Wednesday, February 23, 2022

Maggy Reno Hurchalla, R.I.P.

Harassed and sued by developers who briefly took her canoe through execution on a dubious $4 million Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation (SLAPP) judgment, environmentalist Maggy Reno Hurchalla has died. 

Her case illustrates the power of Big Money polluters and developers in Flori-DUH, especially in state courts. 

Sometimes the dragon wins.  

Never forget her courage. 

As my father told me, and as JFK's father told him, "You have to stand up to people with power, or they walk all over you."

From Treasure Coast Palm:  

Maggy Hurchalla, environmental advocate, former Martin County Commissioner, dies at 81

Max ChesnesLamaur Stancil
Treasure Coast Newspapers

STUART — Margaret "Maggy" Hurchalla, a doyenne of slow-growth environmentalism and former five-term Martin County commissioner, died Saturday, her family said. She was 81. 

Hurchalla was a lifelong, fearless advocate for Everglades restoration and an emphatic voice for protecting Florida's natural beauty. She was an Everglades Coalition Hall of Fame member and won countless local, state and national environmental awards for her conservation work. 

"She was a creature of nature, and she took us all along for the voyage: Her family, friends, children, so many members of the county and complete strangers who just wanted to go on nature walks," her daughter, Jane Hurchalla, said in an interview with TCPalm.

"She worked to make natural resources available to everyone." 

Hurchalla:Can Martin County's quality, protective comprehensive plan be saved? | Opinion

More:How Florida Legislature's impact fee law hit you: higher taxes, reduced services | Opinion

And:Maggy Hurchalla's appeal of a $4 million civil judgment denied by Supreme Court

Former Martin County Commissioner Maggy Hurchalla kayaks on the Indian River Lagoon south of the St. Lucie Inlet on March 14, 2013.

During her 20-year career as a commissioner, Hurchalla spearheaded Martin County's first Comprehensive Land-Use Plan in 1990, the current framework for growth-management programs. It was her "proudest achievement," said her son, George Hurchalla.

"Maggy’s impact on Florida’s conservation movement cannot be overstated," said Eve Samples, executive director of Stuart-based Friends of the Everglades.

"She’s the reason developers can’t fill in wetlands in Martin County, and the reason I-95 bends away from Stuart ... She helped craft development rules that made our community a leader in the state for environmental preservation," Samples said. 

"She was inspiringly irreverent, and she  left a mark on our community that will not be forgotten," she said. 

Former Martin County Commissioner Maggy Hurchalla protests before a county commission meeting on Tuesday, Nov. 16, 2021, outside the Martin County Administrative Center in Stuart. “If you’re getting rid of Chapter 2 because Maggy did it and Maggy is bad that’s probably a good reason. If you’re getting rid of it for the reasons that staff has given it just doesn’t make sense,” said Hurchalla. The meeting culminated with a vote on proposed changes to the Comprehensive Growth Management Plan that could affect future development across Martin County.

Hurchalla was a member of several Governor's Commissions on the Everglades and served on the Commission of Sustainable South Florida. She "remained involved in the battle for Everglades restoration right up to her death," George Hurchalla said. 

"Maggy was a devoted and fierce warrior for Florida’s wild natural spaces, especially America’s Everglades," said Eric Eikenberg, CEO of the Everglades Foundation. "Her unrelenting and passionate voice impacted countless Floridians. Her legacy lives on, and those of us who remain behind will stand on her shoulders."

"Just last month, we saw Maggy at the Everglades Coalition conference. Her parting words to us were: 'Keep fighting the good fight.' Maggy, we will," Eikenberg said. 

Hurchalla was the sister of the late, Clinton-era U.S. Attorney General Janet Reno.

The U.S. Supreme Court in 2021 denied hearing an appeal filed by Hurchalla related to a $4 million civil judgment against her by Lake Point Restoration, a rock mining company in western Martin County. Then 79, she was backed in her legal efforts by a range of environmental and free speech advocates. 

"We kept the faith. We fought the good fight. We finished the race," Hurchalla told TCPalm in January 2021. 

Hurchalla was recovering Saturday from a second hip surgery when she suffered cardiac arrest at home, George Hurchalla said.

She is survived by her husband Jim, her four children James, Robert, Jane, and George, and grandchildren Jimmy and Kym Hurchalla, and Hunter and Ava Weaver.

"Her legacy will live on in the people that she's touched with her passion and diligence for preserving and protecting the environment. She's passed that on," said Mark Perry, executive director of the Florida Oceanographic Society. "People who watched her and knew her are inspired by her actions." 

Max Chesnes is a TCPalm environment reporter focusing on issues facing the Indian River Lagoon, St. Lucie River and Lake Okeechobee. You can keep up with Max on Twitter @MaxChesnes, email him at and give him a call at 772-978-2224.

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