Journey to the Edge of Eden, by Gary W. Schmelz. Privately published. 294 pages. $37 hardcover, $16.00 trade paper. [available from amazon.com, bn.com, lulu.com]
This book is easy to overlook, as it is carries no publisher’s imprint or ordering information. And yet it is a significant addition to the understanding of Collier County’s natural features and of those who built programs and institutions to study and protect its environment. Dr. Schmelz, in his various roles as teacher, researcher, administrator, and advocate, spent decades at the center of this story.
The first third of the book will mostly interest the author’s friends and family. It provides a colorful overview of Schmelz family history, Gary’s rearing in Jersey City, NJ, his rebellion against city life, and his maturing desire to be involved with the study of nature. The book catches fire once the author focuses on his graduate school studies at The University of Delaware that resulted in a Ph.D. in marine biology. Even as a graduate student, the author’s passionate engagement with field work predicts a meaningful career of continued study and a missionary devotion for respecting the natural habitat.
When Gary Schmelz sought employment in 1970, his most attractive offer came from Deltona, a company with big plans for developing Marco Island. He was hired to join a team of experts advising the company about the environmental impact of those plans. The young scientist feared that the team was just a public relations stunt. However, he received assurances that the company was serious about being a good steward of the wetlands. Desperately needing a job, he signed on and suffered through a series of compromising situations. Though he left under a cloud, he had fallen in love with Southwest Florida.
A despairing Dr. Schmelz managed to find a job at the Big Cypress Nature Center, and the rest – truly – is history. . . .
To see the entire review, as it appears in the June 12, 2013 Fort Myers Florida Weekly as well as the June 13 Naples and Bonita Springs editions, click here: Florida Weekly – Gary Schmelz