Homesteader Relents, Sells
NAPLES, Fla. (AP) -- A homesteader
leaving his Everglades land after years
of fighting the state's claim on it is
moving to a bigger, nicer house, but he
mourns what he's lost.
"I will never see the turkeys run up
and down the road again," said Jesse
Hardy, 70. "I will never see my deer
feed in my yard again. ... I will never
be able to freely do what I wanted to
Hardy's land was the last of 19,000
parcels purchased by the state over the
past two decades to help return the
Everglades to its natural state. Most
owners happily sold, having bought in a
1960s land scam.
Hardy rejected repeated offers,
however, saying he wanted to hang onto a
dying rural lifestyle and pass it on to
the 9-year-old boy he has raised on the
land with the boy's mother.
A judge approved a settlement last
year, and Hardy accepted a $4.95 million
check in July. The deadline for him to
leave the property was Thursday.
Hardy paid $60,000 in 1976 for the
land about 40 miles east of Naples. He
built a small, clapboard house on his
160 acres, dug a well and used propane
instead of electricity.
With the settlement money, Hardy
bought a new house and was moving his
belongings into it this week, but he
says it really isn't home for him. "It
don't fit me, it don't fit me at all,"
Construction crews are scheduled to
start filling in canals and tearing
apart roads on Hardy's Everglades land
later this year. Once restored, his
parcel and the surrounding area will
connect with a state forest and wildlife
The $8.4 billion Everglades project
seeks to restore the slow-moving river
that once stretched uninterrupted from a
chain of lakes near Orlando south to
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