The park’s radio came alive and a voice very reminiscent to John Wayne, exclaimed, “I believe they’re here!” This was my cue to head over to the other side of the park and quickly grab my camera and writing materials to document the important visit. I walked over as quickly as I could, but there was no sign of him, only the roar of an airboat motor in the background. “Oh no,” I thought, I missed my opportunity to greet him. Walking back to the fuel dock, I finally spotted Marco Rubio. He saw me and kept eye contact until he met me halfway and greeted me with a firm handshake and a warm “hello”. He then seamlessly went back to doing what he had been doing before seeing me. I took this opportunity to start snapping pictures of the Florida Senator who some say will run for President in the next election.
Many prominent scientists also descended upon the park that day and the reason for their visit was to talk about the Everglades Restoration Plan. I sat through two presentations and the urgency in the scientist’s faces was clearly visible as they pointed to their charts. They came equipped with large Tegu Lizards and Burmese Pythons that are an invasive species to the Everglades. Marco Rubio’s youngest son was in attendance as well and he came prepared with handcuffs ready to arrest the snake, providing much needed comic relief. Senator Rubio asked many questions in an attempt to understand how and why money will be allocated to combat the ever growing threats to the delicate Everglades’ ecosystem, such as the Brazilian Red Pepper, an invasive tree that is taking over the land. There is a lot of work to be done in order to save one of the world’s greatest ecosystems and they need all of the help that they can get. This plan’s effective execution is crucial to avert what would be one of the most devastating ecological disasters in history. In addition, the plan is in desperate need of funding.
Rick, the head of Everglade’s Safari Park, ushered in the final topic of the meeting. He wanted to know how grandfathered-in airboat operations are going to be affected by this plan. These airboat operations are family owned and have been handed down throughout generations. Senator Rubio responded that it was important to keep the airboat operations in order for people to tour and learn about the Everglades. Also of importance, is the revenue that is generated that could help the National Park as a result. He solidified his vote on the topic: We are here to stay and attractions like ours play a vital role in educating visitors about the Everglades.
At the end of the presentation, the senator and his party were whisked away to begin their personal airboat tour. He graciously thanked everyone and took some pictures before heading to the boat dock. The boat pushed off and with one crank of the propellers, the boat started down the Blue Shanty as Senator Rubio waved goodbye.
Update: Florida Legislature Approves Everglades Restoration Plan – Read more by clicking on the title.
You can find photos from the visit this week on our facebook page. Stay tuned!