Last week I shared a story about weekend trips with Mom and Dad in the Everglades. As I got older those trips were less frequent as I had, “better things to do,” as a teenager. However, later on, when I was in my 20s and older, every once in a while I would grab my cameras and head out to Loop Road or Big Cypress Park and capture some wildlife in their natural environment. It was always so pristine and wondrous out in the wild.
Locals knew you were leaving the world behind once you hit the intersection of Tamiami Trail and Krome Avenue. It was like the falling off place. To the East of Krome was the City, to the West was no man’s land – The Everglades.
There was one time that I headed out to get some photos. On the western corner of the Trail and Krome, there was a sign on the side of the road. The Miccosukee Indian Tribe was going to start the construction on their new Gaming Resort and Casino.
I didn’t think anything of it. I mean it was out of the city and practically in the middle of nowhere that we called the Everglades.
The resort opened in 1999. A massive a multi-colored building with all its glitz and glimmer, sitting there in the middle of a green swamp, surrounded by the dilapidated mobile homes and tiki huts the Miccosukee’s lived in.
The place stuck out like a sore thumb, a huge building then BOOM – the swamp.
I never once visited the casino, but my aunt’s church group, used to take a bus each weekend to go and play bingo.
The next time I headed out to the Everglades was a few years later. There was the casino. But now a few miles further down the road was the Miccosukee Golf and Country Club.
The feel and flavor of what was supposed to be America’s Everglades - the largest subtropical wilderness in the United States, was slowly being swallowed up. Everglades National Park protects an unparalleled landscape that provides important habitat for numerous rare and endangered species like the manatee, American crocodile, and the hard to ever see or find, Florida panther. Yet each time I ventured out it seemed that I had to drive further west to find the natural beauty and wildlife. There was less and less of the untouched natural wilderness.
There’s been a lot of talk about a proposed casino in Midway. I am not opposed to casinos in general but I am opposed to WHERE they are planning on placing the massive resort, convention center, townhomes, Top Golf, casinos and retail outlet.
Islands Highway is the corridor to the coastal paradise of Liberty County. The gateway to the marshes, rivers and ocean. The path to fresh seafood, fresh air and several landmark historical locations.
The thought process is that these “7,000” people they say will come to the casino, each day, will also visit the historic Dorchester Village, the Midway Museum and Cemetery, Dorchester Academy or Fort Morris State Park. The reality is that the folks who go to play the slots will stay at the slots – ALL DAY, ALL NIGHT. The folks that plan to shop and eat at the resort, are going to shop and eat at the resort, not Angie’s Diner not Melody’s Coastal Café.
Unless of course they start placing slot machines inside their diners. Picture the annual Colonial celebrations at Fort Morris topped off with a high chip poker game. Hey how about we place some Black Jack tables at Seabrook Village and the Dorchester Civic Center.
I attended the County Commissioners’ meeting via Zoom last week. State Representative Al Williams, a co-sponsor of the bill that would allow the county to vote on a casino referendum, spoke about all the positives a casino would bring. Revenue and jobs primarily. And in the same breath he talked about making sure the casino developers would set aside so many millions of dollars to combat gambling addictions.
It was apparent that the Commissioners’ could only see the dollar sign, the promise of having lots of moola to spend considering the meeting started with a financial report indicating that a lot of the county is in the red. They were sold on the spot.
No talk about environmental impact studies, no talk about a possible different location so as to not impact the coast and the pristine waterways. No studies on how it may impact the wildlife and the archeological importance of the area. Not one mention of the nearly 700 comments from their constituents who were declaring casi-NO!
They debated on whether to give the Liberty County Sheriff’s Office the funds it needs to upgrade vehicles and pay for new officers, but HEY slot machines – LET’S GO!
The people fighting against the casino will need to band together as it is obvious that deep pockets and private promises, are steering this project forward.