Florida’s Scenic Overseas Highway: Garry Balogh Inspiring Excellence Award

Florida’s Scenic Overseas Highway: Garry Balogh Inspiring Excellence Award

Photo: Keys Weekly
“Traversing over the bridges outlooking the blue waters of the Florida Keys never gets old, especially for Islamorada Chamber of Commerce’s Executive Director Judy Hull.

‘I think my favorite part is driving to work or to meetings and looking out the window at the gorgeous view and just thinking how incredibly lucky we are to be living, working and playing here,’ she said.

Hull played a major role in enhancing the scenic image of Overseas Highway, and her leadership and efforts went rewarded in early November as she received the 2019 Garry Balogh Inspiring Excellence Award during a Florida Scenic Highways meeting in DeBary.

Photo: Keys Weekly

The award honors the late Balogh, a state Department of Transportation employee who was responsible for the designation and successful implementation of many Florida Scenic Highways. Recognizing leadership, innovation and achievements that have made a lasting impact on a scenic highway, the award was destined for Hull, who played a key role in resurrecting the byway organization in the Keys and achieving All-American Road status for Overseas Highway.

‘Judy is the one-and-only Floridian to get a road recognized nationally as an All- American Road, the highest designation possible by the U.S. Secretary of Transportation,’ said Jeff Caster, program coordinator for the Florida Scenic Highways Program. ‘And 10 years later, it remains the state’s only All American Road, one of only 31 nationally.’

The Florida Keys Scenic Highway was designated as a Florida Scenic Highway in 2001. The byway was managed by Clean Florida Keys, but after two years, it disbanded and the organization was no more. That’s when Hull stepped in to bring life back to the group, thus establishing the Florida Keys Scenic Corridor that assumed management and responsibility.

Once established, Hull worked to reestablish long-neglected partnerships up and down the Keys. From the chambers of commerce to the county and Florida Department of Transportation, she led updates to an outdated corridor management plan while guiding the organization and its missions and vision into the future.

That vision led to All-American Highway status for the 110-miles of road from Key Largo to Key West. Designated by the Federal Highway Administration in 2009, Overseas Highway is the only All-American Road in Florida, and one of 30 in the U.S. The designation brought significant research and coordination, and Hull says the application filled a three-ring binder. In achieving an All-American Road status, the thoroughfare must possess characteristics of national significance that don’t exist elsewhere — making it a visitor destination in and of itself…

Originally completed in 1938, the Overseas Highway incorporates 42 bridges over the waters of the Atlantic Ocean, Florida Bay and the Gulf of Mexico. They include the Seven Mile Bridge at Marathon, which stretches 6.79 miles across open water and was referred to on its completion as ‘the eighth wonder of the world.”

— Jim McCarthy, Keys Weekly
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“Brooksville mural tour offers low-key stroll through local history”

“Brooksville mural tour offers low-key stroll through local history”

Photo: Michele Miller, Tampa Bay Times

“Jan Knowles…is the docent for a new mural walking tour offered by the Hernando Fine Art Council.

The Livery Stable Mural, painted on the Lowman’s law firm at 32 S. Main St., is one of eight murals featured on a new walking tour sponsored by the Hernando Fine Arts Council. It features the livery stable, which housed the Bell Fruit Company, one of the most important businesses in early Brooksville.

Knowles is steeped in local history, having entrenching herself in several organizations over the years. She served as chair for the annual Brooksville Raid Reenactment, was an 18-year president of the Hernando Museum and a member of the now-defunct Mural Society that worked with the city to produce and fund the eight murals featured on the tour. She also is project coordinator for the Hernando Fine Arts Council and co-chair of Brooksville’s annual Art in the Park event.

The mural tour is way to bring light to art that might have been forgotten, she said, or that people might be wondering about — especially if they are new to the area…

It’s also a way to put to use the Civil War dress she bought years ago for the Brooksville Raid…

This tour promises to be a more low-key, casual walk through art and local history, with one modern caveat. Those who go can use their cell phones to access QR codes located on special plaques that include information about the murals and the artists.

‘The tour takes about an hour,” Knowles said, adding that the murals are all within three blocks. ‘There’s nice places to have lunch or shop so people can make a day of it.'”

— Michele Miller, Tampa Bay Times
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Palm Beach: Planting native trees

Palm Beach: Planting native trees

Photo: Kim Frisbie, Palm Beach Daily News
“…Trees protect coastal communities from severe flooding and storms by slowing water’s strength and absorbing excess water in the soil, preventing billions of gallons of runoff annually. And let’s not forget ecological restoration; a tree can be home to hundreds of species of insects, fungi, moss, birds, mammals and plants…

But not just any tree; we need to plant natives if we are to create sustainable habitats for our indigenous insects, birds, and mammals…

The following native trees all thrive in South Florida and will bring a wealth of bees, butterflies, birds and clean air back to your gardens.

Let’s start with lignum vitae (Guaiacum sanctum), often considered the ‘royalty’ of native Florida tropical trees, and also known as the tree of life due to the resinous wood that was once thought to possess magical qualities. With a canopy of dark green leaves, this excellent multi-trunked shade tree, sprinkled with lovely blue flowers in spring and summer, deserves a place of honor in any garden. Yellow fruits split open to reveal bright red seeds loved by a variety of birds. Skipper butterflies frequent the flowers while new growth provides larval food for the lyside sulpher, a rare butterfly of the Florida Keys.

Tolerant of full sun or part shade, not particular as to soil type, and oblivious to wind and salt, this is also ideal for seaside plantings. Slow growing, reaching only 10-15 feet, this is not found farther north than coastal Palm Beach, so we are fortunate to be able to include it in our gardens. As the exceptionally hard black wood is prized by woodworkers, it has been over-collected and is now considered endangered, having disappeared from most of its original habitat. All the more reason to add this to your landscape!

Black ironwood (Krugiodendron ferreum) is a 25-foot evergreen tree with the densest wood of any North American plant. Slow growing, with shiny, oval, dark green leaves and a narrow crown, it’s exceptionally drought tolerant and will thrive in full sun to part shade. The greenish flowers are extremely fragrant and attract a variety of pollinators. Juicy, sweet black fruits ripen in fall and are coveted by birds, who find good cover in the dense branching habit. Cold tolerant to the mid 20s, this is adaptable to a wide range of landscape conditions, and makes a wonderful accent tree or understory specimen. Plant it where it’s wonderful fragrant flowers and interesting form will be appreciated.

Bahama strongbark (Bourreria succulenta) is a rapid growing, shrubby evergreen tree 10-20 feet tall, with clusters of fragrant white flowers in summer followed by abundant orange-red berries in fall and winter. Hummingbirds, butterflies and a multitude of pollinators are drawn to the flowers while the fruit provides food for numerous birds and small mammals. I saw one in a friend’s garden last week and its canopy was literally alive with butterflies. Medicinal tea made from the leaves was used by native Bahamians to give them strength and a ‘strong back.’

Cinnamon bark (Canella winterana) is a wonderful small tree for a sunny or partly shaded landscape. With a dense rounded crown, lush, glossy aromatic leaves, and clusters of beautiful maroon flowers that become bright red berries, this is loved by birds and wildlife and is a nectar source for the beautiful Schaus swallowtail. The bark produces a lovely cinnamon fragrance when bruised. Tolerant of most landscape conditions, this will make a wonderful addition to your garden as a specimen or used as informal screening.

Gumbo limbo (Bursera simaruba), is one of my favorite native trees, with its spectacular cinnamon bronze-colored peeling bark. Mature specimens given room to show off their magnificent coppery trunks and lovely broad canopies are simply stunning. This thrives in any soil, in sun or shade, and is an exceptionally fast grower, reaching an ultimate height of 60 feet. Tolerant of salt spray and cold temperatures into the 20s, it will do well in any landscape setting, and can be propagated by simply sticking a cut branch into the ground. While the rich green foliage is deciduous for a short period in late winter, small white flowers appearing at that time attract numerous insect pollinators and the reddish fruits are loved by birds and mammals.

There are many more excellent natives: palms, oaks, maples, magnolias, pines, cedars, acacias, and the list goes on. We just need to recognize the importance of adding these diverse species to our landscapes…”

— Kim Frisbie, Palm Beach Daily News
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Consumer Reports:  “Digital billboards are tracking you. And they really, really want you to see their ads.”  On social media, your TV, etc.

Consumer Reports: “Digital billboards are tracking you. And they really, really want you to see their ads.” On social media, your TV, etc.

Photo: Consumer Reports

“How the most intrusive parts of the web are expanding into the real world, complete with data collection and targeted ads.

On a bright Friday morning, Frank O’Brien is giving me a tour through Times Square in New York City. Thousands of strangers are milling around us on the sidewalk, and in the crowd, it’s easy to feel anonymous. But according to O’Brien, many of the billboards and screens towering over our heads in every direction know a lot about who we are.

‘As we stand here, there are devices behind that screen that are picking ID numbers from our cell phones,’ O’Brien tells me, gesturing toward a billboard at 42nd Street and 7th Avenue. Using those devices and other technology, he says, ‘We know who is in Times Square at a given moment.’

O’Brien, the CEO of a high-tech advertising platform called Five Tier, launches an app on his phone. He taps a few buttons and in an instant, the billboard changes to display a picture of me I’d sent him the day before. Suddenly, I’m famous, with a 20-foot-high photo of me gazing out over the tourists. ‘It still amazes me sometimes,’ he says…

Data including your gender, age, race, income, interests, and purchasing habits can be used by a company such as Five Tier to trigger an advertisement right away. Or, more often, it will be used for planning where and when to show ads in the future—maybe parents of school-age children tend to pass a particular screen at 3 p.m. on weekdays, while 20-something singles usually congregate nearby on Saturday nights.

Then the tracking continues. Once your phone is detected near a screen showing a particular ad, an advertising company may follow up by showing you related ads in your social media feed, and in some cases these ads may be timed to coordinate with the commercials you see on your smart TV at night.

It doesn’t stop there. Advertisers are keenly interested in ‘attribution,’ judging how well a marketing campaign influences consumer behavior. For instance, is it better to target people like you with online ads for fast food right after you see a restaurant’s new TV commercial, or to wait until after you drive by a new billboard the next day? The advertising industry looks for the answers by watching where you go in person, what you do online, and what you buy with your credit card.

Charts: Example shown in Consumer reports

These aren’t futuristic scenarios. They are a recent but growing trend, according to executives in the advertising business. ‘The industry has really started to wake up to this within the last year,’ says Ian Dallimore, the director of digital growth for Lamar Advertising, a leader in out-of-home advertising. ‘If you’re not using data to better plan and buy ads, then you’re probably not doing out-of-home the right way.’

Researchers say that as tracking and ad targeting spill over from the web into the real world, our collective privacy and sense of control are eroding. If you don’t want to see ads at home, you can close your browser or turn off your phone, but you can’t avoid the ads you see in public. And there’s no practical way to completely block the location tracking used to place those ads…

Photo: Consumer Reports
Lawmakers and regulatory agencies such as the Federal Trade Commission are paying more attention to data privacy, but it’s not clear how the measures being put in place will affect the way individuals are tracked through their phones, and how the data is used by data brokers and their clients. Several out-of-home advertising companies I spoke with said they already comply with GDPR, Europe’s sweeping privacy regulation that was implemented in 2018. The companies also say they are prepared for the most stringent privacy legislation in the U.S., the California Consumer Privacy Act, which is supported by Consumer Reports and goes into effect in January 2020.

Five Tier’s Frank O’Brien says that, just like every other industry, the out-of-home advertising business should be regulated. But for now, if you’re not comfortable with how out-of-home advertising uses your information, you don’t have much recourse. ‘I don’t think there’s anything you can do about it,’ he says. ”

— Thomas Germain, Consumer Reports
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“St Pete hosts world’s largest Christmas light maze and market”

“St Pete hosts world’s largest Christmas light maze and market”

Photo: Enchant Christmas

“Enchant Christmas, the world’s largest Christmas light maze and market featuring larger-than-life light sculptures is taking over Tropicana Field from Nov. 22 to Dec. 29.

Visitors will glide along the light-adorned ice skating trail, mosey through a Christmas market of more than 40 local artisan vendors, listen as carolers sing favorite holiday tunes, enjoy food and drinks, and visit with Santa at Santa’s Landing. ”

Photo: Enchant Christmas

— D’Ann Lawrence White, Patch Staff
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