By Natalie Strom
If you are one of the brave few staying in Goodland through the summer, then you have certainly noticed a significant change in our usually quiet village. As of July 5th, renovations on Margood Harbor Park have created quite a stir. In May of this past year, Collier County approved a $1.1 million contract to revamp the park. The construction date was set for July of 2011. A few days prior to the on-going excavation, a sign was erected stating that the park would be closed until March of 2012. For any additional information, one may call Collier County Parks and Recreation at 239-252-4000. To save all you curious Goodlanders the trouble, I went ahead and called. The information I was given proves that our little park is getting one big makeover.
The property where Margood Park sits today was first owned by a couple named Rex and Ruby Johnson. Originally from New Jersey, and of the circus variety, the couple purchased the property around the time that public land became available for sale in Goodland. Sale of land began around 1949. The Johnsons erected a concrete building which served as a local movie theatre. The cost per ticket: 25 cents. The building still stands today and will remain a fixture when the new park is finished.
As time went on the movie theatre closed and the land became the Mar-Good RV Park. The building became a museum/restaurant and a chickee bar was built on the back. Public restrooms, showers and a laundry facility were available. The park catered to mobile RVs and also had a number of small cottages available for rent. These old cottages were built with heart of Southern Pine wood and date back much earlier than the 1940s era. For many, many years, people from near and far enjoyed the RV park, museum, bar, restaurant and local hang-out.
In 2004, the property was sold by its owners at the time, Elhanon and Sandy Combs. The land that Margood rests on was one of the few in the area that would have been available for condominium/hi-rise development. The Combs’ wanted to make sure that this would never happen on such historic property and they made the decision to sell it to Collier County. The property was sold for $2.5 million with $1.9 million coming by way of the Florida Forever Funds. These funds are provided to preserve Florida land considered to be of historic or environmental value.
Since 2004, not much has been done to the park. The museum/restaurant was closed as well as the chickee bar called Chuckles. Laundry and bathroom facilities were also closed. A lovely, fenced-in park was built for the children of Goodland. The cottages were fenced off and preserved. Locals enjoyed the park and often spent time there with children and friends. It lies on a beautiful inlet and displays some very beautiful and unique foliage. The enormous rubber tree which sits at the center of the park is a perfect example.
As the park was fenced off and the construction began, residents of Goodland were concerned as a number of the small cottages were being demolished. These, we all thought, were part of the reason the Florida Forever Funds contributed so much money to the purchase of the property. While the majority of the cottages were torn down, the county is keeping four of these adorable little homes to be refurbished for historical purposes. These cottages are considered phase II of the project and will be worked on if money is available.
The Margood building which once housed the movie theatre will once again be converted into a museum. Much of the artifacts were saved from the museum before it became a county park. These artifacts, Calusa Indian artifacts and the original movie projector will all be on display in the building. It will also serve as a community center for locals. A parking lot next to the building will hold twenty cars.
Other amenities that will be added to the 2.67 acres of park are canoe and kayak launch areas, a bocce ball court, volleyball court and horseshoe pit. A covered picnic area and gazebo are also in the works. The park will have a lovely walking path throughout and will be landscaped with native South Florida plants. To see the plans in person, one may visit the Goodland Boat Ramp where a site plan has been placed inside the building.
Since its very beginning, the property that is now Margood Harbor Park has always been a place where Goodlanders gather. While it is off limits for this short time, it is clear that the new park design will offer many new amenities to Goodland and its visitors while still keeping much of its historic relevance. Now if we could only get them to put in a dog park….
Natalie Strom has lived in Goodland for over two years and has worked in Goodland on and off for more than five years. She is a graduate of the University of Iowa and is also a former Buzzard Queen of Stan’s Idle Hour in Goodland.