Florida International University’s Landscape Architecture Graduate Design 5 Studio visited St. Lucie River near Stuart, Florida to learn more about the water quality issues plaguing the region. The field trip was led by Visiting Instructor TJ Marston. The devastating blue-green algae bloom had a noticeable effect on the region. Once a vibrant fishing town, local attractions lay sleepy as tourists and locals avoided most water-bodies, a lifeblood of the community.
They visited the Florida Oceanographic Coastal Center (FOCC), where FIU LAEUD students had the chance to have some fun, touching and feeding stingrays and learn about the local sea-turtle population. Afterward, they were treated to a walking tour of the local habitat and an in-depth discussion with Zac Jud, a local scientist and educator, on the concerns of the local watershed. They learned about the devastating effects of poor water management from local and regional agriculture, Lake Okeechobee, and the local storm-water system has on the region. They also discussed what the FOCC is doing to restore the watershed, building oyster reefs and sea grass beds, as well as educating the public on the environmental and economic concerns.
Afterward, we visited a unique water body in the area, a storm-water treatment wetland located on the Haney Creek Tributary. The wetland, built in 2017, was designed to clean storm-water flowing through the tributary to the St. Lucie River. Students observed the difference in water quality from the adjacent St. Lucie River, where algae blooms were visibly present. The wetland, filled with submerged and emergent vegetation, was beautiful in its stunning natural beauty and its resilience against local water contaminants.
The students left inspired to make a difference in the community and explore ways natural infrastructure could heal a watershed devastated by poor water quality management.
Written by: TJ Marston, Visiting Instructor