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Upcoming events sponsored by Preserve Our Paradise group

• Tuesday: A group delegation will deliver written comments made by residents at public meetings to the Collier Resources Company. A demonstration will be held outside the office, intersection of Airport Road and Golden Gate Parkway.
• Wednesday: Members of the group will attend the 7 p.m. Golden Gate Civic Association meeting at Fire Station No. 71, 13th Street, southwest Golden Gate. Representatives of Collier Resources and Hughes Oil are scheduled to be present.
• June 30: The group will have a candlelight vigil at the Naples Pier on the last day of the comment period on the proposed drilling permits. Group members say they expect a decision as soon as July 1.

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A petition opposing proposed oil drilling near Golden Gate Estates and the Florida Panther Wildlife Refuge is gaining ground on Change.org, with signatures jumping from 250 to nearly 2,500 in one week.

The savvy use of the Internet and social media to get out the message is fueling momentum for a grassroots effort that started about two weeks ago.

Naples resident Jennifer Wing started the petition on the site, which allows people around the world to create petitions for and against hot-bed issues and advocate for change.

The petition was promoted at the Tuesday meeting called by a newly formed group, Preserve Our Paradise, which is agitating to stop permits for the exploratory drilling, requested by the Dan A. Hughes Petroleum Geological Company of Beeville, Texas. The permits would come from the state Department of Environmental Protection.

Public comment on the permit applications ends June 30. The paradise group plans to print out and submit all the comments to the state DEP.

The Hughes company has leased more than 110,000 acres that reach to the northern tip of the Fackahatchee Strand Preserve State Park and south to the Picayune Strand State Forest, said Matthew Schwartz, head of the South Florida Wildlife Association. The wells would be drilled within a mile of the Golden Gate Community and near the boundary of the panther refuge.

The paradise group plans to print out and submit all the comments to the state DEP. The group believes a decision on the permits could come as soon as July 1.

“Anyone to date who is a social activist of any type who does not take advantage of social media is missing out on an incredible medium,” said Joe Mule, an organizer of the paradise group. “We’d be remiss in our mission to reach folks and to educate folks if we don’t do that.”

The petition signers come from Fort Myers, Naples, Bokeelia, Miami, Key West, Hialeah and elsewhere in Florida, as well as Colorado, Massachusetts, California, Virginia, Pennsylvania and Oregon.

“As a former Florida resident, and a frequent visitor to the state, I am dismayed at the thought of drilling in Collier County,” wrote Laura Dunklee, of Pasadena, Ca. “Your wildlands — and the thriving ecosystem they support — are a major tourist draw, in addition to being incredible in their own right. Please do not risk destroying them!”

“If one well is successful it can only mean expansion — and how far-reaching can that possibly go?” wrote Gloria Woodbury of Bonita Springs.

Meanwhile, other groups are coming to the support of the paradise group and their quest, including Food and Water Watch.org, a consumer advocacy nonprofit; and the Physicians for Social Responsibility Florida chapter.

“Congrats on your valiant efforts to fight fracking there,” wrote Dr. Ron Saff of the physicians group. “If we at Physicians for Social Responsibility-Fl can help or provide info, please contact us.”

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