History of the Lake Worth Drainage District, the election of Gov. Napoleon B. Broward, and the second Waterway ‘Renaissance

The election of Theodore Roosevelt and Florida Governor Broward (1905-1909) brought in renewed interest in inland waterways and drainage across the Nation. Roosevelt convened the National Drainage Congress at the White House.  Governor Broward began his plan to drain the Everglades by dredging four canals from Lake Okeechobee to the east coast of Florida and one canal from the Lake to the west coast of Florida via the Caloosahatchee River, thence to Fort Myers.

By 1915,state legislators passed legislation authorizing contiguous landowners to form a drainage district. Landowners could then vote to authorize the construction of canals, dams, and other means to mitigate flood waters during conditions of heavy rain not already absorbed by grassy areas or catch basins.  One of first chartered in 1915 was the Lake Worth Drainage District. The following links bring you in video the history of the District from the times before the formation of the District and each decade thereafter to present times. Go to: http://www.lwdd.net, then select tab “About us”; then select tab “History”. Each video is about four minutes long.

By 1935, the State of Florida had authorized charters for 125 drainage districts to control flood waters during the rainy season and collect potable water for dry seasons.

The Hanging Gardens of Babylon — one of the Seven Ancient Wonders of the World

Most of us have a general idea where one might find the ancient kingdom of Babylon. It’s in the Middle East. More precisely it is today known as Iraq.Hanging Gardens of Babylon

But few of us know that in ancient times, there were Seven Ancient Wonders of the World AND their locations. They were the Great Pyramid of Giza; the Statue of Zeus; the Hanging Gardens of Babylon; the Temple of Artemis at Ephesus; the Mausoleum at Halicarnassas; the Colossus of Rhodes; and, the Lighthouse of Alexandria.

Two well-known ancient scholars agreed upon the list. They were Herodotus and Callimachus of Cyrene, both known in the Ancient World as early as the 5th century B.C.E.  Writers after those two historians confirm both the names of these two historians and their lists.

But only one of the seven ancient wonders of the world is without a known site: the Hanging Gardens of Babylon (Iraq). The seven modern wonders of the World is another question yet to be answered definitively, but ambiguous enough to escape definitive agreement among scholars without first agreeing upon criteria.

Palm Beach (Fla.) County Drainage Districts (1905-1935)

In the late 1890’s, as Henry Flagler’s Florida East Coast Railway and a New England group of investors headed by George Bradley of Providence, R.I., pushed their respective railway and what would become the Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway down the east coast of Florida in exchange for state public land.

Some investors had become skittish about waiting for some return on their investment, which had become more or less a speculative venture.  Investors in one land company affiliated with the canal venture had invested as early as 1892, but as of 1910, eighteen years later, hadn’t received a dime in dividends. The sale of Florida land had been slow. Further, all of the land companies had been required to spend money on draining the land and surveying the land before the land could be sold. This had been especially true of the Boston and Florida Atlantic Coast Land Company (“Boston & Florida land company”).

In 1905, Florida legislators encouraged swamp land subject to overflow and flooding by allowing groups of contiguous land owners to create drainage districts in strict accordance with Florida law to tax neighboring land to dig ditches and to take such measures as may be necessary to divert excess water into lakes and rivers as well as overflow areas away from growing crops.  By 1935, one-hundred and twenty-five drainage districts had been formed in Florida. By far, the east coast county with the greatest need was Palm Beach County.  The Lake Worth Drainage District is now a hundred years old and one of the largest such districts.  Today, Palm Beach County is also the Nation’s ‘breadbasket’ in the cultivation of peppers, citrus fruits and winter vegetables in rich loam, mulch, and “muck lands.”

Ancient Floating Gardens and Canals of Mexico City’s Xochomilco (“So-Cho-Mil-Co”) Part II

Especially before the Hispanic period, the dominant form of transportation was by use of the many colorful, small, slender light draft boats on the myriad canals. Over a period of several hundred years, farmers continued to grow flowers, fruits, and vegetables atop the mulch and muck lands dug by hand from the bottom of Lake Xochimilcho.

Colorful canal boats at Xochimilco between tourist trips along 110-miles of waterway
Colorful canal tourist boats at Xochimilco, Mexico

Farmers then carefully placed large quantities of mulch and bottom lands above water on various varieties of long fibrous plants tied together in bundles. Workers then tied the bundles in line to small trees in the waterway. The topography of the land was not exclusively reclaimed lake land called chinampas. The colorful boats for tourists became known as trajineras. Tourists now share with farmers the 110 miles of canals snaking their way throughout the lush centuries-old muck lands growing above the surface of the lake.

By the 20th century, the intricate complex of lakes, artificially made land, and canals had dwindled down to just a relatively small system of canals. Today the canals are still fed by fresh-water springs. But Mexico City’s population growth has stressed Xochimilco’s aquifers and cause subsidence of Xochimilco’s lake beds. Xochimilco’s  ecosystem of juniper trees and other rare species of flora and fauna are under siege by various external threats that originate with population explosion. These threats and stresses upon the land and water have resulted in UNESCO to list Xochimilcho as a World Heritage Site.

The Ancient Floating Gardens and Canals of Mexico City’s Xochomilco (“So-Cho-Mil-Co”) Part I

1950's colorized photo postcard of reclaimed and canalized Lake Xochimilco, along with farmers on canal boats.
1950’s colorized photo postcard of canalized Lake Xochimilco

Predating the Hispanic Period and geographically south of the main capital city of Mexico was an ancient large lake called Lake Xochomilco. Over the centuries, beautiful flowers and agricultural products were grown above the water on tall stalks, anchored to trees and filled in the rich mulch and soils from the lake bottom. Eventually, early farmers in the area separated by the capital city built canals and colorful canal boats for transit to and from the central Mexico City with their produce.

Over the centuries, Mexico City has grown outwardly, incorporating this former lake bed covering 48 square miles, sustaining a population of almost half a million, mostly farmers.  In 1928,  Xochomilco became recognized as an independent city.  For hundreds of years, these farmers cultivated their lush flowers, plants, and produce above the water, traveling on these colorful canal boats. On Sundays, tourists and townspeople have travelled to see these brightly colored boats filled with their produce for market. Some tourists have boarded these canal boats to tour these canals and view the ancient methods of growing produce.

Farmers on their canal boats tending to their crops above the waters of Lake Xochimilco.
Farmers on their canal boats tending to their crops

Despite Xochomilco’s status as an independent city, Mexico City has drained off much of the water for its own needs and drilled wells for more water, which has caused subsidence of the land created by the canal people who populated the Lake.  The draining off of potable water has left the lake people with degraded land above the water and non-potable water.  The need to protect this ancient cultural site has caused UNESCO to place Xochomilco on the World Heritage Sites list.