If you’re really quiet, you can hear our Island inhale as it makes room for all of our visitors as they arrive from cold and ice-stricken states to our north. The car carriers, rental cars and RV’s have been streaming south, especially since Christmas. There are more lights on in our condo buildings, the hurricane shutters are coming off and our neighborhoods are alive with activity. It’s season!
A lot has happened in the months since most of our seasonal visitors left last spring. Last week, we published our 2013 year-end review and if you missed it, stop by our office in Key Estero Plaza and pick up a copy before they’re all gone.
Lots of good things have happened – our Estero Blvd safety enhancements are in place – banners, extra lights, pedestrian islands, blinking lights at some crosswalks –all designed to help us reach our goal on no casualties on Estero Blvd in 2014. If every driver, cyclist and pedestrian does their part, we’ll make it.
Our long-planned Estero Blvd improvements have received the promise of funding from Lee County. While the final design is still to be decided, the six segments have been promised funding, which was no sure thing a year ago.
One of the challenges on an island with 6,500 year-round residents and a seasonal population of up to 60,000 is infrastructure – roads, sewer, water – the basics of civilized life. The Town has been working on a plan to replace potable water lines on the Island for more than a decade. And it’s finally happening-ground was broken recently and the first phase of the multi-year project is underway. In conjunction with that project is a storm water project, another sorely needed effort. So, big progress on the road and water fronts.
The Mound House interior final phase has been approved and will restore the house to its 1921 grandeur. While we await a revamped interior, the Stories Beneath Our Feet tours continue and Guided Kayak and Paddleboard Tours have been added to the roster of Mound House activities. It’s good to see this municipal treasure being utilized more.
Our summer water problems have cleared up-excess polluted water from Lake Okeechobee turned our beautiful waters a nasty shade of brown this past summer. As is now evident, our water has returned to its normal clear blue-green shade. And a number of solutions to the summer/wet season problem are in the works.
Now that our visitors are here and enjoying our warm breezes and sandy shores, this is a great time to not only welcome them all, but to invite them to dive into Island life with us.
Our Island is more than sand, sun, beer and mojito’s - though we can appreciate all of those. It’s about Island life and the people who live here, whether for a month or all year round. The best way to immerse yourself in Island life is to get involved with our Island community.
We’d like to invite each and every visitor to consider volunteering – giving a little time back to this great place you’ve chosen to live. So, after you’ve spent some time on the beach, consider whether you might enjoy an hour or three doing something for the community. You’d be welcomed with open arms.
Do you like to garden? How about a couple hours helping the Friends of Matanzas Pass Preserve clear non-native plants from this beautiful oasis in the middle of our Island?
Curious about history? The Estero Island Historic Society could use a few extra hands to help with their work preserving Island history. The Mound House also needs volunteers to help with their tours of this historic property.
Love the water? The Ostego Bay Foundation and Marine Science Center would welcome some help with their marine efforts and right in their museum.
Concerned about the homeless? God’s Table offers assistance to area homeless each weekday at Chapel by the Sea. They would love a few extra hands.
Like working with people? Bay Oaks Recreation Center works with everyone from kids to seniors and can use some extra help for their programs.
Love kids and sports? The Beach Little League and Soccer Club needs coaches, umpires and concession stand workers.
Into the arts? Fort Myers Beach Friends of the Arts works year round to support the arts in our town. They need help with weekly and monthly events to raise funds for their projects and with a concert series this season.
Maybe you’re a bibliophile-then you should check out the Friends of the Beach Library that might be the perfect connection for you.
Are you a member of the Lions or Kiwanis back home? Join our clubs here-they are very involved in supporting the Island community.
Have you been visiting the Island for years and know all the ins and outs of the area? The Chamber really needs you for their new "Roxie” mobile information center.
Each of these organizations will welcome you with open arms and provide training for volunteers.
Or maybe you’re not ready to commit to a regular volunteer gig-in that case, keep your eyes on our Around and About section-there will be beach cleanups and special events galore as we head into season and each community event on the beach is dependent on volunteers.
We’ve just mentioned a few groups here to give our visitors a glimpse of volunteer opportunities available on the beach – all of them golden opportunities to immerse you in Island life and meet some of the best Islanders – volunteers!
We hope that you feel welcomed here and that you consider becoming even more of an Islander by lending a hand in our community.