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A Place in Florida

EVERGLADES CITY: ‘The Town That Dope

Built’ Made Its Living Smuggling Marijuana

By Gene Ingle

© Copyright 2009, All Rights Reserved

There’s a place in Florida that in 1990 the Miami Herald called ‘The Town That Dope Built’.

Good reason.

Back then, Everglades City made its living off marijuana smuggling. Absolutely no one would deny that. And there are many still around to verify it.

This place in Florida is the perfect place to smuggle anything – marijuana, contraband fish, you name it. It’s so isolated from the rest of Florida, and the world, that it’s not hard to do anything you darn well please.

Back in the 1970s and 1980s, a lot of people ‘pleased’. Whether in nearby Chokoloskee or in Everglades City, they made their living by smuggling marijuana, delivered by boat and plane to this remote location, and distributed throughout the United States. Then the law cracked down. And many people went to jail.

For years after the Miami newspaper’s story, the world thought the town was ‘clean’. And it probably was. But history has a habit of repeating itself. Not that today it’s repeating its smuggling past. But, if you read the local papers, it’s hard to kick the habit. Keep reading the local papers – and keep tuned to what law enforcement does.

Don’t get me wrong. Everglades City is a really, really nice place to visit, especially if you’re a fisherman, or just a traveling adventurer.

It calls itself ‘Gateway to the 10,000 Islands’, and that’s very true if you’re an outdoorsman. If you’re a kayaker or fisherman looking for tarpon or snook, rent your gear here, please.

If you’re interested in learning about Everglades National Park, visit the National Park Service’s Gulf Coast Visitor Center a few miles south of downtown. If you’re more interested in history, visit the old 1920s laundry, now the Museum of the Everglades, listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

There was a time when Everglades City had a railroad, a bank and a – believe it or not – streetcar. You won’t believe that if you visit today. A railroad? No way. A streetcar? Are you kidding? A bank? Maybe believable.

Would you believe it wasn’t always called Everglades City? Back in 1833, when the area was first settled, it was known as Everglade, because the U.S. Postal Service said it couldn’t be called Chokoloskee, the name already assigned to a nearby community.

Almost a century later, Florida was boom-times U.S.A. In 1923, Barron Collier was building the Tamiami Trail and bought most of the land around Everglade. Within five years, the town (renamed by Collier, who had finished the Trail), had all the evidences of a going metropolis. Until 1965, Everglades City was the county seat of Collier County.

Today, this place in Florida is just a quaint place to visit off the beaten path – one with a lot of history, both good and bad.

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