Editor’s Note: This article was written by Adriande Juarez, Campaign Manager, Catherine Price Campaign for Florida Senate District 26
On a Sunday morning at 6:00 am, the Catherine Price Campaign for Florida Senate District 26 gathered in predawn light at Circle Bar B Ranch, a Polk County park, to start a road trip down the Peace River to Punta Gorda. District 26 encompasses freshwater and land resources, such as the Peace River, that are very important to the State of Florida. The purpose of the trip was to educate Catherine and members of the trip team on issues concerning the Peace River and communities along the river banks. Catherine and her campaign team drove the length of the river and stopped at locations in District 26 along the way.
Among Catherine’s team were her husband, David Price, Steve Morrison, and Tom Palmer. David is a botanist and President of Bok Tower Gardens in Lake Wales. Steve, nicknamed “Sticky” because he is a beekeeper, is a retired land manager for the Tiger Creek Nature Conservancy Preserve. Tom is a retired environmental writer for the Lakeland Ledger. This group also included a couple of campaign employees and other friends.
The Peace River watershed starts in the northern and central region of Polk County. The headwaters of the river start around Banana Lake and Lake Hancock in Polk County.
The river itself winds through Polk County, Hardee County, Desoto County and ends up in Charlotte Harbor (See map). Stops included the Fort Meade Recreational Park, Peace River Park (Wauchula), Zolfo Springs boat ramp at the Pioneer Park, Veteran’s Memorial Park in Arcadia, Dean’s South of the Border (Punta Gorda) for lunch, Ponce de Leon Park (Punta Gorda) and the Peace River Nature Center. The public was invited to come out and join the group at each location. In Arcadia, Democratic Executive Committee Chair, Newt Keen, talked about the need for funding Department of Forestry Firefighters and the Florida Highway Patrol. A couple of local residents discussed concerns about the Mosaic Mining processes. The Campaign team learned about issues all along the river. An unplanned tour at the Peace River Nature Center allowed Catherine to meet the Center’s amazing volunteer team, connect with the Center Director and Board of Directors.
Catherine said, “I was very interested to experience the Peace River and to understand the importance of this beautiful river to the people of Florida Senate District 26. I met people and was able to put together a mental picture of the region from this trip.”
Catherine is considering a similar trip that would start near South Orlando, go down the Kissimmee River Chain, into Lake Okeechobee and across to Ft. Myers on the Caloosahatchee River. This trip will either be another road trip or a boat trip – this is still under consideration. “Florida Senate District 26 has two major river systems within its boundaries. We need to understand these river systems and include scientists in addressing the long-term problems with the rivers for the future of Florida.”