Air Base, California, Jacqui considers herself a native of Stuart, Florida, having moved there at eight months old. Her father’s family, originally from Syracuse, New York, has lived in Stuart since 1952. Her mother is a 5th generation Floridian from Gainesville.

Jacqui is journalism and German graduate of the University of Florida, and an education master’s graduate of the University of West Florida. She went on to teach both English and German and after a serious accident of breaking her neck, started selling real estate. In 2008 she ran for the Town of Sewall’s Point Commission and has served since 2008; She is former mayor. During this time she saw the opportunity to help showcase the work of a locally formed river group, the River Kidz, and this has been her passion ever. She incorporates youth/river education into her political work for the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon.

Jacqui is the treasurer/secretary of the Treasure Coast Regional Planning Council; has chaired the Florida League of Cities Environmental and Energy Committee; was chair, and long time member of the Treasure Coast Council of Local Governments; is an alternate for the Water Resources Advisory Commission for the South Florida Water Management District; and a board member for Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute Foundation. She also serves as an (ex-officio) board member for the Rivers Coalition Defense Fund, and is head administrator for the River Kidz.Jacqui is a Daughter of the American Revolution.

Jacqui’s reach involves not only local, but state and federal government. In 2013,  she served on Senator Joe Negron’s panel for the Select Senate Hearing on the Indian River Lagoon and Lake Okeechobee. In 2014, she actively supported the elections of both Senator Joe Negron and Congressman Patrick Murphy who have both been strong supporters of Indian River Lagoon issues. In 2015, she is part of the Florida League Cities Treasure Coast Advocacy team. Jacqui received the Everglades Coalition’s prestigious 2015 “John V. Kabler Award” for “Grassroots Activism.” Most recently she has been recruited as a fellow by the University of Florida/IFAS’s Natural Resources Leadership Institute Class XV.Jacqui is running for Martin County Commissioner District 1, 2016.

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