Received this email yesterday (24 June). My reply follows.
So tell the Big Pine property owners what you would do for the future about the HCP & ITP and fish & wildlife.
Hi, Dick, and thanks for your question. I will answer it is several ways.
I attended a Planning Board meeting on Big Pine several months ago, and it was then that I got an ear and stomach-full of just how convoluted the formula is for building even one more new home there. I commented to someone at the meeting that the formula seemed to have been designed on purpose, and I saw no way to work with it.
I also spoke with Alicia Putney about building homes on Big Pine and No Name Key. She and her husband Mick, and quite a few other people on Big Pine are very, very committed to keeping that island and its neighbor where they live, No Name Key, pretty much as they are. Alicia and I discussed building permits for residences, and we both agreed that we were okay with permits being issued to people who will build a home on land they own, or have purchased, in which they will live full-time. Otherwise, we both were opposed to new residencies being built on either island.
This position also was pretty much in keeping with my stance toward development Keys-wide, which I started singing when I ran against George Neugent for the County Commission in 2006: No more new commercial development, period, the end. The Keys are already way, way overbuilt, we have thousands of homes for sale, including plenty of homes for sale on Big Pine Key, and it makes no sense whatsoever for any new homes to be built, unless the owners will be full-time residents.
Now I will tell you a story about my own personal love affair with Big Pine Key, and its little neighbor.
In 1995, I lived in Boulder, Colorado. One very cold winter night, sitting in my favorite chair with my writing journal, looking out the window at the moon through the limbs of a large black willow tree, I was seized and wrote down these words: “Go to Big Pine Key. Go as soon as possible. This in important.”
This came from out of nowhere. I was not thinking about Big Pine Key, and had not been thinking about it. But I knew about it, because in March 1966, fishing out of Old Wooden Bridge Fish Camp, several hundred yards inside (bayside) the charred remnants of the old wooden bridge over to No Name Key, I had caught and released my first tarpon. I was fishing with contemporaries of my father in Birmingham, Alabama. As the years passed, I came to view catching that great fish as a rite of passage, a symbolic moving away from the influence of my father into my own destiny.
The night of the advisory for me to go to Big Pine Key as soon as possible, I dreamt that I was at a ticket counter at Stapleton Airport in Denver, purchasing an airline ticket to Big Pine Key, while standing nearby in another ticket line were my father and his brother, purchasing tickets to Islamorada. I had gown up fishing Islamorada, where they both hung out. Now I was going to Big Pine Key, and they were going to Islamorada. So to Big Pine Key I went, not having a clue why.
After one night at the Big Pine Key Inn, I relocated to Parmer’s Resort on Little Torch Key. Then I started fooling around and waiting, and wondering why I was there.
On the seventh day of the trip, I went out to No Name Key Bridge for the second time that week. At the fish camp, I saw a couple getting into a skiff with their bait and tackle. I felt an urge to speak to them and learned they were environmentalists. They said they had lived for a good while on Key Largo, but it had been destroyed by development and they had moved to Big Pine Key because it was the last unspoiled place in the Keys. They were doing what they could to keep it that way, the man said.
I offered to teach them a “prayer,” which I said might help them in their endeavor. The woman seemed interested, but the man seemed put off and in a hurry to get in the skiff and leave. The woman gave me what seemed like an apologetic look and got into the skiff and they cranked up the engine and idled toward the exit from the marina.
By the time I reached No Name Key Bridge on foot, they were headed under the bridge toward the backcountry. When they came out the other side of the bridge, I saw pelicans flying all around them. I told the pelicans to teach them what I had not been able to teach them. Then I walked out on the bridge and across it to No Name Key, where I turned around and started walking back the other way toward the fish camp.
When I reached the top of the rise on the bridge, I was moved to turn and look down Spanish Harbor toward Bahia Honda. Pelicans were flying all around me. Something huge came around and inside of me. My breath was snatched away. I burst into tears. My heart heaved so hard that it felt like it might jump out of my body. I clung tightly to the concrete railing, to keep from falling down. Then I heard, “Because you love this place so much, you will be used to help preserve it.” Then I really started crying and heaving.
That night a poem came to me, as I ate dinner at a restaurant on Big Pine Key, which no longer is there (the restaurant).
Behold the pelican!
Slow, clumsy, ugly afoot,
But in the air,
A great fisher indeed!
And in time of want
It plucks out its own breast meat
to feed its young.
For some years I had known that in the Holy Grail tradition the pelican is viewed as the Christ bird because in time of want it plucks out its own breast meat to feed its young. My middle name is Young. And, that morning I had been surrounded by pelicans. Surrounded.
When I read in the Keynoter two days later that a building moratorium had been adopted by/imposed on Big Pine Key, my heart leaped for joy. The next day I returned to Boulder, wondering what it all really meant and how it would play out? I came back to Big Pine Key that March, hoping to get to the bottom of it. I stayed at Parmer’s again, but nothing developed. I returned again the following Christmas, this time staying at the Old Wooden Bridge Fish Camp, in the apartment above the bait shop. Nothing developed that time, either. So I quit trying to make something happen.
Time went by. Stuff happened I wouldn’t want to see visited on anyone. Finally, in mid-December 2000, I was on Maui, flat broke. I awoke one morning hearing a voice say, “Go to Big Pine Key.” That suited me just fine, because I was weary of Maui and wondering if I was marooned there for the remainder of my days. Yet I had no money, I told the voice. Within three days’ time, this and that had happened, and I was en route to Los Angeles, and not long afterward, was on a Greyhound bus to Key West. Passing through Tallahassee, I passed out and was told I was getting into politics, which scared the living shit out of me, because I hated politics.
On reaching Big Pine Key, I was told to go on down to Key West, where I indeed started getting involved in politics late the following spring. I then was Sloan Young, because I had dropped Bashinsky off my name for reasons I have written elsewhere. I was broke and truly lived like the birds of the air and the lilies of the field. And always in the back of my mind was “Go to Big Pine Key.” What was that about?
In 2006, my circumstances changed, thanks to an inheritance from my father. I purchased a trailer on an acre of land of SR 4A on Little Torch Key, next to a state wildlife refuge. With the purchase came a letter from Monroe County saying, with proper permitting, the trailer could be demolished and removed, and a permanent residence could be built on the property. I started hanging out some on Big Pine Key. Next thing I knew, I was running as an Independent against George Neugent for the County Commission. George’s county commission office is on Big Pine Key.
During that campaign my “letter writing” began. My email list grew. Eventually, I learned of bigpinekey.com, and started checking out it‘s Coconut Telegraph gossip column. I sent some stuff to the web host, who started posting it to a omnibus page on the Coconut Telegraph page. He gave me some editorial advice about how to make my writing more available to online readers. Then he offered to set me up a blog. That’s how goodmorningkeywest.com came into being, and later goodmorningfloridakeys.com.
Along the way, I got to know “Capt. Conch” personally, after Steve Estes, Editor and Publisher of the brave little NEWS-BAROMETER, headquartered on Big Pine Key, told me his real name. After Capt. Conch got where he trusted me, he had me come over to his place, where he was able to sit with me by the computer and show me how to manage my own website. We became friends. I came to see him as a true member of the Resistance.
He and his wife live stuck away in the woods somewhere on Big Pine. A beautiful place. Key deer and other wild life abound. He has much the same view of the Keys that I do, and of most things. He very definitely does not trust the Establishment. Yet another piece of the “Go to Big Pine Key” puzzle, that was first given to me in January 1995.
Another piece of the puzzle is Bill Becker and US 1 Radio, which is headquartered on Big Pine. I got to know Bill, who sometimes interviewed me on his news program. Bill’s show is perhaps the single most important breaking news source in its listener range. US 1 Radio seems more pro-establishment than I’m comfortable with, but it is certainly an important piece of the Big Pine Key puzzle, and the bigger puzzle in which Big Pine Key sits at the heart, in my opinion.
Regardless of how people feel pro or con about development on Big Pine Key (and No Name Key), my view is that God has seen enough development there, and in the Keys in general. Even the State of Florida recognized Big Pine Key as a special area, needing special protection. The State also recognized the Keys in their entirety as an area of “critical concern,” after the people of the Keys did not do that. And it sure looks to me that the center of the Resistance is Big Pine and No Name Keys. They must be protected at all costs, and from there the Resistance just might spread and strengthen throughout the Keys. Perhaps with some help from the pelicans.
Sloan Bashinsky, non-affiliated county commission candidate, District 3
Political advertisement, designed by pelicans, written, swiped, swooped, approved and paid for by me