Ditch of Dreams
The Cross Florida Barge Canal and the Struggle for Florida's Future

Steven Noll and David Tegeder

Foreword by Raymond Arsenault and Gary R. Mormino, Series Editors

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Traces the long standing effort to build a canal across Florida

"Offers timeless lessons about pork-barrel politics and the power of citizen-environmentalism. Most important, it reminds us that today’s economic coup may well be tomorrow's environmental crisis."--Cynthia Barnett, author of Mirage

"Ties the exploitation of the Ocklawaha to Florida history across nearly two centuries. Moreover, they bring to life the personalities of canal supporters and detractors, including such dynamic individuals as Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Claude Pepper, and Marjorie Harris Carr."--Frederick Rowe Davis, author of The Man Who Saved Sea Turtles

For centuries, men dreamed of cutting a canal across the Florida peninsula, despite the enormous technological and financial challenges of doing so. Heedless of environmental concerns, groups of water transportation advocates consistently lobbied the federal government to connect the Atlantic Ocean to the Gulf of Mexico, a project intended to place Florida at the very center of American commerce and prosperity.

Drawing on a wealth of primary sources, Steven Noll and David Tegeder trace the twists and turns of the project through the years. The story of the Cross Florida Barge Canal, crucial to twentieth-century Florida history, is complex, featuring competing interests amidst the changing political landscape of modern Florida. Ditch of Dreams reveals much about the clashing visions of progress, economic growth, and environmental preservation in the fragile ecosystem of Florida, while exploring the tangled web of politics, influence, and power in the Sunshine State.

The history of the canal is not just a story of Florida’s past, but a compelling lesson for its future.

Steven Noll, master lecturer in history at the University of Florida, is the author of Feeble-Minded in Our Midst and editor of Mental Retardation in America. David Tegeder is professor of history and chairperson of the Department of Behavioral and Social Sciences at Santa Fe College.

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Rembert Patrick Book Award - 2010
Gulf South Historical Association Michael V.R. Thomason Book Award - 2010

“An authoritative history of a convoluted public works project. With a keen eye focused on the power players at every level, this political history travels from Florida’s grassroots to legislative chambers, and into the courtrooms and halls of state and federal bureaucracies.”
--H-Net Reviews

"A fascinating read for any who want another aspect of Florida’s history."
--Midwest Book Review

"A story that touches every era and most great figures of Florida politics. Quite an epic."
--Daytona Beach News-Journal

"Well-researched and generally tells the story of the political machinations over the years in behalf of a canal in greater detail than most people will ever want to know. It is all about politics, politics, politics."
--Ocala Star-Banner

"Noll and Tegeder perform a major accomplishment in delineating the clash between economic development and environmentalism."

"An authoritative history of a convoluted public works project." "Basted on meticulous and comprehensive primary research-new interviews, government documents, collections from environmental organizations and media reports-the authors' much needed Cross Florida Barge Canal history chronicles a critical episode in public works and environmental history."
--H-Net Reviews

"Painstakingly and commendably researched, and well illustrated with historical photographs and maps." "Written in crisp and lively prose, and the book gains momentum as it progresses." "Written in a style accessible to both lay and academic readers, this book is of importance not only to those interested in Florida history, but also to anyone interested in evolving notions of the definition of progress and of environmental preservation, the political calculations that often underlie environmental decision-making, and the role of citizen activists in influencing national environmental policy."
--Florida Historical Quarterly

"The story of the Cross Florida Barge Canal reads like an epic, a tale spanning centuries and filled with avarice, courage, determination, hubris, and a heroine out of central casting. Steven Noll and David Tegeder leave no stone unturned in their outstanding rendering of this most peculiar episode of Florida's often-shameful environmental history."
--Tampa Bay History Vol 24

"Noll and Tegeder do an excellent job of placing the canal within the context of local, state, and national politics." "They clearly delineate the complicated, changing arguments between the pro- and the anti-canal forces, demonstrating both sides' malleability as time progressed."
--The Journal of Southern History

“Tells the story of the transformation of twentieth-century American liberalism, the fracturing of the New Deal coalition, and the birth of the environmental movement.”
--New Books in American Studies (interview)

Ditch of Dreams thus offers more than the history of one troubled project. Noll and Tegeder provide a compelling narrative of the competing visions for Florida’s future, offering subtle insights into the contemporary politics of land use, federalism, pork-barrel politics, and the evolution of environmentalism.
--Enterprise and Society

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