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Open up Fisheating Creek

It would be nice if, as Attorney General Bob Butterworth hopes, Lykes Bros. Inc., of its own volition, would be a good corporate citizen by taking down the fence and other obstructions blocking access to Fisheating Creek. Don't count on it.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers ruled earlier this month that the creek is, and historically has been, navigable and is therefore owned by the public. Even so, Lykes' attorney Buddy Blain has made it clear that the company will continue to contrive ways and excuses to keep the public out.

"These fences have been across the creek for years and years," Blain said of the ruling. "I think it stands to reason that you can keep fences on land" along the creek.

Lykes officials first maintained that the creek is an unnavigable ditch providing poachers easy access to their cattle. Later, in an unsuccessful attempt to paint themselves as the good guys, they maintained they were doing the public a favor by closing the creek, thus protecting it and the rest of rural Glades County - of which Lykes owns about 60 percent - from all types of undesirable activities ranging from drug smuggling to the dumping of toxic wastes. (Funny that drug smugglers would want to use a creek that's unnavigable.) More likely, the truth is that the rich and powerful Lykes family members just don't want the public spoiling their private retreat along the banks of the creek.

Every Florida resident has the right, through ownership, to canoe and fish along Fisheating Creek and every other public waterway regardless of who lives on the banks. Every state resident will lose if the Lykes family wins this battle.

That's why it was so important that Butterworth fight the family in court and win. It's equally important that the Corps of Engineers pick up the battle now by enforcing its decision. That means forcing Lykes officials to clear out the obstructions they've put across the creek and take down their fence. Pronto.

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