Tucked away amidst the pages of marinas, anchorages, bascule bridges and other points listed in my “Cockpit Cruising Handbook” to the Intracoastal Waterway is this notation for Mile 945 on Florida’s east coast: “Jones Fruit Dock … purchase some fruit and you can stay overnight for a nominal charge. 15-amp. electricity may be available.”

Intriguing, to say the least, particularly in this land of pricey slips with bars, bathrooms and restaurants attached. We decided to take a look.

It’s true, mostly. Dick Jones, whose grandfather planted an orange grove on the adjacent property over a century ago, isn’t actually in the fruit business anymore, having been wiped out by a hurricane a few years back. The neighborhood, except for Jones’s dock and a few acres on shore where he lives, is entirely “Floridized” now: developed into gated communities of huge houses surrounded by watered lawns and golf courses.

But the Jones Fruit Co. dock is still there, and when we tied up along came Jones himself with a bag of oranges and grapefruit, talkative and friendly, offering us the use of his dock for the night for $20 including the 15-amp. electricity. The deal is by far the best of any we’ve seen in Florida, or just about anywhere along the Intracoastal Waterway, for that matter.

Jones, who flew Flying Fortresses during World War II and came home to the family business afterward, ran the grove until hurricanes drove salt into his trees, destroying their commercial potential. The dock, he told us, was built originally to “sell fruit-we welcomed boats that bought fruit.”

Wholesale, Jones used to ship oranges and grapefruit to California and Washington, D.C. His dock is on Florida’s famed Indian River, which once was the heart of its citrus industry, and in its heyday a lot of fruit moved out of here by boat, rail and truck. Then development made land more valuable for pursuits other than agriculture, and little operations like Jones’s largely withered away until, in his case, the storms finished him off.

Now things may have changed again. Florida’s latest real estate boom (there must have been half a dozen since Henry Flagler built the Key West Railroad a century ago and started the state’s seemingly endless cycle of boom and bust) looks as it if has run out, leaving behind yet another round of insensitively developed properties along the shore. Orange groves? Gone. A dock where a guy in a sailboat might tie up for a reasonable price and even get some free oranges? Not possible. A new mega-house in a development behind locked gates? Well, that could be a thing of the past as well.

The striking thing about Florida’s coastline is how intensively developed it is today, and one has to wonder how people get permits to do the things they do. Pile supported docks line the Intracoastal Waterway for miles; shores are bulkheaded; the waterway channel and areas nearby are extensively dredged.

A bigshot with political connections a few miles to the south got permission to block an entire anchorage in a river so he could build a huge marina. A one-time boatyard in Cocoa, where wooden boats were actually built in recent years, has been replaced by a multi-story condo-marina complex.

There’s protected land, but only remnants of what once must have been impressive wild areas. Signs everywhere warn boaters to be mindful of slow-swimming manatees, but the captains of the 30- to 50-knot sportfishermen everywhere are going too fast to read them. Somehow the manatees survive, but one wonders how long they’ll last-or will the economic crisis (or the price of fuel) slow things down to the point where the speedboats will go away and the manatees will be OK?

Given the scale of the downturn and the amount of grass one sees growing up through parking lots in abandoned shopping centers here, it’s a question worth asking. I’ve grown fond of pointing out the upside of recession: it takes the pressure off the land, the shore, the working waterfronts. Sure, jobs are being lost; of course wealth has been wiped out and there’s vast uncertainty out there. But development-particularly the kind of development that’s not well thought through -can be extremely destructive, particularly in a low-lying, wet, environmentally sensitive place like Florida.

And the victims of all this unsustainable growth aren’t just the manatees: it’s the Dick Joneses of this region who made their livings growing oranges and other crops for generations. It’s fishermen and boatbuilders and other small-time workers who once depended on the land and water to earn a living. It’s ways of life that visitors once came here to watch and enjoy. Those ways of life are largely gone now, but there are survivors like Dick Jones-evocative reminders of what we have lost and may never regain. Or, in these hard economic times, will we?

David D. Platt is former editor of Working Waterfront. He’s working on his post-retirement transition by leaving his snow shovel at home and sailing down the East Coast in the general direction of warmer weather.