August Challenges

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August means things slow down on the beach. It’s always been like that, as kids head back to school, visitors dwindle and customers for beach businesses thin out.

We’re a seasonal economy. We know that. Many people look forward to the slower pace of August and September and use it as a time to take some time off or do a bit of freshening up around the business.

This year is a bit different though. Not only do we have the usual summer slowdown, we have the construction and water issues on top of it. Plus we now have concern over the mosquito-spread Zika virus.

ZIKA

Come for the water, stay for the Zika! We joke, but it’s a nervous laughter we all share. Every one of us knows the economic devastation that results if tourists stay away.

We think the way to deal with it is with the truth. The Lee County Visitor & Convention Bureau has been sending out regular updates on the facts about the virus and where it’s been found. We urge everyone in the hospitality business to make sure that all their employees know those facts so they can answer questions accurately.

Zika is in Miami Dade County and only 1 square mile is considered at risk of active transmission as I write this. Experts have predicted that Zika should not be a huge problem in the U.S. due to our widespread use of window screens and air conditioning.

Lee County and Fort Myers Beach Mosquito Control is ready to act if a problem is found here. Protect yourself with bug spray and cover up if you’re outdoors at dawn or dusk. And for heavens sake, dump out any standing water on your property.

WATER

If you were to get your news from Facebook, you’d think our entire 7-mile long beach is covered in either blue-green algae or brown sludge. NO, THEY’RE NOT!

Fort Myers Beach has not had any significant blue-green algae blooms. The Florida Department of Health rated all of our beaches at Good quality this week. There are no warnings or closed beached on Fort Myers Beach. Spread the word.

There is brown water is flowing from Lake Okeechobee into the Caloosahatchee River and into our backyard. That water spreads out and has darkened our back bay and flowed into the Gulf of Mexico. However, on any given day, the water along our beach may be the usual turquoise or have a brown tint. It truly does vary. By the day. By the hour. If you find water that is not to your liking, head south to Newton Park or Lovers Key State Park.

To those who think they are helping the cause by telling people to stay away from Fort Myers Beach because of water quality, you are cutting your friends and neighbors off at the knees.

Nobody should lie about water quality, ever. That includes those saying it’s awful when it’s not. We have to find a way to work on solving the problem of water quality in South Florida without killing the businesses and jobs that we all rely on.

A water solution will be years in the making. We need to have an economically healthy community when that solution arrives. Drive all the tourists away and we’ll have to focus on rebuilding our economy and our community when our water quality problem is fixed.

There are lots of scientists checking our water all the time and those results are available to all of us. No one is hiding anything. Check water quality for yourself by using these links:

State Beach Reports:  bit.ly/FMBbeachreport

FWC Red Tide Reports:  bit.ly/FWCredtide

SCCF Reports:  recon.sccf.org

Water Atlas Reports: bit.ly/1L1FJ18

Lee County Reports: bit.ly/LCWater

Blue Green Algae: bit.ly/BGalgae

Mote Marine Reports: visitbeaches.org

CONSTRUCTION

Estero Blvd is under construction. Has been for over a year now. We’re all suffering from a bit of construction fatigue. However, the end is in sight—the first segment will be done by the end of this year. While we are already preparing for the second segment, we suspect that when the first one is done life is going to get much easer in the downtown area. Sure many of us will still be driving through construction and around barricades to get downtown, but we’ll be able to see what it is we’re suffering for, a beautiful new road with wide sidewalks!

As they work on the last segment, the center lane with its stormwater drainage system, it’s become a bit more difficult to get around. We are really glad that this portion is happening now and not in season. We’re also anxious to get our center turn lane back.

While we’re all in the same boat, dealing with Zika fears, water issues and construction, let us suggest that it’s time to do what Islanders do best – help each other! We have businesses that employ our friends and neighbors that are in need of customers. Now. Let’s all do our part and support local businesses!

This is a great time to come out and visit a new place, or maybe an old favorite. Bring some friends. Call your off island friends and invite them to have dinner and drinks here or maybe meet for some shopping. Next time someone asks where to meet you, suggest an Island spot.

We’re all in this together and if we all do our part, we’ll weather this storm as we have others.

 

Missy Layfield