News From the Chair September 2015




Our PPP group became a coalition last week, as so many people are concerned and upset about the Governor’s new management plan to make Paynes Prairie a business of some sort.


Here is the PPPC Mission Statement: To protect the natural and recreational values of Paynes Prairie State Preserve by opposing multi use plans including commercial cattle grazing, logging and hunting.


Go to the to sign the petition, there are more than 12,000 signatures right now and we want to get 15,000. Remember, each time someone signs that petition, it goes to all our representatives, the governor and his cabinet. Continue to ask friends, family, colleagues to sign the petition as well. If you want to call or email: Governor Scott (850) 717-9248 or  or DEP Secretary Jon Steverson at (850) 245-2011 or  Here is a sample letter that you can also write to your Senator or Representative:



I am writing you to ask you to oppose the new management plan that Jonathan Steverson, Secretary of the Florida Department of Environmental Protection plans to set in motion to allow multi commercial uses in Paynes Prairie, such as cattle grazing, hunting and logging. Paynes Prairie is a very special place where you can meet students, families, seniors, photographers, hikers, birders, locals or tourists, all enjoying this unique Preserve for its beauty and its resources. It is our Serengeti…Hiking or camping there is good for the body, calms the mind, and heals the soul….It is a place for the people to enjoy now and forever.

Now for the business minded politicians, consider these points:

  • Cattle grazing in Paynes Prairie is inconsistent with the ecology of the prairie, mostly

composed of marshes and wetlands. Historically no large grazing mammals have populated Florida wetlands for any significant period of time.

In case of flooding, which has happened in the past and could happen again, cattle will have to be moved, or they will drown…No good farmer would want to expose his cattle that way, but maybe agricultural businessmen can only see dead cows as possible tax losses.

  • Insects and rodents are the main native grazers on Paynes Prairie. They support a food chain that includes a variety of vertebrates including many wetland birds.
  • Cattle are grazers and usually do not eat hardwoods and dog fennel. Some hardwoods such as black cherry, buttonbush, elderberry are toxic to cattle…Not a good thing!
  • Cattle grazing in wetlands consume native aquatic plants such as maidencane, enrich dissolved nutrients concentration in urine and feces, and break down soil structure, affecting the hydrology of the wetland….Given that the City of Gainesville is spending $27 million in the Sweetwater Wetlands Park to improve the quality of the water (water that goes back to the city public water at some point) having cattle grazing in the Prairie is in direct conflict with maintaining adequate water quality for the people of Gainesville.

So it is important to oppose this cattle grazing business idea in Paynes Prairie. Let’s keep Paynes Prairie for the public. It needs to remain a Preserve first and forever for the people to enjoy.





Several Sierra Club members attended this meeting led by Mr. Alvarez, mediator hired to resolve this issue and avoid going to trial, which is always a lengthy and expensive proposition.

The County lawyer presented her arguments: A) the County is concerned with the water quality of the Mill Creek Cave system and watershed, if the properties in question are developed. B) the County would like some policies set to protect water quality. Then the City of Alachua lawyer argued that the City of Alachua was very aware of preserving water quality, that they followed several steps before allowing building, and that no permit was issued yet. She said that the County was acting too soon. In my opinion, better be safe than sorry!

The mediator wanted to hear public comments, and several people (including Tamara Robbins, T.J. Muller, with National Speleological Society, and myself) expressed concerns about protecting water quality, and protecting the Mill Creek Cave system from possible damage due to water runoffs and development. From some comments, it was clear that the City of Alachua commission was accused of being too “pro business” not respecting the citizens of Alachua rights to speak up when they voice their opposition, and being in denial of the “dye trace study” done 10 years ago on the Cave system. A few people spoke in favor of more jobs and business creations in the Downtown Alachua.


In conclusion, Mr. Alvarez declared an impasse and would like to reconvene with the City and the County Commissions, for a second mediation meeting – probably with the National Speleological Society and the landowners at the table as well…So stay tuned.



  • Our yearly outing to Crescent Beach was delightful. We took seven Environmental Ambassadors to Crescent Beach and here are some of their comments:


  • “By attending this field trip for 2 days, I learned a lot. First I learned that by picking up a few pieces of trash, you can save turtles, because eventually trash ends up in the ocean and turtles see it as food, swallow it and die. My favorite place was the UF Whitney Marine Lab where we heard Dr McGuire talk about Sea turtles. Then I loved the kayaking because it’s a good workout and at the same time you learn about the river.” Caitlin Bright.


  • “Kayaking was my absolute favorite experience. The heat and my arms were scorching, but kayaking was so rewarding. I can proudly claim I have been kayaking, an activity that before I would not have any interest in, nor the means to pay. I think all future Environmental Ambassador should experience. While kayaking, Brandon, our guide, showed us the plants named mangroves, and a special white butterfly that is built to resist heat and harsh winds. I am so thankful to have had this experience. Also, during this trip, I tried new foods like tofu meat, and met the kind Sierra Club volunteers.” Destiny Henderson.


  • “This trip was full of experiences and information. I learned that the Kemps Ridley turtle is the rarest turtle in the world. I learned about the Matanzas Fort history and that fascinated me. These last two days have been amazing, and I would have liked to stay longer so that we could go to the beach again. Thank you for such a great experience!” Nehemiah Nash.
  • “During this outing, I have learned and experienced an abundance of things, especially when we visited the Whitney Lab. I appreciated going kayaking because it was not only fun, but I learned a lot that I did not know about Florida, the Matanza Fort was built in the 1600’s and that the Matanza river runs into the ocean. It was fun to go to the beach and to go kayaking. Thank you to whomever paid my way to have an experience of a lifetime.” Aaron Hope.
  • “This trip in its entirety was enjoyable and I had tons of fun participating. My favorite part was swimming in the ocean because I have always loved the ocean and attempting to fight against the waves…Overall the trip allowed me to look more closely at the ocean life here in Florida in a way I had not before. The idea of becoming a marine biologist becomes now more appealing to me than it had before. So aside from looking at the wildlife and enjoying the trip, I have now a new possible career option come to light.” Breonan Samuel.

A week after this outing, we were invited to the ceremony that closed the 5 week program, and each student had made PowerPoint presentations, and are working on a video relating what they have learned during the Environmental Ambassador program. I was impressed by the quality of their work and I wish them well in their future studies. They are our future environmentalists.

***By the way, read their letter to the Editor of the Gainesville Sun, titled “Excessive Pumping” and published Sunday August 16, 2015.


  • The Cone Park Library Center students went down Devil’s Millhopper on Wednesday, August 5th…and you can see in the photos that they were listening to George, our geologist, explaining effect of water on the limestone…Going down the stairs, of course was a lot of fun, and they learned about sinkholes and their formation.


More trips will be planned for the fall months and if you want to volunteer, let us know.




SUCCESSES….Ban Fracking Resolutions are getting passed every day!

Thanks to the continuous work of people opposed to Fracking in Florida, several resolutions passed:  Jefferson County and Fernandina Beach on 8-18-15, Deerfield Beach (in Broward county) on 8-19-15, Escambia County (where drilling is already occurring) on 8-20-15.

For the latest information re: Fracking issues and springs related issues, please go to website. Many thanks go to Merrillee Malwitz-Jipson for all her work to advocate bans on Fracking, and to push for more springs and water protection.


OUTINGS: Check the website, , for a list of all outings in Florida, or MeetUp for our outings. Thank you to Ben Berauer for leading an easy paddle on the Withlacoochee River on Sunday, September 13, 2015. Contact Ben at

A bike ride on the Withlacoochee state trail bicycle (Floral City to Hernando) on Sunday 8/30 is also in the plan, led by Ben Berauer. Contact him at

Saturday, October 10, 2015. Hike on La Chua Trail, in Paynes Prairie. Let’s meet at 8:00 pm for a walk down the trail to the tower, and see what the Prairie has to offer that day…

Contact Maryvonne,




  • I was alerted of a petition to ask “big box” stores to stop selling plants that contain neonicotinoids, a poison to kill bugs, but ends up killing our bees and our birds. Go to and sign the petition.
  • During our visit to the UF Whitney Marine Lab in Crescent Beach, Dr. Maia McGuire mentioned that the sand of our beaches contains small particles of polyethylene, that are ingested by fish and turtles. These plastic components are used in toothpastes, deodorant, cosmetics …so when you wash up, they go down the drain, and eventually end up in the ocean…So educate yourself …Go to the US Department of Health and Safety Information on Household Products, then Household Products Database and check the Ingredients sections. Think before you buy… Better, write to the companies and ask them to stop using these products.



This is the time to collect your unwanted items, contact us and bring them to this address:

2025 NW 35th Terrace, Gainesville, Fl 32605.  Call Jeri Merritt at 505-570-9096 or email at, or myself at 352-871-1606. If you do not have anything for the Garage Sale, come and buy something on Saturday, September 19, at the same address…from 8:00 to 12:00pm.  Thanks.