We need a new term for that lightening of spirit, hopefulness and generally positive vibe that seems to arrive with the first signs of fall. Further north, where cold, ice and snow smother the ground for months at a time, they feel something similar in April and May and call it spring fever.
Here, as we enter the tenth month, we have the ever so slightly less humid air, decreasing frequency of afternoon storms and dropping temperatures that signal fall. Of course only those who live here full time may recognize these signs. Some days it’s still hotter than blazes and the humidity is high, but there is the slightest hint of relief in the air. And that is all it takes for Fall Fever to flourish.
While it’s hot most places in the summer and there are many locations where the high temperature is above ours in the heart of summer, there aren’t very many that have the 1-2 combo of heat in the 90’s with high humidity for months and months that we see each summer. So, when that heat/humidity combo starts to ease just a touch lower, it’s noticeable and brings a collective sigh of relief.
Fall in Fort Myers Beach means much more than a relief from summer weather though. October begins our shoulder season; visitor numbers are up. Car carriers will be appearing next, bringing long-term visitors to our shores and businesses are planning for a busy season.
The rough beginning of our Estero waterline project that brought long traffic delays a couple months ago triggered a lot of fear that it would scare visitors away. Though the jury is still out whether the actual 1-2 weeks of traffic problems were the cause of a dip in summer visitors or the not-so-helpful social media complaints and televised reports of what was perceived as traffic Armageddon were.
The Beach is still open and ready for visitors –that’s been our message and we hope it’s yours to anyone asking about the beach. We are in the process of some much-needed upgrades to our waterlines and road and we need to keep our economy running during this upgrade. The construction crews are doing their part, let’s all do ours and spread the word that the beach is open for business!
Since that first week or so, traffic flow has improved dramatically. Even now with a work area between Time Square and Crescent Street, traffic flows. For the benefit of those who do not drive Estero Blvd every day, we have 2 lanes of traffic flowing on and off the island, same as always. The lane flowing off island from the south now detours a block over on its way to the bridge. During heavy traffic hours, there are flagmen at key intersections to help things along. There are also a couple of spots within the work area that temporarily limit traffic to one lane and those areas have flaggers with 2-way radios to move traffic as smoothly as possible. Work crews finish and open up both lanes about dinnertime each day, earlier on Friday, so our evening and weekend traffic is not impacted.
All in all, our traffic is much better now than seasonal traffic. With the waterline project wrapping up for the first stretch to Lovers Lane in the next few weeks, we’re hopeful that the actual road work will cause even fewer traffic concerns as they promise to keep 2 lanes open and do as much work at night as possible.
Our island schedule of fun activities begins ramping up in the fall. Pirate Fest next weekend brings families and pirates to our downtown with music and fun stretching from Time Square to Matanzas Pass. It’s one of the first opportunities many locals take to get outside again. Also known as the ‘first sunburn of season,’remember to wear sunscreen along with your eye patch.
Then Paint the Beach arrives in November bringing plein air painters to capture beach scenes on canvas. Right after that, the 29th Annual American Sand Sculpting Championship hits the beach, leading us into Thanksgiving and the December holidays.
October signals the start of seasonal visitors and events that so many Islanders enjoy and depend on.
There is also big change coming to our downtown area. With one developer now holding at least 11 parcels of land downtown, there is a major project on the horizon, one that will dwarf any previous project on our island. We’re all anxious to get a look at what that project will entail and what opportunities it will bring to our Island but so far no details have been released. Hopefully we’ll learn soon what is planned for our downtown.
Fall is definitely in the air. Both new and familiar events, visitors and opportunities are on the horizon. Can you feel it?