Florida doesn't get much more rural than Levy County.
Situated 90 miles north of Tampa, between the Gulf of Mexico and Ocala, the area boasts no major cities or interstates. The entire county's population is less than Dunedin's. Much of the area is dotted with ranches and trailer parks. Unemployment runs high. Republican politicians run unopposed.
The former home of the Tampa Bay Brewing Company in Ybor City seems to be the antithesis of an environmentally sound building.
For one, the 2-story brick structure at 1812 N. 15th St. is old -- 103 years old. Two, the high ceilings make heating and cooling the building a massive energy drain. The tar on the top of the building doesn't help; the black surface can reach well above 100 degrees in the summer, heat that inevitably makes its way inside. Even the asphalt parking lot, like every other impermeable flat surface in Ybor City, contributes to massive rain runoff that empties into area waterways, with its oily polluting sheen.
It's no secret that state and local governments have been reducing funds for nonprofits that service the disadvantaged. This year, for instance, the state of Florida cut the budget for drug treatment centers by an estimated $31 million.
Once Ann Hodgson brushes aside the leaves, the little white body isn't hard to see. There, hanging from a mangrove branch, is the dried-out, desiccated body of a snowy egret. Wrapped around its neck is a thin piece of fishing line.
Before writing anything about Cockroach Bay, Gus Muench tells me, get one thing straight: Cockroach Bay is not named after Florida's notorious six-legged pest. As the story goes, early Spanish explorers came up with the moniker after observing numerous horseshoe crabs crawling along the bay's shallow sea floor.