The MarGood Harbor Park Ribbon Cutting Ceremony, held March 15th at 10:00 AM, was much different than I had expected. Mostly because I’ve never been to a ribbon cutting ceremony before. But also because I didn’t realize how emotional it would be, on so many levels, for me and many others in attendance.
As I arrived, I couldn’t help but remember the first time I had been to MarGood. It was 2004, one of the last years the RV park was in operation. Fresh out of college, I came to Marco Island for a job interview, accompanied by my father. We stayed at the Hilton, I got the job, and we went to Goodland on a Sunday. MarGood was like nothing I had ever seen. The walkway along the inlet leading to Chuckle’s Chickee Bar was lined with mobile homes of all varieties. Each home was a sight to behold, all being decorated with the owner’s own, personal old-Florida flair.
We had beer and shelled peanuts at Chuckle’s where it was more than acceptable to throw our empty shells on the floor. Captain, the parrot, was perched under his own personal chickee hut as live music was enjoyed by all.
We perused the main building, checking out all the unique artifacts inside and laughing at the sayings on the t-shirts that covered the cathedral ceiling. It was truly like no place I had ever been.
By the time I moved to Goodland, MarGood RV Park had been purchased by the county and was to become “MarGood Harbor Park.” At that time the more or less untouched 2.5 acre piece of property was enjoyed by Goodlanders regardless of its “imperfections.” Then, in July of 2011, it was abruptly fenced off and the park was officially under renovation. With a view of the park from my home, I watched it progress and was quite surprised with some of the changes.
Today, the park is very green. There’s lots of new foliage, fresh sod and the beautiful old rubber tree still stands at the base of the inlet. There’s volleyball, bocce ball, a horseshoe pit, canoe and kayak launches, a playground, two gazebos, picnic tables and a pathway that runs throughout the park.
The historical building has been modified, but will eventually serve as a “museum,” as it will once again be filled with artifacts that were originally on display as well as new additions. The intent is to share Goodland’s history with visitors. Marla Ramsey, Public Services Administrator, shared some of the history of Goodland, and more specifically MarGood. “Like any good mystery, this park has a lot of unknowns. It is located within the Goodland Point “midden.” A strange word, but when I looked it up, it means trash heap, or in today’s terminology, landfill. Yes, we are standing on a trash heap, a very old trash heap. A recent archaeological assessment revealed that this site was inhabited by native peoples as long ago as 600 or even 1,000 years ago.”
Not until the late 1940’s did land begin to go up for sale in Goodland. Much of what is MarGood Harbor Park now, was originally purchased by Rex and Ruby Johnson, who turned the building into a movie theater. Later on, the land was purchased by Elhanon and Sandy Combs, who turned MarGood into what I had originally seen. Both Elhanon and Sandy came to the dedication and also shared their thoughts.
In Sandy’s words, “I feel like I’m in Disney World or something. First of all, I didn’t ever think we would see this day come. I would like to thank the Goodland community for all your help and support of MarGood Resort. This was not our intention. It was our intent to preserve a little bit of history within the historical village of Goodland. This is like they tore the heart out of Goodland and replaced it with an artificial heart. Perhaps when they get the museum open it will bring some of the history back to Goodland so everyone can enjoy. It’s certainly better than condos. It’s been a pleasure working with the Parks and Recreation staff. Our hearts will always be a part of Goodland. Thank you.”
Elhanon then discussed his concerns regarding archaeological finds. “Staff members promised me about 20 years ago to get this little bay cleaned out, and the two canals down at the other end (of the island) cleaned out. I think we’d find a lot of artifacts.” He later continued, “I still don’t know how old Goodland is. I think with the crowd we have gathered now, somebody should take an interest to dig in certain areas… to save this little bay, just clean it out, and the two waterways, you’ll find shells in there that can tell us how old we are. I just hate to see this history lost. I hope everyone in the county is listening and will try to help.”
His statement was followed with long applause from the full crowd in attendance. Consisting of mostly Goodland residents, mixed emotions came from many. I was offered photos of what MarGood used to look like for this article and how beautiful it “used to be.” While I would have loved to have them, time did not permit.
Goodland Civic Association President, Joanie Fuller, made an excellent point stating, “the park does a great job of linking both sides of the island.” Living on the east end of Goodland, I can agree. I now have a very charming walk to and from the post office or work.
The county has deemed MarGood Harbor Park as an historically relevant piece of land. “There’s an artesian well, there’s a cistern, there’s one of the largest rubber trees I have ever seen,” Ramsey added during her speech, emphasizing the relevance of MarGood. There are also four historic cottages that remain and will eventually be refurbished. Also, there are a number of documented archaeological digs within the MarGood area. This is a relevant point, as many of the artifacts found during these digs should one day be seen in the museum, according to Ramsey’s speech.
I certainly can’t speak for everyone, but I do feel I have been in Goodland long enough to know one thing: the people of Goodland love their island and they love the historical value this land holds. And that’s all I can say…
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.