Parks & Rec Benefits
Town Parks and Recreation Director Patti Evans was the guest speaker at the Estero Island Historic Society's final meeting of the season, where she told everyone about the exciting things planned for Bay Oaks, the Mound House and the Newton Property. A $445,000 grant for refurbishing the interior of the Mound House has made it onto the state's budget and now awaits the governor's signature.
"I was fortunate to grow up four hours from here in Deland, and I was lucky to have both sets of grandparents who instilled in me a love of history," Evans began. "My career has allowed me to go all over the US, and if I know someone from somewhere else who might help us, I won't hesitate to look them up."
"About a year ago, our town manager decided to create a parks and rec department, combining cultural resources with recreation," Evans continued. "We're not spending that much more money to get something more professional. This provides us with greater financial control and allows me to seek sponsorships in the community. Traditionally, we haven't done a real good job of selling ourselves and those are things that we need to work on. Parks and Rec departments are defined by two roles - managing parks facilities and planning recreation activities.”
Evans talked about the benefits of parks and recreation.
"First, the individual benefits - one of the main things we've learned about Bay Oaks is that we've become a personal health, fitness-type facility to the residents of the island - we're seeing a trend that we need to stay in the health business. Then there are the community benefits - we provide the opportunity for people to come together, we help organizations to have activities. Third are environmental benefits where we can preserve our sensitive lands. And finally there are the economic benefits - it's very difficult for us to determine this because we don't have the formulas that some organizations do, but we know we are contributing to the local economy when, for instance, someone comes by the Mound House and tells us they decided to stay an extra few days so they can do the tours or see the Newton property."
"It all comes down to quality of life."
Evans then got into the budget, saying that parks and recreation has a budget of just over a million dollars, which doesn't include CIP (capital improvement projects) like fixing up the Mound House.
"Of that, $840,076 is for Bay Oaks and the pool, $170,716 for the Mound House and $12,700 is for the Newton Property,” she said. "There are three part time staff, and we been asked to hire an additional full time person who will have oversight of the Mound House and Newton Property. We couldn't do this without our volunteers - both properties are free and open to the public, with tours done by volunteers. The Friends have raised over $30,000 in cash which they have donated for various projects."
Patti told the EIHS that the remaining issues with the Mound House will be resolved soon, and that Beach Baptist has agreed to allow parking in their lot, where a van will shuttle folks back and forth until a more permanent solution can be reached.
"Upcoming projects include the installation of a 30-foot long mural of a Calusa encampment, which will be placed on a removable wall in the event of storms - that will be in place by the end of season," she said. "We now have a finished video which synchronizes with lights on the mural, floor and exhibit. The landscaping and lighting are coming, and we have volunteers called the Green Team that do light maintenance and landscape trimming.. Our kayak building is going into pre-bid in the first week of April, and that facility will be located right between the office and the kayak launch area."
As far as the house itself, Evans assured everyone that it would be finished before the end of 2012.
Finally, Evans said that it is the Town's desire that the Newton Property be used more and marketed better.
"I am responsible for fixing the bocce courts and they will be fixed by the end of the summer," she said. "It's a quaint, small building with old appliances and no refrigerator, so I'm going to be working with grants to see how we could fix it up to have a meeting like this one there with food. And when we do have an event there, the parking meters will be covered so the guests won't have to pay. We're improving the signage, lighting and fans."
Evans said that part of the marketing plan will include reaching out to wedding planners and other folks who may be interesting in utilizing the facility.
After the meeting, former Councilman and EIHS member Tom Babcock told us that the funding for the Mound House that made it onto the Senate's budget has been approved by the state legislature, with the only obstacle remaining being the Governor's signature.
Town Attorney Jim Humphrey, who last month traveled with Mayor Larry Kiker, Fort Myers Mayor Randall Henderson, and Helen Gorman, Grant Writer for the Philharmonic Center for the Arts, to Tallahassee to ask the Southwest Florida delegation for their help in procuring the funding, confirmed that the $445,000 has made it onto the budget passed by both the House and the Senate.
"When the Senate and House Conference Committee met on March 1st and 2nd, and with the Senator's leadership ability together with help from Representative Gary Aubuchon and Matt Caldwell, the House supported the Senate approval for the grants,” Humphrey said.
"Next, it is most important for all of us to write to the Governor requesting his support for the Cultural Facilities program approved by the Legislature,” he continued. "All of the approved projects involve capital improvements and the creation of jobs particularly jobs within the construction industry. Plus, with the eight approved grants, the local governments and citizens will provide local funding thereby generating approximately $35 million for completion of the projects. The Governor campaigned on creating jobs and has been actively involved in bringing new businesses and jobs to Florida. These projects clearly fall within the Governor's efforts of putting people back to work.”