Mr. Joe Guidry oral history interview

Mr. Joe Guidry oral history interview

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Mr. Joe Guidry oral history interview
Fairbanks, Andrew
University of South Florida -- Library. -- Digital Scholarship Services - Digital Collections. -- Oral History Program


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Oral history ( local )
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interviewed by Andrew "Andy" Fairbanks.

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text Andy Fairbanks (AF): All right, it should be going now. All right, this is Andy Fairbanks interviewing Joe Guidry at his home in Lutz, Florida, the 10th of August 2017, for the ELAPP Environmental Lands Acquisition and Protection Program Oral History Project. All right, Joe, were going to start with your family background. When and where were you born and raised?
Joe Guidry (JG): I was born in Tampa, Florida, in 1951 in the old St. Joseph Hospital in Tampa Heights. My mother was raised in Tampa. Were sixth and seventh generation Floridian. My Floridamy husbandIm getting old. My father came here during World War II from Louisiana, and thats when he went and met my mother.
AF: Okay.
JG: So I was raised in Tampa, and Seminole Heights is where I spent my first five years. And then we moved to Wellswood, and thats where I grew up.
AF: Okay. And now, where is Wellswood?
JG: Its right behind Tampa Catholic High School, near the Hillsborough River. When I was growing up, there were woods around us. It was a new subdivision. Where Tampa Catholics gym is, it was all woods, hardwood. So, you know, as a seven- and eight-year-old, it was just wonderful.
AF: Awesome.
JG: We had a creek that ran behind our house into the Hillsborough River. Back then, they would let us go exploring. It was just a wonderful wayit was a small group of woods. It wasnt, like, a vast wilderness.
AF: Did the creek have a name? Do you remember?
JG: No, it did not. It was actually a storm drainage that came out of there. There were pipes that went through. But, you know, we had great fun playing in it and trying to jump it on our bikes. The big thing was, one time, there was a water moccasin in our back yard that my uncle killed and, you know, those sorts of things. It was neat. We would see snakes all the time, but not big water moccasins.
AF: Sure.
JG: I was not and my dad was not an outdoorsman, but I spent a lot of time in the woods enjoying that.
AF: All right. And so, you said your father was not an outdoorsman, but what was he into?
JG: Well, he loves sports and baseball. I mean, he was a drug salesman for Allen Drug, Tampa Drug at one time. So he actually preferred those kinds of sports. I was not a good athlete, and I preferred the outdoors. But we had barbeques every week. Theyre very social people. And, every year, wed go back to Louisiana. He loved his home state.
AF: And where in Louisiana?
JG: Houma.
AF: Okay.
JG: And there was an old house on the bayou. I mean, when he was growing up, he spent a lot of time in the woods and stuff. But not ashis father was a hunter and loved duck-hunting and things like that. But my dad and everybody, he loved playing in the bayou and that sort of thing.
AF: Did he find much attractive about the Tampa environment, similar to Houma?
JG: He made many friends. He loved people. Until the day he died, he always loved going back to Houma and seeing his family. He always wrote about how that was the best state in the world, and you could wall it off and everybody could survive. So that sort of thing. He wouldve probably spent more time there if my mother wouldve let him, but he loved his friends. He was very social and had very close friends.
AF: And what about your mother? Was she also from Louisiana?
JG: No, she was fromwell, she was born in Sanford, but she grew up pretty much in Tampa, a graduate of Hillsborough High School. And she loved her home here. She had her mother and her sister here. She didnt want to leave Tampa, though. My father wouldve gone back, but she didnt want to.
AF: And so, you said they met after World War II?
JG: During.
AF: During World War II. Okay.
JG: He was stationed at MacDill, and they met at a dance or something. And she hadtheres actually a story of her life. Her father had worked for the railroad and had been in World War I. He died of leukemia in his early forties. And so, his wife was left on her own with the three daughters he had to raise. And she kind of stepped in and reallybecause my grandmother didnt have to go to work. She went to work for the railroad. And then, when my mother married, my father became kind of the father figure to the two younger sisters, who are still alive.
AF: Okay, excellent. Yeah, I would like to talk more about that another time, with your moms history growing up in Florida. So you grew up in the Tampa area, close to the Hillsborough River. You described playing around there, that you werent particularly an outdoorsman as a kid.
JG: No, my dad didnt hunt or fish. I mean, wed go to the causeway and fish with the cane pole or something.
AF: Which causeway, the Courtney Campbell?
JG: Courtney Campbell. Back in the old days, youd have to go out first thing in the morning and reserve a pavilion. My aunt and uncle, who lived just down the streetand he was a fishermantheyd get up early. One of us would get up early and reserve it, and the families would come out. Wed have these big picnics, and wed fish on the bay. And youd usually catch a little something. We would spendI was in Cub Scouts, and wed go out to theMatt Greco, who owned the big barn, which became (inaudible) land out on Bruce B. Downs, which was called the road to nowhere. Back then, there was a road out in the middle, and it was a hunting club. But they would let the scouts go out there, and wed have picnics. We never spent the night, and we would fish and do games and things like that. So it was a lot of time spent in the outdoors, just not, I dont think I ever camped as a kid, except in my back yard and that sort of thing.
AF: And then the Greco, same as the Dick Greco family, or?
JG: I think theyre distantly related. Theyre not close. His son was Eugene Greco, who was in my class, but a lot of old Tampa.
AF: And so, yourself, you grew up in the Wellswood neighborhood?
JG: Yeah.
AF: And did you move any other places?
JG: No, I lived in Wellswood, and then I moved out when I went to the University of South Florida.
AF: And what year did you go to USF?
JG: I graduated from high school in 69. I started there, and then I moved out to Seminole Heights to an apartment we had in Seminole Heights eventually. But I stayed there. My plan was, my parents always said, You go your first two years to USF, and well help you go wherever you want after that. I thought I would go to [University of] Florida or FSU, you know, a better journalism program. But then, in the interim, I got a job at the Tampa Times as a copy boy and working on the wire desk on weekends and doing sports. And I thought, You know, Im working here. Ive got a foot in the door. So I just stayed at USF, which Im glad I did. They had a good mass communications department. I met my wife there.
AF: So tell me about that, when you met Lenora(??).
JG: Well, we just had classes together, and we were talking. I think we were dating other people. We would always talk, and wed kid about, Oh, you know, we need to go out to a drink, which(doorbell rings and dog barks)
AF: All right, so you were starting to tell us about when you met your wife, Lenora.
JG: Well, I met her. We were both in journalism. And then she called me. We actually had both graduated. We knew each other, but we didnt date. And then, she called to tell me she got a job at the Tribune. I was already working with the Times. It was a great thing. Back then, you could just work the dayI was working almost then. And then, the day I graduated, it was a job. She called and said she got a job, and I said, Well, howd you like to go out this weekend? And she said, Well, thats not why I called. And I said, Well. Anyway, and we started dating, and that was that.
AF: Excellent. Excellent. So what yeardid you both graduate the same year?
JG: Seventy-three. Shes a year younger than me, but shes a year smarter than me. Or, actually, much more than that.
AF: Very good, very good. So you were at the Tampa Times; she was at the Tampa Tribune.
JG: Yeah.
AF: And did either of you work for the campus paper or anything like that?
JG: We both worked for the Oracle. I started working thereyou know, I had this really great teacher when I was a sophomore.
AF: And who was that?
JG: Kenneth Kay. And he reallyit was on writing, and he really made you feel the wonder of writing. And I already had bent that way in high school, so I started working for the Oracle. Thats when I also went down and got a job at the Times. I was a copy boy. So I worked for the Oracle, probably over a year. I covered the administration. It was great experience. And, also, when I look back, I think of all those administrators putting up with these young kids who dont really know what theyre doing. We thought, you know, we were the Bernstein(??), when, really, we didnt know what the heck we werebut you learned a lot, and it was a great experience. Im very, very fond of my experience at USF and working at the Oracle. I eventually gave up the Oracle because they gave me pretty much a full-time job at the Times after a year, but some of my best friends were there. The editor, Grant Donelson, who I worked for, was like 10 years older but had gone back to school after the military; we became lifelong friends. And I said, Editor, you not only taught me how to write. You taught me how to fish. So
AF: I was going to ask about that.
JG: Well, he kind ofat that point, I was kind of getting into the outdoors more.
AF: So what was the motivation to start getting into the outdoors more?
JG: I just had ayou know, I liked it. Of course, reading Hemingway and things like that helped. But Ill tell you what; I was just thinking about this the other day. A real inspiration for methere was an artist at the Tampa Times called Lee Cable. And his goal in life was to be an outdoor, nature artist. And he was incredibly talented. But he would go canoeing and do a lotso he invited me one time to go canoeing on the Hillsborough River. I was still in college then. And so, we went canoeing. We put in at the state park and went upriver, which is now Two Rivers Ranch, the Thomas family, who are great people. Anyway, we went up there, and we saw wild turkeys, saw otter, saw hogs, and all these birds, which I had taken for granted. You got this field guide, and youd start identifying. It just was a revelation to me.
AF: Really?
JG: And, to this day, I still think of how fortunate I was to have this new world opened up to me. I mean, I had some semblance of liking the outdoors and wanting to fish and hunt, but my uncle, who was a fisherman, was teaching me a little bit. But, I mean, we didnt fish; we just canoed. But that was one of those things that, after that, it really
AF: So did you continue to go with Lee Cable?
JG: I continued to go. We also went hunting sometime. We became, not best of friends or anything; he was older and had family, but we continued to be in touch for many years. He left and he did become a very successful artist (phone rings)about Lee, who has since moved to Pikes Peak area and, actually, is doing work on cowboy art. But when Lenore and I got married, she saidcause Id always said, Man, Id love to have a Lee Cable original. And she would always say, Well, lets go for a drive sometime. Well, her wedding present to me was an original painting by Lee Cable. He said, Ill paint whatever you want on it. What I wanted was a mountain lion in the Rocky Mountains, which today still remains one of my proudest possessions. He, one time, borrowed it from me to put in an art show. And he won. He didnt give me the ribbon, though. But anyway, her gift to me was much better than mine to her.
AF: Well, thats really cool. So, obviously, he sparked a lifelong interest because I know youre now a fisherman and a hunter.
JG: Yeah, I didnt know anything. I mean, I struggled. Another thing was I somehow talked myself into the outdoor writing job at the Times.
AF: And what year was that?
JG: That was around 73. Thats when I got out ofor maybe even before, while I was still in college. And I was probably the most ignorant outdoor writer.
AF: So howd you talk yourself into it?
JG: Well, they just needed somebody. And I said, Well, Im interested in the outdoors. So I did a couple of years. And you would learn stuff because youd talk to people, and then Id do feature stories on people. I never didto this day, you know, Ive caught a lot of fish and stuff and shot a lot of things, but I never considered myself the worlds greatest. But I get out there; I love it.
AF: So who are some of the people that you interviewed or that you learned from, in the job as outdoor writer? Anyone that stands out?
JG: Im trying to think. There was a guy who had a boat shop here named Jack Westbury(??). He was a really good bass fisherman. He spent a lot of time with me. There was Roy and Edna Fox down on Shell Point, down at Shell Point at Cockroach Bay. A real character, he had one leg and crusty, salty, but kind-hearted people (phone rings)
AF: Its rolling again. And you were starting to tell me about Roy and Edna Fox at Shell Point.
JG: Yeah, they had a place here. He was a good fisherman, and Cockroach Bay was a beautiful place. That was another place that kind of turned me ontoit eventually was bought by ELAPP. But to see that shell mound is beautiful, seagrass beds. You know, its like, kind of, fishing in the Everglades. It was really gorgeous. So he was great. There was a writer, a former outdoor writer, at the Times named Archie Blunt. And I would fish with him. He knew a lot. We werent real close friends or anything, but he was a very, really great fisherman. And my friend Grant Donnelsonwho were best friendshe was a greatwed fish a lot. Wed go down to Cockroach Bay and fish and snook and fish. We would have jobs where Id get off early because Id get in real early, so we could fish until dark. Wed stop and get a Pabst Blue Ribbon at the 7-Eleven at the end of the street or whatever it was there.
AF: So was that when you came across Gus, down that way?
JG: Gus was later. Gus was after Id become an editorial writer at the Tribune.
AF: Okay. Well, well come back around to that a little bit later on. But go ahead.
JG: Well, I dont know if you want to jump to how I got to be an editor.
AF: I do. That was the next thing I wanted, to walk through your journalism career.
JG: Well, anyway, I did outdoor writer, worked in the wire desk, became executive sports editor at one time, state editor.
AF: And all this at the Tampa Times?
JG: All this at the Tampa Times. That was one thing, you kind of jumped from being a reporter type thing into an editing position pretty quick, but you learned a lot. But then the Times folded.
AF: And what year was that?
JG: That was in 1982. And I wentthey laid off a lot of people. They kept me and a number of other people, and I went to work for the city desk, on the night city desk. And then, very soon afterwards, I became night city editor. So Id run the operation at night, where you dont have everybody there, but if anything goes wrong its your fault. And at that time, I was doingbecause you dont write as a night city editor. I would do some book reviews for the editorial page editor. The book editor was Holmes Alexander. And so, they had a new editorial page editor named Ed Roberts. Anyway, I did this book review on the letters of Marjorie Rawlings, and he liked it. And he called me, and he saidjust out of the blue. Id never met him or whatever, and I was home doing some home projects, and he called and said, Would you be interested in talking about a job in editorial? I said, Yeah.
I mean, that wasbecause I always was interested. And if Im going to stay in journalism, going into editorial, where you get a chance to write, and its a prestigious position, but youre not just covering nothing [sic]. I mean, thats a very noble position, but it wears people out. And, in terms of getting ahead in the news room, its very political. When I went over to the Tribune, they were very kind to me. I think very highly of them. But they already hadyou know, the hierarchy was there. They appreciated what I did, but I dont think I was going to get way ahead there. So I took that job and started in 84 after the Superbowl. I worked through it; they didnt want me to leave the news desk until after the Superbowl. I went to work. And it wasnt a great job. It was doing the letters and the op-ed and writing as I could. But, eventually, if you work hard, you can change the job. I eventually did more and more editorials, did more and morethe environment was my passion.
And then, eventually, through the years, I didnt do the letters anymore. Sometimes did the op-ed. Eventually got rid of that. Eventually, I became the deputy editorial page editor. But, well beyond that, I was doing the outdoors. And my boss, Ed Roberts, who was a very good man, but he was conservative, he had won the Pulitzer Prize, toojust a beautiful writer. But he came, and he could see how things were changing here. And even though we didnt always see eye to eye, he let me pursue my passion. And he did support it. In fact, on some things, he became evenI wont say more aggressive, but he was willing to go to some things, like off-shore oil drilling, which Im dead-set against. But there is a point when youve got to say, How much of a buffer do you need? I mean, in everything. He wasman, dont let him anywhere, you know? So that worked out. And thats when I began. And we initiated a series on save the bay.
AF: When was that series?
JG: I believe it was around 85, 86. Id have to go back and look. There was another editorial writer there at the time, Wade Stevens, who helped initiate it. I remember we all gothe was much more veteran than me. But we got together with Jan Platt and Robin Lewis at the Valencia and started mapping it out. And then we had this one big bomb, and then after that, I pretty much wrote every one of them. And Wade left not too long after that, but he moved onto other things even before. But I wrote more than 50 editorials on that. And thats where I met most of these people. Jan, Robin Lewis was a great influence. And I met Robin before, too, when I was an outdoor writer. Id gone clamming with him. And thats when I met Gus.
AF: Through Robin?
JG: No, I met Gus when I was doing the save the bay. I cant remember for sure if it was part of the save the bay things when we wrote about his Cockroach Bay. But Id been in touch with him. He would write letters, and he came by. And hell tell you, I said, Well, take some photos. And he said, Im going to take this canoe trip, and then we kind of got that impetus about, this needing to be done. As kind of a background to this, kind of before I was in the editorial section, there had been a campaign to buy the Bower Tract that Joel Jackson was very involved with. And the Tribune had actually come out against it: dont buy the Bower Tract. And that was because of Holmes Alexander, a very good man, but he had a different perspective. It wasnt that he didnt want to save land. He thought, if the government buys it, who knows what theyll do with it? He came from an era when you saw that theyd buy the land, and then theyll dam it or dike it or something like that. So he didnt see. And I was dead set against that. I said, I mean, yeah, you can put protections in there. So I was able, once I was on the editorial board, to change that position. And we did advocate for the Bower Tract, and we did advocate for ELAPP, the public acquisition of land, which Holmes never
AF: Well, lets walk through that in a little bit more detail. So the campaign to buy the Bower Tract; you werent on the editorial board yet.
JG: No, not when it started.
AF: Okay, okay. Because I know that, you mentioned Joel Jackson, he and a bunch of others were really into that. Was that when the save the bay organization came together?
JG: Yeah. That was even before then that they had been working on it. I think a lot of it started with some of the dredging that was going on for the channel. But people like Joel
AF: In which channel? The main one?
JG: The main one. But you had better talk to Joel on that.
AF: Sure, sure.
JG: But its not like we came and won. Im very proud of our save the bay series and everything I wrote on that, and I think it didI mean, I think because of what we wrote, and I wasnt just
AF: Right.
JG: But there was definitely a movement, too, that preceded those, of some really dedicated people who fought hard and continued to fight hard. And we just, kind of, helped give them more of a platform.
AF: Sure, sure. They got the exposure. So what about yourself? You mentioned by the time when the Tribune came out against the Bower Tract purchase, it sounds like your position or your sense of being a conservationist was starting to crystalize, if it hadnt already. So maybe tell me about that. What main issues really made that position for you?
JG: Well, I think, one, seeing the Bay had degraded to such an extent. To see such a beautiful place as Cockroach Bay, and then have them want to put a marina in it, which we campaigned against and, I think, helped defeat. TECO was going to put a facility down there, right near the waterway. And we fought that. And so, it was just like, everything that was done, it just seems to me, we degraded a little bit more. And my feeling was, and I didnt think I was an extremist, but we dont get any second chances with this; lets be careful. We live in paradise. And people are going to move here anyway. You know, theres always concessions; we all live in homes. But we need to make safeguards. And I think the power structure was so used to having their way, and it wasnt like these were evil people. They just didnt think. You know, Were going to do it the best way possible, well, you can do it the best way possible, and its still a power plant.
And Ill always remember the story that the people from TECO are very influential and very generous in our community, but they wanted to have this facility down there at the Cockroach Bay. And I was dead-set against it, and I was fighting it. And they came in and said, Its going to be fine. It couldve been one of those things because my boss, great guy, but he listens toyou know, our publisher, theyre all part of that community. And so, I ask my boss, Ed Roberts, to go down to Cockroach Bay with me with Robin Lewis. And Robin Lewis took us out on this little boat in the shallows. And he had this transparent bucket, and he dipped the bucket in the water. And when he picked it up, you could just see it was full of life. Tiny shrimp, little creatures, the grass. He says, This is what were talking about. You change the water temperature in this area, everything, those discharges, this all could be at stake. And Ed says, Weve got to change this.
AF: Really?
JG: And, man.
AF: So is that what changed Eds mind?
JG: Yeah. I mean, I think it already had, but I wanted him to see it firsthand, and he wanted to see it firsthand. And he told the head of TECOhe had him in his officeback then, the editorial page out of the Tribune, he said, You cannot put this at risk. And the head of TECO, who was from another, you know, born elsewhere; he also said, Youre right. So the quality of life down here is not what it should be. And they pulled back on that. I give them great credit. I mean, a lot of thenot to be a Pollyannabut a lot of these people like TECO and Mosaic that Ive dealt with harshly over the years, theyve also done some good things. Theyre not, you know, its all complicated. But they do their best. I think theyve been, for the most part, good corporate citizens.
AF: What year was it, roughly, when you and Ed Roberts and Robin Lewis went out on Cockroach Bay?
JG: That mightve been around, I dont know. I have to go back. It mightve been the early 90s. It mightve been 88. But I think, more likely
AF: All right. So ELAPP wouldve been underway?
JG: ELAPP wouldve been underway or under discussion.
AF: So ELAPP officially started in 1987. And I know youve written numerous editorials about ELAPP. Was there a moment similar to this with the TECO power plant, when the editorial board made a shift? Or were they always in favor of ELAPP?
JG: They were pretty much, by then, I hadwhen it came to the conservation thing, not told, but I was kind of their go-to guy. Holmes was still there. He didnt always agree, but he wasnt arguing about it. And I say his opposition was, Well, the governments going to get it, and then they could end up selling it and developing it. You know, it was a mistrust that it wont be preserved forever. It wasnt like, Oh, we dont needhe did care about things. I dont want to make it sound like he was a bad
AF: Well, I think the context of what else was going on then would be important because you can tell me about what was going on in terms of corruption in the county, at the time.
JG: Well, we had three commissioners led away in handcuffsthis wasnt long after I got on the boardfor corruption, taking bribes. They were convicted; I think two more later were. Developers just ran this community. And they continued to even after those people were arrested; they continued, pretty much, their influence. Not with corruption, and most developers arent corrupt, but they had such great influence as to where the money is, the campaign. You had some people like Jan Platt, who did not kowtow to them at all, but most of the politicians would. Not corrupt politicians, but these are the people; and they created jobs. And that was another thing that drove. I tried, one of the big issues was growth management. The sky growth when we let developmentI hate to see development destroy beautiful wilderness, but when you left development go hither and yond, we all pay for that. Its not like theres not a cost.
Because then you have gridlock, water quality issues, all those things. And thats whatI saw growth management not as just protecting homeowners and property owners from costs, its just making you accountable. And we had, I thought, some pretty good success in promoting. We didnt always win, but promoting planning. The planning commission was probably one of the more effective ones. The agency there, they did the most they could with what they had. And nobody totallyeven the pro-development politicians, they generally pay some attention to planning. But, even so, theres no way youre going to absolutelyyou might say, Well, you cant develop on that piece of property, [so] you cant take it. Legally, you cant say you cant do anything. So you might be able to say, You cant build an apartment complex on there, but you can build 10 homes.
And the only way to absolutely preserve it was to buy it. And theres, you know, Bob Martinez will tell you this is a fairness issue and some of my friends who are ranchers. Nobody wants them to do anything with that because they preserve their land. Theyre the last ones left. So all the subdivisions around them who looked alike that at one time, you are penalized because you did not develop your land, and you lose out. Thats not fair. I mean, I still dont want to develop if it can [be helped], but for me to say to my neighbor who didnt develop his land, Well, no, you cant do that. I like looking at it.
AF: Right.
JG: Theres a fairness. Thats why buying land. The buying the land not only preserves all of your wildlife, it prevents all these problems that are created. You have less traffic, your water quality is helped and the water recharge. You get all these free functions. You know about them better than I do. But so, it just seemed to me to make so much sense. And there was no ELAPP; when it went through, I didnt have much of an opposition at all on the board. Holmes was there, but he didnt fight me. I think he had, by that time, seen its a different world. And the developers did not fight it.
AF: Really?
JG: No. I dont recall
AF: Oh, because it was optional and volunteer, they could get
JG: Yeah. And I think they recognized [that] heres a way that gives another option to buy land. Now, subsequent to that, after it was approved, it became this tremendously successful program because it is citizen-driven. Citizens pick out the sites, they oversee the contract. I mean, its people with expertise. Theres been no, absolutely no corruption or any incident of anything on tour to ever happen. Its just been an absolutely great program. But subsequently, wed always have politicians come in when wed interview them during election time for the endorsement. And its, Oh, weve got too much land; this lands just sitting there doing nothing. You know, which always, as far as I was concerned, lets just stop the interview right now.
But there are people in the legislature right now who are saying, We just heard that about Amendment I, how much land do you need? Well, how many people do you need? We have 20 million people, so we need more land. If we had 10 million people, you know, but no. And that lands not going to get any cheaper; thats the other thing. You could buy it now, you could leverage it and have partnerships with the state. And there was something, you knowwell, how are you going to manage it? How are you going to let the public enjoy it? Which we needed to work on it, but the county has a lot of programs to let you enjoy. But even if you walled it off and did nothing with it, it is still serving the public. Im not suggesting that; I think we all should have access to it. Youve got to manage that. But it still serves the public by all the natural functions.
AF: Right. And were just starting to quantify those ecosystem services and their financial value. But I think theres an intuitive understanding that you just articulated; maybe talk a little bit about your sense of how much influence did this have? In the times when these referendums were issued in 1987 and, subsequently, the public perception of ELAPP, how much of that was related, do you think, to the coverage of ELAPP in the editorials and elsewhere?
JG: Well, Id like to think we had some influence on that. The people who came in the editorial board knew that that was a key issue. How important that is, obviously editorial boards influence have been diminishing probably every year that I was on one. But we still had a
AF: But did you see letters?
JG: Yeah, wed see a lot of letters. Occasionally, wed see one against it. But most people reallyand you would see people who were conservative because it is the most conservative way to protect the environment. You just buy it. You know, you respect someones property rights, and you pay property value. You dont condemn it and grab it and take it away. I dont see how anyone can seeits a very conservative thing. Even, generally, wed have pro-development commissions, and they would support it. So, I mean, weve had commissions that were more balanced. Its tradition for our commissions to be a little more [pro-development]. I think, in the last few decades, theyve been more balanced.
Still, probably a little more pro-development but not like rape and pillage development. More like, lets do this in a responsible way and create jobs. I dont know where I was going with this, but it wasthere was never any big opposition. I think the most recent thing they had the phone calls were from Jan Platt and Bob Martinez. I mean, youve got a conservative Republican and a Democrat. And, actually, Jan is pretty conservative. Fiscally, shes conservative. People always think shes very liberal, but she doesnt like spending the taxpayers money if she doesnt have to. But anyway, I think people saw that it was good.
I dont know that they everand, to this day, I know youre doing a great job of getting more people involved and getting them in there. But I dont know if they were used to as muchor, as people realize whether theres a difference between ELAPP or another park. But I think people know, most people know, when they move here, Florida is losing a lot of what makes it so attractive. And I think theyd likethey may be just moved in from New Jersey or whatever. And they see traffic gets worse every year. This gets worse. This is no solution, but its a little bit of a help. And its certainly saving some beautiful areas.
AF: Absolutely. Absolutely. Lets see. Moving on to your experience. As youve interviewed all of these people, and you came with a knowledge of ELAPP and a knowledge of Hillsborough County from being the editor for so long, when youve interviewed people like Gus and Jan and Sally and Rob Heath and so on and so forth, what were the most significant things that you got that maybewhether they were new to you or just reinforced how you feltwhat were your takeaways from doing this project?
JG: I would just say how absolutely committed each one of them is to protecting the environment and doing what they can. They feel a personal responsibility to do what they can to protect these things for others. Like Gus, you know, he wants to leave and make sure he has a legacy of protecting. Joel Jackson is still going out, and I know a lot of the other ones [are] doing volunteer work to clear and those sorts of thing. They look at that as a personal responsibility. And theres also the appreciation of Gods world, the beauty of what we have, and they appreciate it. I mean, Jan Im talking about, when she went fishing with her father around the Town and Country area, and it was a crystal-clear creek, and they saw otters and all. Of course, that got developed over. I think the other sorts of things; when you love the outdoors, you just realize this is such a gift. And it sustains us. Its not up to whether youve ever set foot in the water and never go fishing or whatever; it does sustain us. It provides oxygen. And our drinking water, everything is so important. To see that sort of commitment that is ongoing, not one of them feels like, Well, I did my thing; Im done. They still feel responsibility to keep going. Its really humbling to see.
AF: Yeah, yeah. I agree. In your opinion, how does ELAPP fit in with other efforts to protect the environment at any scale? Not just locally, but in the state of Florida, in the country, even globally?
JG: (sigh) Well, I think, you know, obviously, Preservation 2000, Florida Forever complimented that greatly. They could work together. I think the National Estuary Program and all our efforts to protect Tampa Bay and the SWIM program to protect surface water
JG: SWFMD. It was a state program, and that was started under Governor Martinez. Surface Water Improvement and Management Act, I believe, they called SWIM. And, at one time, they were providing a lot of money for restoration programs, to reroute creeks so they would filter water again and that. So you could buy land that would complement that. At the same time they were doing that, it all worked together. Now, unfortunately, we dont have the funding for those sorts of things. We dont have the funding for ELAPP that I wish we had. But, still, that all worked together. It really helped. I think Tampa Bay is a great example. More things have happened. The water is cleaner. Of course, we had the Clean Water Act and the Grissel-Fig Bill(??), which required wastewater treatment to be cleared. So all of those things. The environmental movementIve made this point in editorials a number of times. People always sayThese job-killing regulations has just become a phrase. That is absolutely untrue. Regulations can save jobs and save lives.
That doesnt mean you want red tape, too much bureaucracy. We were concerned. In fact, we didnt want more than you need. But Tampa Bay, a clean Tampa Bay has more economic value than if its a cesspool. So if anybody says that thethey would not be, Jeff Vinik would not be developing Water Street if Tampa Bay still was a mess. So do you think this billion-dollar project would have been attractive at the waterfront? So I get so aggravated. But you hear its just becometheyve managed to make it part of theand its not conservative to say that. You need to know what regulations can save you money. You know, its a heck of a lot more expensive to clean something up than it is to keep it from ever happening in the first place. We dont have to have everything absolutely pristine. Nature has a certain resiliency. Its not one of those things [where] we dont want to do anything, but do what you can. Err on the side of the environment when you can.
AF: Absolutely. I know youve covered, you mentioned the Florida Land and Water Legacy Amendment, Amendment 1. And I know youve also covered the wildlife corridor expedition and the project itself. Do you see much in the parallels with ELAPP there?
JG: Well, yeah. I think we wouldnt be talking about the wildlife corridors, there would be no possibility of that, if it werent for ELAPP and Florida Forever. Its only because of these programs that we have the mechanisms for creating that. And I think, you know, some other people, Pete or Curt would be able to tell you more, but I think many of the ELAPP purchases were done with an idea of kind of creating corridors. I mean, I love the corridor expedition groove in Carlton Wards bend(??). You couldnt ask for a more dynamic space. And to have this state-wide corridor really was visionary.
But it was not unknown that you wanted to have enough environment to really sustain wildlife. I think its called relic environment, where you just have this little bit of wilderness, not even woods, here. And you really cant sustain much of anything other than a few frogs or squirrels. But if you really wanted wildlife, you needed to have that connection. But you cant always do it. I think part of the ELAPP thing, you do have a little bit of green in the middle. That shouldnt preclude having a small area. You know, near Violet Curry, which I use every day to go jogging, although its not very far from other areas, and I see deer in there that do not live there. But I know theyre kind of moving through and that sort of thing. But it creates this little oasis, and it is big enough to have foxes and snakes and things like that, so.
AF: Thats fantastic. What does the public understand and misunderstand most about ELAPP?
JG: I think they do understand this is to preserve the best of our wild areas. I dont think they always understand how valuable it is, that its serving them even if they never use it. I think, probably, sometimes people think, Well, it should be a park land, or Why are we buying this? Ill never set foot on it. Theres a lot of people who, unfortunately, think, If I dont use it, then it has no value. Its like, you know, if I dont use mass transit, it doesnt have value. But theres a lot of people its taking to work. (both laugh)
AF: Yeah. And criticisms over the years that youve witnessed, have they been addressed, do you think, sufficiently?
JG: Yeah. I mean, theres never been any hint of scandal. The big complaint Ive heard is from people running for office who never got elected, thank god, saying, Weve got all this land sitting there doing nothing; we dont need to buy more. And Ive heard complaints about it not being managed, that the exotics were running wild. And I think that was exaggerated, but there was some legitimacy to that, and that needed to be addressed. And thats the hard part of that. What do you do? You want to buy the land, or, you know, if the exotics go wild, its lost a lot of its function, but its still there. Its developed. You dont get the exotics, but it doesnt have your natural function.
AF: Well, and, to that point, do you think that we are doingwhether its the county or journalism or whomever, advocatesare we doing a good enough job helping people understand what is land management? That you dont just buy a piece, and its doing nothing; you actually have land management practices. The ranchers used to do this, and now state parks and preserves.
JG: Yeah, I think it would be great to have some sort of program where you told people more. And I think it would be a great thing to have, like, a partnership with some of these ranchers and stuff, who are always taking on the chin from this and that. And theyre preserving a lot of our wildlife. It wouldnt be there if it wasnt for them. You can say cows do this or that, but what if people were there, you know? And what theyre feeding. And if it was soyyou know, people who are all against meatwell, if its a soybean field, theyre still clearing it. Everything has an impact. We all leave a footprint, no matter what. So we want to try to find a way to maintain the most we can and still support our population. But I think thats a natural partnership with our ranchers and the agriculture. The other thing that I think agricultural people know and you know and ELAPP, land thats been tilled or used or filled, 30 years later, you never know it was like that. It can go back to the wild if its not paved over. So its not necessarily, Oh, thats neverand, of course, a lot of places (inaudible) and stuff, you still go see the remnants of a home. Somebody lived there, you know? And it wasnt developed much more than it is now.
AF: Sure. So, starting to wrap up, what are some of the biggest accomplishments that ELAPP has made? You kind of covered that. How about the challenges that it has had to overcome? Can you think of any challenges?
JG: Well, I still think getting the full funding. Its never gotten the full amount of funding. Id still like to see that happen. Unfortunately, you know, wheneverthey want to keep, which is understandable, the tax to a minimum. And the times we can get the best deal on the land is a time when its the toughest time to write the increased taxes because people dont have money.
AF: Or even to spend money that we do have.
JG: Yeah, or even to spend money. So its easy to bash the politicians and that, but I understand that. But I wish we could come up with a way where we could get the max amount of funding because were going to continue to grow, and theres fewer and fewer parcels were going to be able to save. I mean, theres some now, even if it was fullwere not going to be able to save them because it takes a willing buyer. Maybe the next thing is to partner with some of these big developers on preserving corridors and things like that. I know one thing, people, too, they might donate landand, of course, I believe also then lessened fee(??), you buy the development rights. But then you have the thing, well, were spending tax dollars [so] there should be some public access. And I know some landowners dont want that because you have public access and, as one ranger told me, the public can be ugly. And it does. Unfortunately, Ive seen it.
AF: We know it well, too.
JG: Yeah.
AF: Well, anything else that I havent asked that youd want to say about ELAPP or the people involved in it?
JG: No, I just think, in this interview, having seen and talked to these people, all of whom I knew, it really was a great crowd. And the fact that they all came together at that time, and they all have that great sense of responsibility in the publicnot a big ego and I did this, or I did that. It was all a thing. I mean, we were just very fortunate that they stepped to the front and really took charge.
AF: Yeah. I agree. And maybe, do you think, is that an anomaly? Or do you expect that to continue to happen again in the future?
JG: You know, I dont know. I dont seeI dont want to soundbut I dont see the young generation getting involved in things like that. Maybe they will. You might know more. But on other areas and on boards and things like that, I havent seen them. I think theyre more transient. And the economy has been very rough on young people. Theyre not getting established in their careers as early as people were. And, of course, the other thing, a lot of the people who got involved in ELAPP were actually in careers that were related to the environment in one way or another. And now, the state has really cut back so much on DEP [Florida Department of Environmental Protection] and other environmental jobs. Theres just not that value; we need to come back to the importance of the environmental protection. Not to the point where youre just creating bureaucrats to do nothing but create rules we dont need, but to really protect the environment because it saves us money, it protects the world we live in, it helps our quality of life. Its good for commerce. But that debate, unfortunately, has taken ontheres a lot of people that just hear that word, that phrase, job-killing regulations, and thats all they think about.
AF: Yeah. I think you mentioned the point, you didnt use the phrase, but civic engagement of the current generation. It seems that, maybe, you mentioned the personal responsibility that the people in ELAPP felt: the commitment. Do you see that happening anywhere, even outside of Hillsborough County, as people, younger generations, get involved in local communities at a political level? Are you seeing that?
JG: Well, I think that there are some young people who do get involved in campaigns and stuff. One thing that does worry meI dont know if this is off-trackbut I dont know as many young people that are involved in the outdoors and enjoying nature, as they were once. Now, everythings technology. I mean, theres still a lot of them, but you look at, you know, the numbers of the boy scouts are down and the sort of thing. I think we need more programs that really, kind of, get people involved in the outdoors in a fun way. And, you know, unfortunately, too much, when you hear about the environment, its always like, heres your castor oil; the climate is changing; everythings gone to hell; the world is dying. You know, its like, okay. Instead, like, go out in nature; enjoy it. We need to do our little step, whatever we can do. Those things, just develop this love for nature.
AF: Have some good news about the outdoors.
JG: Yeah, that is the one that I feel like were always hitting people in the nose, and I try to put it in a different context.
AF: So maybe ELAPP can be a ray of hope for people.
JG: I think ELAPP is a ray of hope. The fact that its still alive and well; it still has had its funding challenges for the last year; nobody was talking about killing it. I mean, I said last year; it was a couple of years ago. Its still, kind of got this protective sheen on it; it can be neglected, but you cant get rid of it. And, I mean, what youre doing, I think, is very helpful. Bringing people out, letting them engage with that. I think the more we can doI know that does create some stress on the land itself, but the more people we can get out, let them see these things. [For example], appreciate that when we went on that height in Lake Dan, that night hike, and saw those lightning bugs. I bet theres kids in Hillsborough County who have never seen a lightning bug. I had not seen one in years. I mean, when I was a kid, I routinely saw them. But with, I guess, fertilizer or whatever else, pesticides, you dont see them. But to see those sorts of things. And I think a lot of adults, young adults, would love to see. I think they, when they have young kids like that, they would become champions. They just need a way to do it that they can do in a more easy way. You cant expect too much of people, especially when they have young families.
AF: Um-hm.
JG: Yeah. I dont mean to sound pessimistic. Thank god we have ELAPP. Its done a great job.
AF: Awesome. Well, thank you very much, Joe. Its been a pleasure.
JG: Thank you.


COPYR I GHT NOT I CE This Oral History is copyrighted by the University of South Florida Libraries Oral History Program on behalf of the Board of Trustees of the Univ ersity of South Florida. Copyright, 1995 201 7 University of South Florida. All rights, reserv ed. This oral history may be used for research, instruction, and private study under the provisions of the Fair Use. Fair Use is a provision of the United States Copyright Law (United States Code, Title 17, section 107), which allows limited use of copyrighted materials under certain conditions. Fair Use limits the amount of material that may be used. For all other permissions and requests, contact the UNIVERSITY OF SOUTH FLORIDA LIBRARIES ORAL HISTORY PROGRAM at the Univ ersity of South Florida, 4202 E. Fowler Avenue, LIB 122, Tampa, FL 33620.


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