Welcome back to our Spring Breakers, vacationers and snowbirds! Our little Island is at peak capacity in March and many of you return each year wondering what’s gone on since you were here last year. Well, quite a bit, as it turns out. Here’s a short primer on a few things that have been happening on the beach this past year.
The Estero project kicked into high gear last summer with Phase I that runs from the base of the bridge to Lovers Lane, just south of Sea Grape Plaza. This project, known as reFRESHFMBeach, a joint venture of the Town and County, will result in new water, sewer and stormwater lines and a renovated Estero Blvd.
We will not end up with more lanes, but we will have 9-foot sidewalks on both sides of the road and shared lanes for bicycles in this first segment. (There’s only 50’ of right of way available in Phase I.) Be sure you take a stroll on the new wide sidewalks that are already in place. The center turn lane/emergency lane will remain. For details see RefreshFMBeach.com
Estimates say this first stretch from Crescent St. to Lovers Lane will be completed by the end of 2016. Eventually, the entire length of Estero Blvd will be redone. Timelines for final completion range from 5-12 years, so we’re all looking at this one segment at a time. We’re also hoping that once the project wraps up in the busiest section of the downtown area, it will be less disruptive for businesses. In the meantime, please patronize businesses in the construction zone!
The big talk in town is about a proposed project called Grand Resorts FMB that would put three hotels, restaurants & shops on a quarter mile stretch of land north of the Mermaid plus a parking garage in the Helmerich Plaza area (Old McDonald’s location). The Seafarer’s property and Crescent Beach Family Park are in the mix, as is a coastal protection system to allow ground level construction. The developer has held 3 meetings for residents. Next step is an official application to the Town and County. More info at GrandResortsFMB.com
The other big topic of conversation is our election for two Town Council seats on March 15th. There will be 6 candidates on the ballot, plus one write-in candidate. On that ballot there will also be a referendum with 21 changes proposed to our Town Charter. Oh, and some presidential candidates will be on the ballot of those who are registered Republicans or Democrats.
You may notice that our normally turquoise Gulf water is looking kind of like root beer these days. The reason for that is a record-setting “dry” season that has looked more like a wet season. Massive discharges from Lake Okeechobee into the Caloosahatchee River plus runoff from the river’s watershed combine to create lots of “fresh” water that threatens the salinity of our estuary. The brown water coming down the river and into the Gulf and bays holds way too much pollution in it from fertilizers and such. The fertilizers seem to help red tide outbreaks grow and those can be a problem for those with respiratory issues. Our story in this issue includes how to find more information.
Other changes – The golf course property is now owned by the Estero Bay Improvement Association (the Bay Beach condos) and is expected to remain as green space. The Mound House Museum is finally open and definitely worth a visit!
A new project on San Carlos Island at Compass Rose Marina is working its way through the Lee County process. Combined with another project, known as Ebb Tide, already holding approvals further down Main Street and the prospect of redevelopment in downtown Fort Myers Beach, residents are concerned about traffic overload on San Carlos Blvd.
Safety on our roads continues to be a challenge, made only more so with construction. We urge patience and hyper vigilance. Seasonal traffic delays are as they are each year at this time. Our suggestions to avoid the worst of it all: walk, ride a bike, go early or late or head south. If you are within a mile or so of your destination, walk along the beach to get there.
One of the things we’ve learned with no center turn lane – when stopped in traffic, leave space between you and the car ahead of you at intersections and driveways. If someone is stopped waiting to make a left turn, that whole lane backs up. Little thing – big difference. Add that to your list of Estero safety tips, along with watching for pedestrians, stopping at crosswalks, giving bicycles 3-feet of space and rolling your windows down and seeing any traffic delay as an opportunity to appreciate being in paradise.
Pedestrians need to do their part. Cross at crosswalks. Wear white at night. Carry a flashlight — do whatever it takes to be visible to a driver. If there’s a sidewalk – use it. That white line won’t protect you from a distracted driver.
We’d like to go this whole season without any serious injuries to pedestrians or bicyclists. That is only possible if we all pay attention ALL THE TIME.
Welcome Back! Let’s make this a safe season!