Famous oceanographer battles Dunedin over property maintenance

Pinellas County

DUNEDIN, Fla. (WFLA) – Dr. Sylvia Earle is a world known marine biologist. She’s been a National Geographic explorer-in-residence since 1998.

Dr. Earle is the founder of Mission Blue and has been at the forefront of protecting the world’s oceans for decades.

It may be a little surprising to learn she’s also involved in a battle with the City of Dunedin because of overgrown vegetation on property she owns inside the city.

“My mom and dad moved to Dunedin in 1947. They moved to this property in 1957,” said Dr. Earle.

She grew up on the five acre piece of land.

“I fell in love with the Gulf of Mexico and the ocean here as a kid,” said Earle.

Her parents also planted native species to make the property better.

“They planted oak trees. They planted the native cypress, the native Hollies and created a haven in the middle of a lot of cement,” said Earle.

Recently some of her neighbors complained about what they said were overgrown conditions at the property and code enforcement issued fines of $500 per day.

On the property is a pond that Earle’s parents expanded. It’s now called “Lake Earle”.

When the legendary oceanographer was growing up, the lake was clear and had many species of fish and other aquatic animals.

Now the lake is choked with weeds and algae because of fertilizer runoff from surrounding lawns.

Dr Earle believes there should be a balance.

“I think it’s okay if you’d like to have a lawn, but you should have an option and you shouldn’t be penalized for having something other than a manicured lawn,” said Earle.

She has now paid a fine settlement with the city, but would like to educate them about the benefits of a property with native species. 

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