Former Martin County Commissioner Maggy Hurchalla has died

STUART — Margaret “Maggy” Hurchalla, a slow-growing doyen of environmentalism and former five-term Martin County commissioner, died Saturday, her family said. She was 81 years old.

Hurchalla has always been a fearless advocate for the restoration of the Everglades and an adamant voice for the protection of Florida’s natural beauty. She was a Everglades Coalition Hall of Fame member and has won countless local, state and national environmental awards for his conservation work.

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

“She worked to make natural resources accessible to everyone.”

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Former Martin County Commissioner Maggy Hurchalla kayaks on the Indian River lagoon south of Anse Sainte-Lucie on March 14, 2013.

During his 20-year career as commissioner, Hurchalla led Martin County’s first comprehensive land use plan in 1990, the current framework for growth management programs. It was his “proudest achievement”, said his 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 veers 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 outside a county commission meeting Tuesday, Nov. 16, 2021, outside the Martin County Administrative Center in Stuart.

Hurchalla has served on several governor’s commissions on the Everglades and has served on the Commission of Sustainable South Florida. She “remained involved in the battle for the restoration of the Everglades until her death,” said George Hurchalla.

“Maggy was a dedicated and fierce warrior for Florida’s wild natural spaces, especially the American Everglades,” said Eric Eikenberg, CEO of the Everglades Foundation. “His relentless, passionate voice impacted countless Floridians. His legacy lives on, and those of us who remain behind will stand on his shoulders.”

“Last month we saw Maggy at the Everglades Coalition conference. Her parting words to us were, ‘Keep fighting the good fight.’ Maggy, we will,” said Eric Eikenberg, CEO of the Everglades Foundation.

Hurchalla was the sister of the late Clinton-era United States Attorney General Janet Reno.

The United States Supreme Court in 2021 denied hearing an appeal filed by Hurchalla regarding a $4 million civil judgment against her by Lake Point Restoration, a rock mining company in western Martin County. Then 79, she was supported 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 from a second hip operation on Saturday 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 her grandchildren Jimmy and Kym Hurchalla, and Hunter and Ava Weaver.

“Her legacy will live on in the people she touched with her passion and diligence for preserving and protecting the environment. She 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 environmental reporter who focuses on issues facing the Indian River Lagoon, St. Lucie River, and Lake Okeechobee. You can follow Max on Twitter @MaxChesnes, email him at [email protected], and call him at 772-978-2224.

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