Terry Cain Retires June 12


“I arrived on Fort Myers Beach 43 years ago, from Beach Haven, New Jersey,” said Terry Cain, the Lee County Land Stewardship Coordinator for Fort Myers Beach who will retire on Wednesday, June 12. “I came to visit a friend, just like how it happens to so many of us, and immediately knew this was the place for me, because the beach back then reminded me so much of my hometown that was formerly a small fishing and resort community before it grew too big, just like Fort Myers Beach now is growing so big. We bought our first house a few years after that, as you could buy a home then much more inexpensively than today!”

matanzas pass preserve, trail system, fort myers beach
The MPP trail system was recently marked for major rehabilitation by Lee County. Photo by Sarah List.

Terry, married to Captain Richard Cain, mother to Gregory and Sandor, and grandmother to 4-year-old Skyla, did not however immediately begin her career in nature, despite having her Marine Science degree from Richard Stockton State College, now Stockton University. “I was a waitress at the Lani Kai Island Resort that had just opened,” she recalled with a laugh! “I later worked at The Pelican as well as at the Holmes House that was an old house that became a restaurant and was really cool! It changed its name a few times, with the last being The Mucky Duck. Most of this was seasonal, as we stayed for the winter and returned to the Jersey Shore for summer.”

It was during this time that Terry discovered Matanzas Pass Preserve (MPP). “A girlfriend told me about this fantastic natural place that was really neat, so we took a walk through there one day and I was hooked, despite that there was only a small boardwalk and it was pretty mucky and dirty, but we were both beach girls so that did not bother us, and I have been walking those trails ever since! Little did I know then how much time I would spend in the preserve and how important it would become in my life.”

Treasure By The Sea

terry cain, retires, matanzas pass preserve, fort myers beach
Long time Island environmentalist and Lee County Land Stewardship Coordinator for Fort Myers Beach, Terry Cain retires June 12. Photo by Gary Mooney.

Terry appreciated MPP so much “that a friend and I decided to give guided tours with Lee County permission. We originally catered them to children, but quickly added adult components, as the parents on the walks asked such great questions! In 1999, we wrote the ‘Treasure By The Sea’ program with Carol Newcomb and Neil Wilkinson, who eventually became professors at Florida Gulf Coast University, with Neil recently retiring but Carol is still there, so that was a lot of fun.”

An important component was that the Town of Fort Myers Beach recently acquired the historic Mound House, the island’s oldest standing structure. “We received the Town’s permission to include it, through a grant from the Charlotte Harbor National Estuary Program (CHNEP), with a guided walk through MPP one day, then another on a second day that began on the beach by Connecticut Street and concluded at the Mound House, where we showed a video, and it was very cool and we had a great time first creating it, then leading the events.”

Around this time, Terry served one full and one partial term on Town Council. “I was on the Marine Resources Task Force and John Mulholland was Mayor, and we did a lot of work together to preserve swales on Fort Myers Beach, as we felt it imperative to keep runoff on people’s private property for as long as possible. John also participated with the CHNEP’s ‘Comprehensive Conservation Management Plan’ for two years, forging an agreement between seven local counties and that was quite a feat. All the principals were to get together one day to authorize the agreement, but sadly John passed away the previous day, so the Town asked me to attend as its representative.”

When Terry returned to the Town, “people said Council would appoint me to take John’s place, though I would not be Mayor, of course, and I replied, ‘I don’t think so,’ as our kids were like 7 and 8 years old, but I went to the meeting and Council did! When John’s term ended, I ran for one of my own, and no one challenged me, so I won.”

Politician Environmentalist

matanzas pass preserve, fort myers beach
A quiet respite on a busy island, the preserve offers trails and interpretive signs. Photo by Sarah List.

Though eligible for one more Council term, Terry opted against it, “so in 2004 I became an out-of-work politician environmentalist, and there is not a lot of call for that, but I figured I could always waitress! I however called Roger Clark, the Land Stewardship Manager for Lee County, to see if there were any open positions, and he advised me to wait a while but to continue checking the County website. A short time later, I saw the posting for the Land Stewardship Coordinator for the Beach! I never thought I would get the job because I was already an older person and I knew they were interviewing a bunch of young people, but they hired me and I just celebrated my 15th anniversary on May 13!”

It is obvious Terry still retains her passion for the beach’s natural areas, so why retire? “It is just time! I am getting older and have worked since I was 13-years-old, but will most definitely miss walking professionally through the mangroves.”

So what does Terry want to be when she “grows up?” “Funny you ask, as we just talked about that the other day with a new intern, and they didn’t know yet and neither do I! I am fortunate that I love doing what I do, but for right now, I just want to be a grandmother. I am still president of the Estero Beach Buddies and will make more trips to Tallahassee, to make sure our politicians care for our environment, as their long-term commitment worries me. Of course, Matanzas Pass Preserve is still and will always remain, my baby, along with Bowditch Point Park and Big Hickory and Bunche Beach, but it is MPP that has the softest spot in my heart, for sure!”


By Gary Mooney