(By Christy Hennessey) Upon completion of the five-million-dollar sand replacement by way of Lee County, people will be transported to the beach by tram. We lost our Gazebo, but another open pavilion of some sort will be built back in its place with an even better design. What an amazing debris removal crew working in the Park, sunrise to sunset. They love the wildlife and look out for them. The Park has also partnered with Keep Lee County Beautiful for the constant clean-up of Estero Blvd from the debris removal trucks.
Almost all of the public Park structures except the “New” Welcome and Discovery Center, were destroyed by the hurricane, so we will be reopening with portable restrooms or a restroom trailer.
The Ranger Station will have a temporary structure until it can be rebuilt. Amazingly, the Tram Pavilion and elevated restroom structures stood strong. The water surge destroyed the interior of the restrooms, so those will be completely remodeled. Section by section, the Park will regain electricity, as the entire electrical system has to be rebuilt, taking an estimated 5 months. With its completion, we will know the status of the Park sewer system.
Todd Richards will be back and eager to reopen concessions. He will have kayaks, beach sand chairs and umbrella rentals, also a little concession stand at the beach. Louise Kowitch, Education Chairperson on the FOLKS Board, is brainstorming ideas like wildfire. We have assembled a Landscape Committee with plans in the works to do something spectacular with native plantings, including a butterfly garden, at the Welcome and Discovery Center. Social events and educational opportunities in these gardens are being discussed.
Park Manager Katie Moses, reports Tallahassee has been very supportive of the Park. The State will be replacing all state vehicles, equipment, supplies and buildings, while FOLKS will replace all FOLKS supplied equipment and supplies. Fundraising has been promising but much more money needed to raise!
Just as with the other barrier islands, especially Fort Myers Beach, all sorts of debris was strewn about roads and trials making them impassable, as well as filling the bushes, trees and mangroves. Interior waterways still need to be cleared. The work crews have been digging up all sorts of items in the beach sand, for instance, a port-a-potty that did not belong to the park (no idea where the park port-a-potties ended up!) and a couch completely buried with just the top few inches exposed.
The park got their share of large appliances deposited on the beach like we did! With work crews and large earth moving equipment all over the park, no electricity or sewers, more beach and trail areas to clear….. simply put, it is just not safe.
We are looking to a very bright “near” future! As soon as we know when the Park is ready to reopen, you will be the first to know (and likely the first in line!).
Christy Hennessey is Board Secretary for the Friends of Lovers Key and can be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org