Lovers Key Park Changes

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Assistant Manager Promoted

Matt Kruse, the well-respected Assistant Manager of Lovers Key State Park (LKSP) since 2006, will soon become the new Manager of Collier-Seminole State Park in Naples. Replacing Kruse in roughly one month will be Valinda Subic.

“We are truly going to miss Matt, who is beloved here, so it will be very strange not to have him at Lovers Key,” stated LKSP Manager Katie Moses. “Matt is a graduate of Hocking College in Ohio with an Associate’s Degree in Recreation & Wildlife and a minor in Ranger Services, as well as from the National Ranger Training Institute from the National Park Service. He began his LKSP career in 1999 as a Park Attendant but received a promotion to Park Ranger within his first year, eventually becoming Assistant Manager in 2006.”

Not a Secret Anymore

“My last day at LKSP will be Friday, May 31,” Matt said, “and on June 1, I become Park Manager of Collier-Seminole, ready to go to work! I look forward to interacting with the Friends of Collier-Seminole, as well as working with the concessionaire who rents canoes, kayaks and bicycles to use around the park, to be part of that success. Collier-Seminole has a 6-1/2 mile hiking trail and 3-1/2 mile biking trail, and I will manage its camp sites, as we do not have camping at LKSP.”

New elements that Matt looks forward to “are prescribed burns, as part of the land management program to remove invasive species, as well as seeing new and different wildlife. Another way Collier-Seminole varies from LKSP is that it is in a more remote location, situated in one of the largest mangrove systems on the entire planet. While it does not have a beach, it is right on the Black Water River that you can canoe or kayak for nearly 13 miles, until it opens up at the Ten Thousand Islands on the Gulf of Mexico, so you can access all of those. At approximately 7,200 acres, Collier-Seminole is roughly five times larger than LKSP, and I will oversee a staff of nine, including an assistant manager, environmental and park service specialists and three rangers.”

Matt has enjoyed almost 2 decades at LKSP: “August would be my 20-year anniversary,” he reflected. “The biggest change over that time is that in 1999, LKSP was Southwest Florida’s Best Kept Secret, and now more than a million people visit annually. What I am most proud of is that despite that huge attendance increase, we continue to preserve this beautiful piece of paradise as a natural treasure!”

Memories are plentiful! “One that always makes me chuckle is one of the first times I ever met one of our most dedicated LKSP volunteers, Pam Jones-Morton. We were by the Mid-Beach Bridge when another visitor dropped a valuable down into the water and was so upset, of course I said I would help retrieve it. I scaled over the side of the bridge, with Pam holding onto me by my ankles, and we fished it out!”

Matt’s favorite aspect of LKSP is the Black Island Trail. “As a Ranger, I spent a lot of time there, and am responsible for reworking that route several times, as well as for the benches and eight of the shelters on that and the Eagle Trail. Whenever things became stressful, I would take a break and head out on the Black Island Trail, to get away from everything, take a seat and just enjoy the view.”

He and wife Suzette raised two daughters while living at the park, Alyssa, an FGCU student, and Nicole, who is serving in the Air Force in Arizona.

“My family is a big part of my success I have a very supportive wife who encouraged me to take this promotion, and two wonderful daughters,” Matt related. “In a very real sense we are leaving their home! That makes my departure even more bittersweet, but I look forward to the new opportunities ahead of me.”

Knowledge & Experience

With Kruse moving out and up, “We are incredibly fortunate we will not have to search for a new Assistant Manager,” commented Moses, “as Valinda Subic, an incredibly talented person, will join our team. Valinda will transition from being a Florida Park Service District Bureau Chief to return to the Parks. She requested this transfer to LKSP and is excited to see the Welcome & Discovery Center come to fruition before retiring from the Park Service in 18 months. She brings an incredible wealth of knowledge and experience to LKSP!”

Lovers Key is one of the most-visited state parks. Composed of Lovers Key, Black Island and Inner and Long Keys, it is at 8700 Estero Boulevard. For information, call 239-463-4588 or see www.floridastateparks.org/loverskey.

“I have been blessed to spend the past 20 years of my life and career here at LKSP,” concluded Matt, “and plan to continue the relationships I have here. I am not really moving that far away, so I hope our LKSP friends will take the drive to Collier-Seminole and peek in on me every now and then!”

 

By Gary Mooney
gary@fortmyersbeach.news