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Date of Issue: February 13, 2008

Vandals in Cortez cause chains

Vandalism, including ground wreckage by wild drivers, is bringing a shutdown of entries to the Cortez nature preserve maintained by the Florida Institute for Saltwater Heritage.

The entrances to the big woodland will be closed off with heavy chains locked to strong posts, the FISH board of directors decreed at its monthly meeting last week.

Roger Allen, manager of Cortez historic sites, told the FISH board that four-wheel-drive and all-terrain vehicles had invaded the preserve and “driven all over.”

The driving has been singularly aggressive and reckless, he said, and the vehicles’ tires have torn long gashes in the topsoil. These will erode into gullies during heavy rains and make any vehicular traffic difficult.

So, from now on, the only vehicles allowed through the barriers will be those with permits issued by Allen; Jeff Moates, curator of the adjacent Florida Maritime Museum; or Bob Pitt, who directs the museum’s program for traditional boat building in the Cortez Community Center.

This should help solve another part of the vandalism problem there, said Allen. That is the practice by a few people of dumping garbage, construction debris and other trash in the FISH Preserve. It has been ongoing for decades, and only recently have volunteers succeeded in cleaning most of the debris from the woodland.