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Sugarloaf Key

Sugarloaf School is located in a unique environment. The area sited behind the school is a fresh water wetland located in the center of a mangrove swamp. Plant and animal life normally associated with tropical hard wood forests may be found here. The plants in this location will never reach their normal size. Development is stunted due to the lack of nutirents in the soil. Most plants are growing on the few inches of soil on top of the local cap rock. Typical plants are Poison Wood, Palmetto, and Torch Wood.

Tropical rains flood the area on a regular basis. These heavy downpours occur between June and October. During this time animal and insect life scramble to the high point of the area.

There is a drainage ditch located behind the school building. Large drains are located in the center of the school grounds. St. Augustine grass was laid along both sides of the drainage ditch to stabilize the ground. A plastic barrier was placed to stop the incursion of the grass. Time will most likely prove that this is not an effective practice. The grass spreads by underground rhizomes.

Sugarloaf Key was named for the Sugar Loaf pineapple grown there many years earlier. Development of Sugarloaf Shores was begun in early 1951 by Raymond Crane and his three sons, from Rimersburg, Pa., a small coal mining town. The developing company name was Rimersburg Coal Co., and its office on Sugarloaf remained until 1973, at which time it was sold to a buyer from Philadelphia. In the late '50s, Mr. Crane contracted for a small post office, and a small grocery store and a Standard service station were built.

In the late 1800s there was a sponger settlement on the gulf side, and in the late '20s, Richter Clyde Perky (after whom Sugarloaf was named at that time) developed that area with a fishing and gambling lodge which was quite popular at that time. Mr. Perky also made an unsuccessful attempt to combat the mosquito problem using bats. He built a tall cypress tower with a louvered walls fashioned after similar structures in Texas. The hope was that bats would roost in this tower and prey on the mosquito population. Unfortunately, bats never showed up, the affair was deemed "Perky's Folly," and shortly thereafter, his business and his health declined, and he died. The bat tower is still standing.

In the early '60s there was much activity on the island due to the Cold War. During the Cuban missile crisis, the U.S. Army quietly set up temporary camp in a remote section of the island near old U.S. Highway One, defending our coastline. The camp caused quite a stir among the residents with camouflaged trucks, equipment and soldiers traveling back and forth on what had once been a peaceful rural road. When the Army decamped, a Voice of America transmitting tower was installed, sending news and information to Cuba.

In the early '60s Sugarloaf Key was an utopia for children with acres and acres of park-like land in which to roam, filled with lush sea grape, gnarled buttonwood trees, mysterious mangrove forests, exotic hibiscus and frangipani, and dozens of clear blue canals.

In 1961 a restaurant and the first 25 units of a luxury resort were built on the gulf side of U.S. Highway One, and it was expanded with additional units in 1966. In 1967 the island's very own volunteer fire station was built.

Sugarloaf Shores is now populated with more than 300 homes. It supports a thriving vacation resort, motel, marina, service station, grocery store and gift shop. Sugarloaf is so busy now it even has its own blinking caution light at the intersection of U.S. One and Sugarloaf Boulevard. It is still a charming and relatively uncommercialized island, and there are still some untraveled and serene corners to be found.

Copyright © 2010 The Florida Geographic Alliance