Everglades tug-of-war comes to end
(Note: Jesse's home on Naomi Street outside Naples was never in the Everglades. It is thirty miles from them, yet today. He never was involved in any "tug-of-war" with anyone. He just wanted to keep his Collier County home and 160 acres. Someone -- often represented by a "Nancy Peyton" or a representative of the Florida governor's office -- coined the phrase, "hole in the donut," to FALSELY describe Jesse's home and land. It was a way to dupe the public into thinking Jesse was greedy. Then the major muzzled media began calling him a "holdout." Jesse was never a "holdout." He was always a homeowner and landowner and business owner. He fully understood the power Language Deception had over him -- he tried to get the truth out, and many folks nationwide tried to help him. This time, Guv, Peyton and Company held sway, but Jesse had time and the voice to make his point: he was and is honest and did nothing wrong. He knew -- and knows -- that "Everglades restoration" is also Language Deception, that the power players merely wanted Control of that huge area in its entirety.)
January 13, 2006
By John Zarrella, CNN Miami Bureau Chief [email protected]
CNN Editor's note: In our Behind the Scenes series, CNN correspondents share their experiences in covering news. John Zarrella covered Jesse James Hardy's battle to keep his property for nearly two years.
Miami, Florida - You never know quite what to expect the first time you meet someone.
When that someone is an elderly man who has spent 32 years living essentially in the middle of nowhere, it's easy to assume his bubble is not quite on center. And when one of the first things he says to you is, "I don't want the d_ _n money. Please, please take the money back," you really start to wonder. Because the money we're talking about is nearly $5 million.

I met Jesse James Hardy in 2004. When you leave Interstate 75 in Naples, Florida, you make your way first along paved highway through new developments and subdivisions. Eventually, the houses become spaced farther and farther apart until there are none at all and you enter a pine forest. The pavement gives way to dirt and rock. After a left, a right and another right, you are driving along a canal bank. A couple more miles up this gravel road with your dust trail behind you is an entrance cut through the pines and the cabbage palms.


At the end of the road is a shack, and standing on the porch is Hardy. He's got a scraggly beard. He's wearing a T-shirt and desert camo pants. In his youth, Hardy was in the Navy.


I'm not sure when I first figured it out, but it was pretty clear pretty quickly that Hardy was no dummy. At 68, his mind was sharp. He was in the fight of his life and he was spitting mad. Every sentence was laced with four-letter words aimed at the state of Florida. To make sure I understood who he was, Hardy said right out the box, "I'm not no recluse and I'm not no hermit." (Watch as Hardy explains why he loves the swamp --2:20)

Hardy's story has been well documented. Thirty-two years ago he bought 160 acres in Collier County for $60,000. Nobody wanted the property but him. The ground is rock. In summer, mosquitoes are thick enough to nearly blacken the sky. It's hot, miserable, surrounded by nothing for miles, and Jesse Hardy loves it.

Problem was the state of Florida decided it had to have Hardy's property for its $8 billion Everglades restoration plan. They called it the "hole in the donut." The restoration plan calls for flooding thousands of acres to restore the natural flow of water through the Everglades south to Florida Bay.

Using its eminent domain authority, the state ultimately forced Hardy to sell. But Hardy's fight lasted three years before his attorneys advised him to go ahead and settle. There was no way he could win.

There have been many people who questioned Hardy's sincerity, calling him "crazy like a fox." What amazed me the most was just how in tune with the world Hardy was for a man living in the middle of nowhere. His built-by-hand shack had the Internet, satellite TV (to watch CNN, he said), a generator, propane tanks for running utilities. Every time I've been out to his Everglades home, Jesse made it a point to show me just how modern his life was.

And this life, Jesse always said, was all he wanted. He didn't want the money, never wanted to take it he said because now, at 70 years old, he doesn't know what he'll do with it. When he talks about his age and the money, Hardy is flat-out funny.

"I quit the cigarettes and the pina coladas. And I'm to the point, agewise, that the women ain't lookin' that brightly anymore, anyway. So, $4-1/2 million is not that important to me. They should have give that to me 30 or 40 years ago, and I would have been out of here!"

Now, he is out of there. He's left behind two ponds stocked with catfish. A couple of times we walked out to the ponds blasted out of the hard ground. He told me he wanted to open his property to folks who just wanted to come and spend the day and fish. That never happened.

Jesse James Hardy moved into his new $800,000 home this week. It sits on less than 3 acres of well-manicured lawn. Neighbors are within earshot. It is simply not the lifestyle Hardy wants. In fact, as we stood out front and looked at the concrete block house, Hardy said simply, "I don't want this place." And, he added, "I may just live out in the garage."

Copyright 2006, CNN.
Additional related reading:
Big government trumps man's property rights
Sarasota Herald-Tribune, FL - 3 hours ago
... the party that believes in the individual, just where is it hiding when it comes to standing up against the state of Florida and for the rights of Jesse Hardy? ...
Considering the fact that Republican Party is the party that is supposed to believe in limits on government powers and that it pretends to be the party that believes in the individual, just where is it hiding when it comes to standing up against the state of Florida and for the rights of Jesse Hardy?

In 1976, he bought 160 acres east of Naples and built his own home with his own hands. Now, the state has decided that they know better than Jesse what to do with his land in terms of the Everglades restoration.

Wake up. These aren't Republicans occupying Tallahassee, but communists that believe the state has the right to do such things via eminent domain.

Tim Briggs

Port Charlotte
Everglades tug-of-war comes to end
CNN - Jan 13, 2006
... In summer, mosquitoes are thick enough to nearly blacken the sky. It's hot, miserable, surrounded by nothing for miles, and Jesse Hardy loves it. ...
Last Everglades Homesteader Relents, Sells
ABC News - Jan 13, 2006
Jesse Hardy gestures in front of his home in the middle of the Everglades, June 17, 2004. Hardy finally packed up to move, acknowledging ...
Everglades holdout finally moves into new home
WBBH, FL - Jan 13, 2006
Jesse Hardy is $5 million richer and moving into a new home. ... Moving day is never fun, but for Jesse Hardy, it's the worst day of his life. ...
Last Everglades Homesteader Relents, Sells
WRAL.com, NC - Jan 13, 2006
... mourns what he's lost. Jesse Hardy gestures in front of his home in the middle of the Everglades, June 17, 2004. Hardy finally packed ...
Homesteader packs up after eminent domain fight, clearing way for ...
San Diego Union Tribune, United States - Jan 13, 2006
"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. ... ...
Homesteader packs it up in Everglades
The News-Press, FL - Jan 13, 2006
For years, Jesse Hardy fought for the right to stay on the ramshackle homestead he'd created on 160 acres in the dense green heart of the Everglades. ...
Long-time holdout finally leaves the Everglades
WTVM, GA - Jan 13, 2006
... Florida Everglades. But eventually, homesteader Jesse Hardy gave in -- and accepted a nearly five (m) million dollar check. The ...
Today's the deadline for Hardy to leave his haven
Naples Daily News (subscription), FL - Jan 13, 2006
Box by box, homesteader Jesse Hardy is leaving his house in the woods of southern Golden Gate Estates. Thursday was the deadline ...
Last Holdout in Everglades Sells
KXTV, CA - Jan 13, 2006
NAPLES, FL (AP) -- For years, he refused to leave the 160 acres of land he bought in the Florida Everglades. But eventually, homesteader Jesse Hardy gave in. ...

Everglades homesteader finally packs up
Gainesville Sun, FL - Jan 13, 2006
Jesse Hardy, 70, a disabled former Navy Seal, reluctantly reached a settlement and got a check for $4.95 million last summer for the secluded property on which ...
In the news
Arkansas Democrat-Gazette (subscription), AR - Jan 15, 2006
... Jesse Hardy, 70, who for years fought an eminent-domain battle to keep his 160 acres in the Florida Everglades before accepting a $4.95 million settlement from ...
DEP gives Hardy eight more days to leave
Naples Daily News (subscription), FL - Dec 31, 2005
... 4 deadline for holdout Jesse Hardy, 70, to leave his home on 160 acres in Southern Golden Gate Estates to make way for an environmental restoration project. ...