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|Mahoney Tours River Park|
Accompanying the candidates was senior statesman Bob Graham, U.S. Senator from Florida (1987-2005) and Florida Governor (1979-1987). Graham was a candidate for the Democratic presidential nomination in 2003 and retired from the Senate in November 2003. Graham just finished serving a one-year term as an Institute of Politics Fellow at Harvard University's John F. Kennedy School of Government. He is now concentrating his efforts on establishing the Bob Graham Center for Public Service at his undergraduate alma mater, the University of Florida.
Balancing out the group of candidates were noted LaBelle Republican leaders, Mayor Randy Bengston and Rotary Club President Greg Gunter, who led the tour through the Nature Park. Organizer of the event was Ellen Hawk Geake, Chair of the Glades County Democratic Executive Committee. Original organizer of the Rotary Club of LaBelle restoration of the LaBelle Nature Park was Mel Karau, Chair of the Hendry County Republican Executive Committee. This broad support for the park demonstrates that the LaBelle Nature Park is truly a shared community vision, involving all political leaders as well as our city and county governments, civic groups like Rotary and Kiwanis, and youth groups such as the Boy Scouts, all under the coordination of the Coalition for Eco-recreation, chaired by Margaret England.
John Capece, secretary of Riverwatch and Rotary District 6960 coordinator for water program, provided the visitors with a briefing about the Nature Park's oxbow restoration plans and hopes for a natural resources education center at the CHL Park House property on the east edge of the park. Hendry House on the west edge of the park is owned by the City of LaBelle, while the actual park is owned by SFWMD and leased to the City of LaBelle. The house property on the east side of the park is owned by Port LaBelle home builder, CHL Holdings, Inc., and leased to non-profit organization, Intelligentsia International, where visiting university students live and work on the Nature Park and other regional environmental and community service projects.
Joining the tour group to discuss important policy issues with the visiting dignitaries were Marti Dalty, Riverwatch President; and Pete Quasius, Audubon of Southwest Florida President.