So you probably remember this recent post that I did, but incase you don't here's a quick recap:
I went kayaking off the coast of Anclote River Park and explored one of the small islands there, which can be found on Google named as Seda Gardens & Dolphin Observatory. I wasn't actually sure if the island was okay to visit or not, since there's not actually an official website (there's a seedy unofficial one) for the supposed gardens there. So just to be sure I reached out to the county and after nearly a week I finally got a response from Parks & Rec crew leader Zoe ‘Beth’ Crowe.
According to Crowe, yes people kayak to the island and she has "never heard of any problems" from doing so, but she wouldn't directly answer if it was okay to go there. She just acknowledged that people do go there and she hasn't heard of any issues from it.
The island IS government owned, but again, there's nothing saying it is or isn't open for visitors.
As for the unofficial website for Seda Gardens (pictured in full)... Well, I got ahold of them too, and this is where things get really weird.
I sent my initial contact form email before getting a response from the county and it was more or less asking if this person owns the island and if it was openly accessible for people to visit (the website says it is.)
Here's the response I got from someone named Morrigan a few days after, but coincidentally on the same day I received a response from the county so I knew it wasn't actually owned by this person -- so my bullshit meter was already high but I didn't expect what I actually got...
"More or less, yes. My mother (Seda) stumbled across it on one of her trips thirty years ago. Being the botanist she is, she immediately fell in love with the little island! She spent hours and hours out there, studying the flora and observing the dolphins near the shore. When I was a little girl, she would always tell me how she wanted to turn that little island into a community garden of sorts. A place where adventurous souls like herself could gather and bask in the natural beauty of the Anclote River.
Tragically, she passed away early last year. As her youngest child, I have made it one of my life's missions to bring her dream to reality! I have worked to clean the litter and tend to the land, making Seda Gardens and Dolphin Observatory a reality. People are encouraged to carefully swim/boat out to the islet and truly relax. SGADO will always be a safe space for me, and I know my mother's passion will always be felt strongest on the small island.
I was living near the island early this year, but - due to the pandemic - I was displaced back home in Missouri. My goal for February was to get SGADO on Google maps, but that's not really possible with the current situation. They need to send a postcard to my residence in Florida, yet I simply cannot get it from there! Anyways, this article will bring some much needed attention to Seda Gardens and Dolphin Observatory, and therefore my mother's memory. If we can't get on Google maps, perhaps curious souls will find our island via your writing! Thank you so much."
Pretty adorable story right? I thought so too, and even reached back out to the county to tell them the story of this rouge gardner who planted a garden in the name of her mother...
I responded saying I'm sure your mother would be proud and I will have to double check with the county if it's open for visitors, then I received this response:
"Okay, I feel like this has gone a little too far. I'm sorry Cassandra, this website was made for my Geography class. I'm a tenth grader and our first assignment of the year was to make a fake website for a nearby land form. I got a little too into it and made a whole backstory for why SGADO exists. When you emailed me, my friends and I thought it would be funny to send over my story and see what you would say! I don't want to have you lose your job or anything, so let's forget this? It would definitely get me a good grade if there was an article written about my fake island, but your job security is far more important. I'm really sorry! Please have a good day.
Sincerely and with deepest apologies,"
I'm sure you can assume my shock when I read this message. I have been an investigative journalist for over 5 years, spoken to many people and heard hundreds of stories, but this was the first time I was punked.
Thankfully I didn't just run on the word of this unknown person and spoke with a county representative before publishing anything. But I can't help but think it's still a strange thing to joke about.
So I promptly ended the conversation with the jokester and thanked her for coming clean before this story went any farther. (She would have gotten away with it too if it wasn't for these meddling journalists!)
But for anyone wondering, Crowe was able to confirm that Seda Gardens does NOT exist, despite what Google Maps says, but as it stands, the island is still able to be explored.
In conclusion, there's the weirdest story you'll read all day! (But at least we finally have an answer!)