Welcome back to our seasonal visitors. Mid-January usually is the time when our seasonal visitors begin arriving in waves. Some have been here since October, but the largest mass arrives about now to settle into their sunlit homes to watch the blizzard warnings back home between long walks on the beach. We’re glad you’re here! A lot has been happening on the beach over the last few months.
The Estero project kicked into high gear over the summer. This Estero project known as reFRESHFMBeach, a joint venture of the Town and County, will result in new water lines, storm water drainage and a renovated Estero Blvd. That’s the reason for the construction equipment and barricades that run from about Sea Grape Plaza to the base of the bridge. It’s not just road construction either. We began with water lines, which was a Town project, and a gas line, TECO worked with the Town while they were putting in the water lines. There are a few connections still to be made for water, but for the most part, the water line part is done on this first phase of the Estero project. Now it’s in the hands of Lee County’s contractor. They will be installing new sewer lines, storm water lines and finally, new sidewalks and street. Estimates say this first stretch from Crescent St. to Lovers Lane will be completed by the end of 2016. Eventually, the entire road will be redone all the way to the Big Carlos Bridge. Timelines for final completion range from 5-12 years, so we’re all looking at this one segment at a time.
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. The center turn lane/emergency lane will remain. This stretch of road only has a 50-foot right of way. Check out our story this week for more details.
Take some time for a leisurely stroll around downtown, it’s still an easy walk despite construction and you’ll see lots of changes since you left us last spring. New restaurants and shops to check out. The Lynx is back too, if you missed your chance to take a sail on it last time it was here.
The big talk in town is of a proposed project called Grand Resorts FMB that would put multiple hotels, restaurants & shops, plus a parking garage on a stretch of land north of the Mermaid plus the Helmerich Plaza (Old McDonald’s location). A couple different versions have been shown to Islanders, the most recent this week, showing some changes reflecting input from residents. It’s all in the preliminary stage with no permits or applications submitted. Find out more about the project at grandresortsfmb.com and feel free to share your opinions.
The other big topic of conversation is our election for two Town Council seats in March. Qualifying week ends January 29th, at which point we’ll have a final list of who has qualified to be on the ballot. If you are a resident here, we urge you to register to vote by February 16 and follow our coverage of the election. On that ballot there will also be a referendum with 21 changes proposed to our Town Charter-a pretty big deal that so far has taken a back seat to the ‘Who’s Going to Run?’ question.
Other changes – The golf course property is now owned by the Estero Bay Improvement Association 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 Lee County approvals. 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. While we dealt with some traffic problems this summer due to stretches of a single lane Estero, that is not expected to be an issue this season. Unfortunately, seasonal traffic delays are expected, 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.
One of the things we learned over the summer that is key to traffic flow on Estero – 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 watch for pedestrians, stop at crosswalks for them, give bicycles 3 feet of space, roll your windows down and look at any traffic delay as an opportunity to appreciate living in paradise.
Pedestrians need to do their part for Estero safety too. 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, walk on it rather than the side of the road. 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!