Harbor Style April 2016 : Page 84

If you have not yet discovered this jewel in the crown of enjoying “old Florida” and its nature, up close and personal, perhaps it’s time for you to learn about our area’s amazing untouched lands that are far removed from city and neighborhood life, but not by distance. HARBOR STYLE recently visited CHEC’s Alligator Creek site, located off Burnt Store Road in Punta Gorda, where we met with its CEO, Thomas S. Hecker, and the Center’s staff naturalists, Chris Salmonsen and Martha Clemente. Although we had visited CHEC before, a lot had changed since our last visit. New things are about to happen at the Center, under Hecker’s leadership. With hard work and support from staff members and volunteers, CHEC is moving through the 21st century with innovative ideas, some of which will no doubt come to fruition soon. Hecker hinted that someday CHEC might become one of southwest Florida’s top tourist destinations, which would in turn draw visitors to other attractions in and around Charlotte County. CHEC, a non-profit 501(c)3 organization, oversees the management and educational programs at the county-owned 115-acre Cedar Point Environmental Park in Englewood and at the Alligator Creek Preserve, adjacent Thomas Hecker to the 30,000-acre Charlotte Harbor State Park Preserve in Punta Gorda. CHEC provides more than 20 educational programs, manages eight environmentally sensitive lands and provides more than eight miles of hiking trails and other recreational opportunities. You can enjoy nature while learning about our estuary system and the preserved lands that harbor so many species of living organisms, on land and in our waters. CHEC began leasing 28 acres from the state park preserve some 27 years ago. Its mission from the start has been to “raise 84 | H ARBOR STYLE

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