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The Editor | A Letter from Liz Green
Mid-July last year we were working on what is normally one of my favorite issues to produce each year – Outdoor Life – because we get to show off our waterfront paradise in all its glory. That issue always reminds me why we choose to make Southwest Florida our home despite the oppressing humidity we deal with daily during the summer.
Only the issue turned into an absolute nightmare.
We were featuring Lemon Bay, one of the most breathtakingly beautiful areas in all of Southwest Florida. But many of the water-based recreation businesses we were planning to shoot had all but shut down their operations – albeit temporarily – because of red tide. For the few shoots we were able to make happen, Art Director Scott Spear and photographer Max Kelly joked that they were owed hazard pay for having to breathe the air.
For months, our lives were consumed by red tide. It dominated the news – television and print – day in and day out. Tourism-based businesses lost millions of dollars. Every time you opened up Facebook, there was a picture of yet another dead manatee or dolphin floating in a canal. Our award-winning beaches turned into graveyards for marine life. A 26-foot whale shark washed up on Sanibel Island, a victim of red tide.
I think we can all agree, last year’s red tide bloom was a nightmare we would love to forget.
Only we can’t. That would be the worst mistake we could make. And that is why we dedicated 75 percent of our feature coverage in this, our annual Green Issue, to red tide and what we, as citizens, can do to prevent another year like this past one.
But, in the midst of this disastrous red tide season, our community has, I think, come out stronger – and hopefully wiser – on the other side. We survived, as we do here in Florida in times of disaster, by coming together and supporting those among us who were struggling. Fundraisers were held all across Southwest Florida to help businesses that were impacted the most. Locally, “Let’s Help Englewood,” an organization formed to help those struggling after Hurricane Irma, set its sights on helping businesses and citizens hit hardest by red tide – businesses like the ones in Lemon Bay we were trying to feature in our Outdoor Life issue. Citizens came together to clean up our beaches and waterways. So many grassroots organizations have sprung up to focus on keeping our waters safe. Watching our community come together has been an upside to an otherwise depressing topic.
This red tide season might have been the worst in recent memory, but it helped remind us how precious – and fragile – our ecosystem is and what we all need to do to help protect it.
Despite the focus on red tide in this issue, we decided to leave it off our cover. We’ve had enough of the dead fish, manatees, sea turtles, dolphins and sharks this year and wanted a visual reminder of why we all choose to live in this little corner of paradise.
Enjoy the issue. I hope it helps you think about what you can do to make a difference.