Friends of Matanzas Pass Preserve Annual Meeting


Tom Myers Honored for 40 Years’ Service

It’s rare that an Annual Meeting elicits tears and a Standing Ovation, but both occurred at The Friends of Matanzas Pass Preserve (MPP) event at Tuckaway Café on Tuesday evening, February 12. After 40 years as its only President, Tom Myers stepped down, with the Friends naming him its first President Emeritus and honoring his invaluable contributions!

“With this transition, we witness history, as Tom, you are history,” exclaimed Terri Cane, with tears in her eyes like many others! “Those of you not here in the 1970’s don’t how close we came to losing the Preserve, and if it were not for Tom and Fran Myers, Betty Simpson, and a few other key people, we would not have the Preserve today. As for Tom, who else attends an organization’s meetings for 40 years! You met so many challenges for us, and we thank you from the bottom of our hearts!” Gini Smith, the new MPP Friends President, said, “It is an honor to follow in Tom’s footsteps, if anyone can! I have known Tom and Fran my entire life, working for them at the old deli when I was 13-years-old; who even remembers the deli!” The outgoing officers then presented Tom with his proclamation, with the room standing in applause and gratitude.

In addition to Gini, Betty Simpson continues in her long-time role as Vice President, Dan Andre is Treasurer, the Secretary position remains open, and Vicki Little is Communications Director/Membership Chair. The new Board includes Ann Alsop, Dan Andre, Tree Andre, Mick Curtis, Vicki Little, Tom Myers, Tim Murphy, Betty Simpson, Gini Smith, Mary Rose Spalletta, Randa Veach, and Roland Weinman.

In observance of the 40th anniversary of MPP, the Friends will host a “40th Anniversary Dedication Celebration” on Saturday, April 6, at 10 a.m. “Sheena Brook provides the musical entertainment,” said Vicki, “and we will have guided tours, food, and vendors, along with recognizing the Preserve’s significant supporters. We are so fortunate, as having a 60-acre Preserve like this on a 7-mile barrier island is unheard of!”

The Friends of MPP preserves, protects, and enhances the Preserve through stewardship and educational events, Florida Master Naturalist classes, “Project Monarch,” the “Adopt a Tree” program, “Voices of The Past” historical recreations, and “By The Light of The Moon” monthly Full Moon walks from October through April.

Project Monarch

One of the most unique is “Project Monarch.” The key to a healthy Monarch butterfly population is milkweeds, because without milkweeds, you do not have Monarchs, but unfortunately both going extinct in Florida. To reverse this, the Friends are reintroducing the pink swamp milkweed species that no longer grows naturally in MPP. Volunteers count, measure, and inspect MPP milkweeds, while looking for larva, chewed leaves and caterpillars, then record the results. Eighty percent of Monarch eggs do not hatch due to predators, insecticides, and enemy insects.

The Monarch is a milkweed butterfly and iconic pollinator whose 4-inch wingspan features their easily-recognizable black, orange, and white pattern. Milkweeds get their name from their milky sap that attracts Monarchs. Milkweed is the premier nectar source for Florida Monarchs, and one of the biggest factors in the Monarch decline is the increasing scarcity of its only caterpillar host plant, leading to their huge population loss over the last 2 decades. Southwest Florida Monarchs do not migrate but form their own colony, while others are from as far north as Canada and winter as far south as Mexico, taking four generations to return to their migration origin.

The 60-acre MPP is one of the few large undeveloped and protected areas left on Fort Myers Beach that is home to a diversity of native plants and animals, including a maritime oak hammock, transitional wetland, and mangrove forest full of raccoon, rabbit, hawks, owls, turtles, snakes, herons, fish, and songbirds. It has a 1.25-mile ADA-accessible boardwalk, bayside pavilion with a majestic view of the Estero Bay Aquatic Preserve, and is on the Great Florida Birding & Wildlife Trail and Great Calusa Blueway Paddling Trail. MPP is at 199 Bay Road, near the Fort Myers Beach Public Library, and is open daily from dawn to dusk with free but limited parking.

MPP offers three free seasonal nature walks. “Exploring Ethnobotany” is Wednesdays through April 24 from 9:30 to 11 a.m. “Life in the Mangroves” is Thursdays through March 28 from 9:30 to 11 a.m. For information on these two, call Lee County Parks & Recreation at 239-432-2154. “By The Light of The Moon” is each Full Moon Night through April. It is open to adults only and limited to 12 participants; RSVPs are necessary roughly one week in advance through Jim Rodwell at 239-565-7437. To become a MPP Friends member or for more information, email


By Gary Mooney