“Voices of the Past” Walk February 25

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I Hear Voices!

“Oh my gosh, ‘Voices of the Past” is such a cool program,” gushes Terry Cain of Lee County Parks & Recreation, Conservation Lands.

“The ‘Voices of the Past’ Walk evolved out of an idea to do something different at Matanzas Pass Preserve from one person, Amy, who worked at the Red Coconut RV Park, as a way to get more residents and guests to visit the site,” explains Terry. “She approached me, and since it was during the Fall season, asked what I thought about a haunted walk through the Preserve. That took me aback because a lot of school kids visit it and I did not like the idea that they may associate the Preserve with fear, as it is such a beautiful place.”

Though the original concept fell flat, the idea came to life: “We put on our thinking caps,” recalls Terry, “and thought a period history walk that examined the island’s past might be brilliant, so we strung together shorts skits around the Calusa Indians, Spaniards, homesteaders, Koreshans, and pioneers who all contributed to Estero Island. The best part is we incorporated pioneer families like that of H. A. Bassett who are still on the island, so in a very real sense it became Living History. It is so exciting that some of the children of those pioneers are still alive and active on Fort Myers Beach, including several being members of the Historical Society.”

As work continued on the script, the question came up as to whether or not to include pirates: “There is a lot of local disagreement over whether or not pirates played a substantial role in Estero Island; there are two schools of thought on that,” relates Terry. “There is of course the famous legend about Black Island, so we put them in because you never know!”

There were multiple rewrites, “then we added costumes and props,” Terry reflects. “Next we selected the different parts of the Preserve that made the most sense to the story, while still accommodating the actors and group sizes without interfering with the natural characteristics of the Preserve itself. Stations had to be far enough away from each other so you would not hear the previous or next one; surprisingly the Preserve seemed to open itself up to us, to best utilize its wonderful assets.”

“Voices of the Past” traces its timeline from the Calusa Indians through the Spaniards to the pirates, before encountering homesteaders, the Koreshans, and concludes with the pioneers. “The coolest part of the program is that as you walk through the Preserve you learn all about our local history in about an hour,” she explains. “You won’t learn it in great detail, of course, but you will get the high points that will hopefully whet your appetite to go to the Fort Myers Beach Public Library or on-line to better educate yourself on our region.”

While the February 25 program is free, advance registration is necessary by Thursday, February 23, to ensure small groups; contact Laura at 239-432-2154 or email at lcarr@leegov.com. “We maintain groups at no more than 15 people, to allow for an intimate walk and the ability to interact with the actors,” says Terry. “Your tour guide provides you with tidbits about the Preserve as you go from station to station, to learn about the vegetation and listen to the quiet, just like that experienced by the first people who stepped on the beach all those years ago. Most of the guides are volunteer walk leaders so they are all quite knowledgeable about the Preserve.” In addition to the walk, “Voices of the Past” features vendors, crafts, and a native plant sale, with the historic cottage and nature center open to the public.

“A person recently said to me that Florida has such little history and I lost it,” concludes Terry! “I said we have the Calusa mounds right here so we are steeped in history, and the fun part is to connect that vision of the past to our present community. Our little walk back in time is a really fun and educational event, and a wonderful experience!”

Gary Mooney