Coastal Breeze News » Coastal Comments Fri, 25 Jul 2014 16:17:08 +0000 en-US hourly 1 COASTAL COMMENTS Tue, 22 Jul 2014 15:48:26 +0000 Donna Fiala

Donna Fiala

Donna Fiala

What a gorgeous Marco night for the 4th of July fireworks! The breeze was beautiful; the sky was clear; the air was cool; and not a drop of rain interrupted the event. Friends from Physician’s Regional Marco Clinic Dr. Carlos and Jenny Portu and their two daughters; Dr. James Klein and family; along with Marco Island residents Bonnie and John Geraghty, Joe and Kathy Swaja, Bill and Kathy Walsh, Joyce Pastore, Kira Walthour, and some of the out of state Barcic Clan, and Rob, Opal and Jordan Vann, all got together at Shirlee and Brian Barcic’s to enjoy a perfect night of food, fellowship and fireworks together.

* The Marco Island Center for the Arts seems to be moving along in the right direction, and at a very good pace under the direction of Hyla Crane and the guidance and support of Rosemary Wick (who seems to be there whenever you call). Rosemary excitedly explained how they are moving forward with their plans to grow and work more closely with the community members and groups. She was so proud of their advances. Hyla took me on a little tour to see the activities the children have been involved with this summer. She was thrilled with their progress. Children are so creative, especially when they are young and free to enjoy all the wonders of the world, while their imaginations are still uninterrupted by society. Please stop by to reacquaint yourself with this fine Center for the Arts.

* One of the highlights of this month was the presentation by Craig Woodward at the Marco Island Historical Society-Rose History Auditorium. I had no idea they could pack that many people in that auditorium! And, it was July 1! That means it was out of season, and more than 180 people sat spell-bound enjoying the movies of the way Marco Island looked in the 60s, then the 70s, then the 80s. They giggled when they recognized some of the Marco Old Timers who are still here, and some who were even in the audience! (Laurie Wagor – you are just as cute now as you were then!) The dress was more formal in those days. The houses much smaller. The beaches had fewer visitors. But even then, everyone knew they were in Paradise! After the movies, Craig explained to the huge audience all the plans in place as Marco Island plans for their 50th anniversary, and the Museum plans for its 20th anniversary. This coming year should be even better than the last few years, with more celebrations than we’ve ever had, plus the museum will be adding new exhibits and decorations. This is an exciting time to join the Historical Society in case you’ve been meaning to and haven’t gotten around to it. NOW is the time! Become a part of the family. It’s so much fun to feel like you belong!

* The traffic is still moving smoothly through that huge intersection improvement project at 951/41. It is amazing how well coordinated this construction is proceeding. There was a lot of pre-planning that must have taken place to have the Sheriff’s office available at night and while they work on the weekends to guide the passage and eliminate accidents. Usually I am one of the first ones to hear any complaints, but I haven’t heard of any problems to date. And when you think about it, there are three projects all proceeding simultaneously – the intersection itself, the widening of U.S. 41 E to 6 lanes, and the resurfacing of SR 951 through Fiddler’s Creek. Amazing, just amazing! And this is one of the busiest “out of seasons” I can remember! There are still lots of business and shoppers, lots of people eating out, lots of cars, and lots of fun. So now, go and enjoy our wonderful part of this world this summer!


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COASTAL COMMENTS Fri, 27 Jun 2014 12:59:22 +0000 Donna Fiala

Last week, during a meeting with people from the fuel industry, I questioned whether all this oil that everyone seems to be drilling for is sent out of the country for other counties to use. They said something about sending the Florida oil to refineries. “That wasn’t the question,” I stated. “Does it stay here, or is it sent to foreign countries?” They said it all stays here. I felt a little uneasy about their answer because I’ve heard just the opposite, but took them at their word.

My question now is: We continue to hear about all the horrible deaths and destruction in the oil countries in the Middle East, and then OUR fuel prices go up! Now I ask you, why is that if we do not buy from other countries? If the oil in the USA is enough to supply our country for 20 years, why are we paying higher prices because of problems in the oil countries? And, why are we told not to buy at certain gasoline stations because they sell foreign oil from countries we do not want to support if we supply our own oil? Something smells very much like…an oily answer. We all know it is about the almighty dollar — nothing more — and we receive very distorted information, depending on what the question is.

* Lely High School has again been dynamic this school year! They are an “A” school once again, plus three Golden Apple teachers! They are offering a combination of high school and college classes, and the students are excelling! Being that they were always considered one of “those schools,” it makes me proud to see the outstanding education these fine young students are receiving and overcoming how others view them. These young people tell me they feel like a FAMILY at Lely.

* After a little visit recently to the Marco Island History Museum, I came away totally impressed. There were so many people just lingering around, reading the information, looking in the gift shop, going back in history. It was June, when the winter guests and tourist had gone back up north, and there must have been at least 20 cars in the parking lot — and during the day no less! Impressive indeed!

The new Curator of Collections Austin Bell is doing a tremendous job of getting the collections in order and preparing for the 50th anniversary celebration of Marco Island. The volunteers were all so pleasant, helpful and very proud of their little piece of history. Next week, July 1, Craig Woodward will be presenting a lecture on our history. When he talks, you feel like you are walking hand-in-hand with him back in time. The presentation begins at 7 PM in the Rose Auditorium, adjacent to MIHM. Please come and join us! They even serve a little refreshment in case you might feel parched.

  • Last week, Lou and Linda Van Meter took me for a boat ride on their skiff to see the islands around Goodland and the surrounding area. We watched the shore birds resting and nesting — what a beautiful sight. The areas were all blocked off, and all in the areas were respectful of those yellow tapes. Lou pointed out different fish and a Manatee; we saw the “Dome Houses” with clusters of people around them fishing, investigating and just enjoying a family day together. We sat quietly on the beach and watched the water. How often do any of us take the time to just sit back, relax and enjoy Mother Nature? Thanks to Lou and Linda, I did!

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Coastal Comments Fri, 13 Jun 2014 12:07:31 +0000 Donna Fiala

On Friday, June 6, at 10 AM, a D-Day 70th Anniversary Observance was held at Hodges University. The Collier County Sheriff’s Color Guard posted the Colors, and Megan Cook sang the National Anthem beautifully. Dr. Peter Thomas — 2004 Humanitarian of the Year — gave a stirring remembrance of what happened on that terrible day in Normandy when our soldiers landed at Omaha Beach. He mentioned Bedford Biles as one of the people he so greatly admired and remembered. Hopefully, Fay reads this column, and finds her wonderful husband was remembered this morning by the great Peter Thomas in front of many veteran’s from World War II who were in the audience. I felt so proud to have known Bedford and happy that Fay is still my friend.

• In case you are not aware of how very special the Greater Marco Family YMCA is in the lives of East Naples children, let me tell you of years of outreach provided to these children of lesser means to provide after-school and summer programs through grants they received from organizations such as the Winter Wine Festival, state grants, etc.

In East Naples — where there are at least four whole villages of Habitat children, plus Naples Manor, Whistler’s Cove, six elementary schools, two middle schools and many more children in mobile home parks — there is a park named Eagle Lakes Community Park that has terrific ball fields and a nice playground, but was never completed with a community center. It is the only community park in Collier County with NO community center, so these little children had no place to go after school nor in the summer, other than to hang out in neighborhoods.

The YMCA saw the need, contacted the county Parks and Recreation Department and the schools in the area, and offered to conduct after-school and summer programs. They were even able to find transportation for a few of these kids to be driven to the Marco Y pool to swim and play. In most cases, these children had never been in a pool before, and some had never SEEN a pool.

The county is now embarking on building that much-needed community center at Eagle Lakes Community Park, which will be a blessing to the children and also to the adults in the community. They’ll offer Zumba, line dancing, a fitness center (presently there is no park in E.N. with a fitness center) and classes of all kinds. The YMCA has already offered to help in any way they can with the children’s programs if the county needs them. The Marco Y is an organization we can all be very proud of.

• A concern of mine is the new Racetrac Gas Station, Truck Stop, and Convenience store that will be built on the corner of Collier Boulevard and Manatee Road. Racetrac is a 24-hour operation with very bright lights and all-night deliveries, and they will be building right up to the property line of the over-55 mobile home park and across the street from the Shell Station and convenience store. The land is already zoned for this use, so they didn’t need any permits or approvals. I pray that they will take into consideration their impact on the residents’ right behind them by building a very high wall and installing thick landscaping, shields on their lights at night, etc. The county was not given the opportunity to offer input to protect those people in the mobile home park. Keep watching as they begin to build. They can build a smaller, more neighborly station if they so desire, but have no plans to do so. We’ll see what happens.

• The construction at the intersection of Collier Boulevard/U.S. 41 East — as well as the widening of U.S. 41 East east of the intersection — has been moving along very well. With the mounds of dirt, fill and debris, the digging, the equipment, the construction workers and all that it takes to construct two roads at the same time going in different directions, the movement of traffic has been fantastic! It’s seldom we are even slowed down, we just move along steadily. It’s very impressive indeed!

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COASTAL COMMENTS Sun, 01 Jun 2014 13:07:55 +0000 Donna Fiala

A Public Hearing will be held on July 10 at the Capri Community Center (time is not certain at this time) to ask any questions regarding the future of the Isle of Capri Fire-Rescue Department. The final fire district vote will take place on August 26, and you will want to get all the information you need to prepare for the vote. Ask any questions and receive answers so that you will be comfortable with your decision when you vote. If you will be out of town and haven’t registered for an absentee ballot yet, please do so soon. This vote is a game changer, and you’ll want to be a part of it.

• You have probably heard about the Smallwood Store in Chokoloskee recently. This is one of the local historical buildings that still remain in our county. It’s more than 100 years old, and visitors and tourists still enjoy shopping and exploring there. There has been an old road leading to it that people have used all these years. A developer bought the property leading up to the store and then blocked the road off, thus no one could get to the store. Some could not even get to their nearby homes. The new owners were required to remove the fencing, but for many weeks beforehand, the store owners could not entertain any tourists nor sell any products. Once the fencing was taken down, the property was neglected and allowed to grow into disrepair.

On that property, by the way, is an old Indian mound with many artifacts that needed to be preserved. Before any debris or this historical material for preservation can be removed, an archaeologist must be present to observe and inspect. A county investigator observed the overgrown condition and notified the property owner’s representative to apply for a vegetation removal permit to clean up all the debris and overgrowth, but from what I’ve been advised, no archaeologist was present, and they completely graded the property including the Indian mound. Now all is lost. Many times over the years, developers have removed trees or mounds, and then paid a small fee when they were caught. Nothing replaces those Indian mounds or the history that has been destroyed. The people in Chokoloskee and Everglades City are sick about the loss of these artifacts from our past.

• How many of you have ever been to Copeland? It’s near Everglades City on Rt. 29 heading north from U.S. 41 E. Copeland happens to be in my Commission District. It only has about 87 homes but about 70 percent unemployment. They don’t even have postal delivery; they must drive to Everglades City for their mail. Many do not have a car, so they cannot even drive to find a job. I met with them recently, and they were so friendly and kind. Some of the ladies have lived there for more than 50 years. These ladies are really old timers, and as charming and delightful as they can be. One of the needs of this community is some sort of bus shelter for their kids who are waiting for a school bus. I have located a couple of older ones that were destined for the landfill, but two cement pads will need to be installed before the shelters can be fastened down. I really wish there were a church or organization that might help us pour the cement, pick these shelters up, deliver and install them. This is one community who could benefit from any little help that is given them. If you would like to find out a little more about this community and how you can help, just let me know. I’d be happy to connect you with the right people. They have a tiny but lovely Baptist Church where everyone can worship and where we meet to talk.

• Recently, the good folks at the FDOT were kind enough to ride with me along SR 951/Collier Boulevard to experience the pavement conditions for themselves. They are planning on resurfacing the northern section of the road during the expansion of the intersection, so I mentioned the “washboard” feeling when driving farther south. They got back to me recently to say that this older section of the road shows no raveling or pot holes, but they will keep their eye on this area. “At some point in the future, we’ll need to resurface this segment of SR 951, but we anticipate some years of service still in the existing pavement.” Some of you have mentioned this rolling ride, so I wanted you to know I followed up on it.

]]> 0 COASTAL COMMENTS Fri, 16 May 2014 15:48:19 +0000 Donna Fiala

It was wonderful to get the message from Barry Gerenstein of VeronaWalk that their community had won the prestigious “Communities of Excellence” award in multiple categories. Three-thousand communities entered the competition this year. Property Manager Lynn Ross was named “Property Manager of the Year.” What an honor to be chosen over 3,000 other property managers — although I’m guessing that each entry also contained a property manager nomination in that 3,000 figure. VeronaWalk was awarded the “Energy Efficiency” award, the “Safety and Security Initiatives” award and the “Community of the Year” award!

Gerenstein, a resident and member of the “Team of the Year” — VeronaWalk Safety Committee and the CERT Response Team — and cheerleader extraordinaire for VeronaWalk, went to Orlando with the Ross to accept their numerous awards. Congratulations to all the residents of VeronaWalk! I’m sure you are very proud of your community, and I am particularly proud that you are in my district!

• Along with the huge road improvement project at 951/41, there is a swale maintenance program taking place simultaneously this year on Capri Boulevard from address 219 to 300, Riverwood Road, Sandy Lane, Twin Palms Drive, Pine Street, Porter Street and Manatee Road from Collier Boulevard to Beverly Drive. Swales completed are Henderson Drive, Derhenson Drive, Sonderhen Drive, Sonderhen Circle and Creek Circle.

• First, let me explain briefly that an MSBU is a way for a community to collect money through the county on their own tax bill to pay for a much needed but expensive project. All owners are taxed, but NO ONE OUTSIDE OF THE MSBU DISTRICT LINES ARE EVER TAXED. In other words, no taxpayers outside of the MSBU are responsible to pay the bill. If they somehow default, the county has a lien on their property, and can sell it to recover the remainder of the loan.

• Sadly, the intensity of the fight between one portion of LaPeninsula (on Isles of Capri) against the other continues to rage on. There is no compromise that is acceptable to enable people to work out an amicable solution, no way to come together to save face, and I personally feel that it will be difficult for that community to come together again. The facts have been misconstrued on both sides. The information given from one side to the other has been embellished upon, neglected to be given, or word smithed to say something completely different than the original information. It’s things like this that destroy communities. Many never recover, and the word DOES get out. Some people seem to actually be obsessed about winning at all costs. I’ve always been able to bring communities together, open a door to negotiation, and find a conclusion that all can live with — but not in this case.

• The good thing is that Isles of Capri, as a whole, doesn’t seem to be affected by it. There are still the same wonderful people who enjoy each other’s company, participate in pot-lucks, fish together, go to church together and share information community-wide through their “CoconutTele” e-mail network (thanks so much to Ann Hall and all the participating residents) plus pictures posted by Jim Hughes, who keeps everyone in the know (he has the most wonderful pictures of nature, birds, flowers, fish, people, sewers being installed, etc.) as well as other information like a dog missing or a floating device found. These are the traits of a beautiful community working together for the benefit of all. I like to end a subject on a positive note.

• Recently, I spent part of a day in Everglades City with a friend of mine, Marya Repko, a historian who writes about the history of our area. Later, we were joined by Patty Huff, who writes “The Mullet Rapper.” We took a tour of Chokoloskee and the Smallwood Store. I remember the Smallwood Store way back when I moved here 40 years ago! It doesn’t look much different now. We also toured through the Museum of the Everglades and City Hall. Marya suggested I take a tour of the The Fakahatchee Strand Swamp, the largest Strand Swamp in the world encompassing approximately 100 square miles, (which I proceeded to do at another time) and right at our doorstep! It ends at the Marco Airport and begins at I-75.

• I hope every Mom had a wonderful Mother’s Day and that your kids showered you with love!

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COASTAL COMMENTS Fri, 02 May 2014 15:25:31 +0000 Donna Fiala

Recently, a group of 16 people joined me to take a tram trip through parts of the Fakahatchee Strand State Park. Most of these interested people were from Marco Island I’m proud to say. We were amazed to learn so much about an area we really knew nothing about.

Fakahatchee is the largest state park in Florida. It stretches about 100 square miles starting along Alligator Alley, approximately one mile east of Collier Blvd. to SR-29, crossing over US-41E and all the way to the Marco Island Airport! I never realized we were looking at a state park when we would drive to Goodland or Everglades City by way of US-41E. Within the park grows the rare Ghost Orchid and more native orchid species than anywhere else in the U.S.A.! Who would have guessed?

Our tour guides, Tom Maish and Naturalist Glen Stacell answered all of our questions and provided more information than we ever knew existed within this beautiful, pristine strand. The Friends of Fakahatchee provide official swamp walks through the waters of the Fakahatchee Strand, offering a chance to get up close and personal to a fabulous array of orchids and bromeliads. Be prepared to get wet, because you can’t do it staying dry.

The “Friends” offer other opportunities such as the naturalist-led Ghost Rider tram tour telling you how the Fakahatchee swamp recharges groundwater supplies, moderates the climate and provides food and habitat for native wildlife. It is the main drainage slough of the southwestern Big Cypress Swamp, the home of the largest stand of royal palms in North America and one of the last remaining stands of old growth Bald Cypress, many of them hundreds of years old. A major portion of the Strand, a narrow forested swamp about 20 miles long and three to five miles wide, lies within the state park. For more information see:

*There are many people from the Midwest in Collier, hailing from Wisconsin and Michigan, home of Culver’s Ice Cream. When we Ohioans heard about this terrific place and that Culver’s wanted to build four restaurants in Collier County, we all got to work and sent letters requesting that they come to our section of town where many Midwesterners live. We were thrilled to see the Culver’s sign go up, but shortly had to come down because of low property elevation.

We were worried we had lost them, but are delighted to see the Culver’s sign go up on the newest shopping center being built adjacent to the new development of Isles of Collier Preserve, the extension of Hammock Cove. You’ll know them best by Foxboro, Brunina’s and Publix. This shopping area will be bustling with activity very soon! We know they will be well received!

*Recently I was invited to speak to the Marco Island Men’s Club. I really enjoy this group of well-informed community leaders. One of the questions they asked was about concerns regarding the water requirements for the oil drilling project in Golden Gate Estates Mr. Charles Kracht e-mailed me to ask about my answer, which I misstated and need to update, as I was unclear about the results at that time.

The DEP had asked for the opinion from the Big Cypress Swamp Advisory Panel, which responded by holding several days of hearings on the matter at the request of the DEP, and ultimately recommended denial of the Estates oil well permit. This recommendation was advisory only, and the DEP decided to uphold its previous decision to grant the permit. Thank you so much, Mr. Kracht, for bringing this to my attention and allowing me to amend my statement. Many of us are displeased with the disregard the Hughes Oil Company has shown our residents.

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COASTAL COMMENTS Wed, 23 Apr 2014 13:56:32 +0000 Donna Fiala

There are always good things to mention in this column. Recently, I went to Tallahassee to represent Collier County at the Florida Association of Counties Legislation Week. I am on the board of directors for the FAC. While there, I called on a number of our local legislators to tell them of our county’s concerns and priorities.

One of the items especially important to Marco Island is the beach and continued renourishment dollars. The county’s Coastal Management Director, Gary McAlpin, had requested state dollars to help with funding needed for renourishment. While in Tallahassee I happened to notice that for some reason the Marco Island South Beach portion had been split off and moved farther down the list for funding. I quickly called upon Rep. Kathleen Passidomo and Senator Garrett Richter with my concerns. They promised that they would work on it and follow it closely. When I left Tallahassee I noticed it was back on the funding list in a much better position. The Representative and Senator will continue to keep their eye on the funding as it moves from the House to the Senate. When we know more I will keep you informed. As you well know, Rep. Passidomo has a special place in her heart for Marco Island, so we can be assured she will keep a watchful eye on the issue.

*Another newsworthy item that I have been working on is asking our median landscaping department if they would please request grant money from the FDOT to do the next portion of SR-951. FDOT has awarded us grants in the past, except during the economic downturn, so I was hoping their financial situation was improved enough to ask for another grant. The grant has been submitted to cover all the portions left without landscaping, from Capri Road all the way to Fiddler’s Creek. Hopefully, that grant will be approved and the county (who will contract out the job) will be able to move forward with the next phase. Again, I will let you know through this Coastal Breeze column.

*And now, for the fun part of the column. I’d like to tell you about the Crab Claw Dinner hosted by the Marco Island Kiwanis Club. There is a group of worker bees amongst them that are always working on fun events, always with smiles on their faces, and always making each and every event better than the last. Then there is a group of helper bees who also work very hard and come to almost every event to work and assist the worker bees. In fact, I don’t know of a member who isn’t part of one of these two groups. I guess that is why, no matter what this Kiwanis Club does for the community, there is fun and laughter involved with a lot of camaraderie. It’s all about friendship and a true spirit of giving. You know… you ought to stop by for a visit to the club! They meet every Thursday morning at 7:30 a.m. at Stonewall’s on S. Collier Blvd. The food is great, the service is superb, the atmosphere is lively, the meetings are fun and the people are the salt of the earth.

*Recently, we hosted our last tour for this season at the Conservancy. We learned so many interesting things as we traveled through each department. The newly expanded Conservancy had so much information about our environment, animals, sea life, protected species, plants and more. We had 40 people in our group, and many had never been to the Conservancy before. We all learned so much that we felt a need to go back to visit again and again to take it all in. We saw where they keep animals in recovery before returning them into the wild. If you are looking for something to do, now that most of the season activities have concluded, visit the Conservancy. You’ll be glad you did.

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COASTAL COMMENTS Wed, 09 Apr 2014 17:50:50 +0000 Donna Fiala

Another veteran has passed on to a better place. He was our own Walter Tucker — whom I considered one of my very special friends. Sadly, I didn’t know of his funeral until after it had taken place, as I was in Tallahassee when the obit was in the paper, or at least I assume it was in the paper. Walter was one of the few survivors left from Pearl Harbor. Even in his 90s, he never forgot a thing. He was always willing to offer a helping hand to his friends, and was as feisty as ever. I really loved the guy! He had 15 children that he cherished and adored. I felt fortunate to have met a few of them. His wonderful wife passed-on a couple years ago, which left a big emptiness in his heart. Walter had many stories, and he would entertain you with them at the first asking. What a great guy! Rest in peace, my friend.

• A short time ago while driving to Goodland, I noticed that the “osprey discs” were removed from the electric poles they sat on for such a long time. I used to love watching Mr. and Mrs. Osprey prepare their nest, and then greet their new family, feeding them constantly as they grew. It was fun watching the new little ones peer over the edge to see what the outside world was all about. I checked with Brad Cornell from Collier County Audubon, who then checked with Nancy Richie, Marco Island’s environmental specialist, and she confirmed that LCEC had removed the discs for pole equipment and maintenance. No news yet on their status or if they will be reinstalled.

• There is a lot of talk right now about the expansion of the intersection at 951/41 and new things that are coming our way. I hope you’ve noticed that east of the intersection U.S. 41 East is being expanded to six lanes to Joseph Lane and then to four lanes to Greenway Road, where it will drop back to two lanes. Lots of activity in that corridor, but so far the construction hasn’t held anything up to a great extent. The construction plans include bike lanes and sidewalks on all quadrants of U.S. 41 and Collier Boulevard. A 10-foot wide pathway for bikers and walkers is being planned on the east side of Collier Boulevard that connects to U.S. 41 E.

The intersection improvement will NOT contain an overpass at this point, in case you were wondering. It is designed and will be built to accommodate an overpass in the future. Thanks to careful planning, the taxpayers are saving a great deal of money that would have been spent tearing up this road when the overpass is installed. Thanks to all that made that happen! You know who you are. There will also be a resurfacing project on Collier Boulevard south of Fiddler’s Creek Parkway to south of U.S. 41 East. (I really wish the FDOT would go all the way up to Mainsail Drive and eliminate the “washboard” effect we now experience each time we drive it.)

• While talking about that intersection, I understand that Kite Realty is moving forward with plans to have Panera Bread build on their last out-parcel in the Shoppes of Eagle Creek, in front of the Fresh Market along the sidewalk area. I am sure there are many people who will be happy to read that news! In the same shopping center, where Maria’s Restaurant was located near Hoot’s, a new restaurant will be taking its place. It is called Burger Fi! I had never heard of them before, but some of my friends from the east coast are saying they are located in many areas there and are very popular. I love a good hamburger, so I’m looking forward to welcoming them. Their sign is already up, but the last time I checked, there was no activity. They are probably waiting until the end of season to build so they’ll be ready for the fall seasonal rush.

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COASTAL COMMENTS Mon, 24 Mar 2014 01:42:46 +0000 Donna Fiala

We have some “stars” amongst us! We’ve known for a number of years that Mr. and Mrs. Jon Ladig were “angels amongst us” as they stepped forward to make our Marco Island museum a reality, and they continued to support and encourage the museum every step of the way, attending most of the functions and befriending everyone they met. Now, they also have been recognized as “Stars in the Arts” by the United Arts Council of Collier County. They received accolades and praise at the Stars in the Arts Annual Awards Luncheon. Many Marco Islanders attended the luncheon to support and congratulate Jon and Sonia Ladig as they received this prestigious award. We are so proud of this wonderful couple!

• The St. Paddy’s Day Parade on Marco Island was graced by perfect weather on Sunday, March 9 – although the pine pollen was there plaguing a few of us like me. I sat on the top of a red convertible sneezing, blowing my nose and wiping my eyes the entire way. Quite a sight to behold, for sure. For those of us who suffer with allergies, we have to stay indoors as much as we can, keep the windows closed and the A/C on rather than throw open the windows and doors and let this gorgeous weather gently flow through our house.

The pine pollen is the worst I’ve seen in many, many years. In fact, the last time I remember it this bad was in 1975! But, really, how can I complain? It is better than snow, ice, stalled cars, shoveling snow, furnace heat and expense, etc. Give me allergies any day of the week rather than winter weather. As I peer out at our winter residents and visitors, I welcome them, knowing it is much better for them to enjoy our weather rather than trying to make it through another frigid winter. Let’s face it. Most of us moved here from some place that had winter weather, and we want to stay and enjoy our wonderful paradise as much and for as long as we can. Some go back in the summer to be with family and summer weather; some prefer to just stay here permanently. Yes, the roads, stores and restaurants get a little crowded, but that judgement is by our county’s standards. Compare it to New York, Boston, Cleveland, Pittsburgh or Miami, and it’s not crowded at all! Remember to look on the bright side. It makes life so much happier, and by the way — Mike Ward, our Parade Grand Marshall — looked like a movie star with a winning smile! What a great guy! The parade went off beautifully, as only Kathleen Reynolds can do, and we all enjoyed the festivities afterward.

• Goodland had their second Pancake Breakfast of the year recently. As usual, the pancakes were delicious, and the sausages were out of this world good! It’s always delightful to socialize with the salt-of-the-earth Goodland residents. Did you realize there are three marinas and a boat park all located on this tiny island? And for such a tiny island, they have quite a few restaurants as well! You feel like you just stepped back in time to another year, another way of life. Stan’s is busier than they have ever been. It’s been a great year for business — a year of recovery for sure.

• Good news! The U.S. House and Senate have both passed the “Homeowner Flood Insurance Affordability Act.” Once signed by the President, this bill will reinstate grandfathering, meaning all post-FIRM properties built to code will have protection from rate spikes due to new mapping. The grandfathering will stay with the property, not the policy. The bill will prevent FEMA from increasing premiums within a single property class by 15 percent and an individual cap of 18 percent a year. Other changes include a permanent removal of the sales trigger, allows for payments to be made in monthly installments, applies an annual surcharge of $25 for primary residencies until subsidized policies reach full risk rates and much more.

That’s all for now, folks!

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COASTAL COMMENTS Mon, 10 Mar 2014 14:45:03 +0000 Donna Fiala

A8-CBN-3-7-14-5A special thank you to Tony Voight. His business is always the first company to sponsor the Gulf Coast Little League each year! The coaches were kind enough to invite me to throw the first ball for this season. It was a wonderful ceremony with kids of all ages from 4 to 14! Families were everywhere, supporting and encouraging their players. Marco Island is also a part of this group, and who was right there, up front? It was Bill Morris, a prominent attorney on Marco Island, with his little one.

When the coaches contacted me last year to explain some of the problems they were dealing with, the people in the County Parks and Recreation Department and I started meeting with them and getting others involved, such as the East Naples Fire Department, engineers, architects, etc. The county worked closely with the leaders of the Gulf Coast Little League to upgrade the parking, the fields, the street safety, flashing lights, etc. The finished product looks great! Yes, there will always be more to accomplish, but at least people can cross the street safely now, find parking closer to the field after we made some adjustments with the neighboring fire department, and enjoy newly graded fields.

My goodness, I remember when my two youngest played T-ball and Little League at this same field back in the 70s! The Gulf Coast Little League is now celebrating its 54th year in operation. These 23 teams are comprised of kids from Marco, Capri, East Naples and Golden Gate, and parents and grandparents flock there to watch the games. One of the coaches used to play T-ball with two of my sons, and now he is a coach! Very heart-warming indeed.

• One of the concerns I’ve heard recently voiced at my two town hall meetings was about all the new growth and will East Naples look like North Naples? There is a big difference here at this end of town. We border the Everglades, and there are hundreds of thousands of acres in preservation forever. Even close in, there is the Picayune Strand, the Fakahatchee Forest (the home of the most orchid species in the country), Rookery Bay, Collier Seminole State Park and Big Cypress National Preserve. Also, because of the location, there are thousands of acres of wetlands that must be preserved. Plus, it is home to the panthers, bears and birds that must be protected forever. The north end of Collier County has a different topography, although they also have a huge watershed that is protected. If you could see a map of all the lands in preservation, it would amaze you. More than 81 percent of the landmass in Collier County is preserved — FOREVER. Some is owned by the U.S government, some by the state of Florida, some by the County and some by environmental groups. It also means that new developments cannot build as extensively as was done in the past, including high rises. That equates to less population. None of us can blame people for wanting to vacation down here or live part time down here, and eventually many move here. Let’s face it, most of us did the same thing. It’s like living in paradise, and we want to keep it that way. Next month I will be taking a tour of the Fakahatchee, home of the Ghost Orchid, with a few volunteers and rangers. Maybe next year I will include that in my list of tours offered to our residents.

• With rooftops finally coming to this section of the County, we should see services such as restaurants and retail shops beginning to pop up. That will be a blessing for those who have not had that luxury before and an asset for those who are looking for more of these services. By the way, a little tip for those who are contemplating opening a business in that area: With many buildings sitting idle for years, if you decide to buy or lease one of them, there are no impact fees to pay. That is right. On buildings three years old or older, no impact fees are charged, which gives the owner the advantage of using those dollars for upgrades and improvements to the facility! Tell your friends!

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COASTAL COMMENTS Sat, 22 Feb 2014 02:01:45 +0000 Donna Fiala

The Mackle Park issue is buzzing around the Island, but I usually do not give my opinions on anything the city is dealing with. But with Parks, I have such a strong opinion and such a great love for our children and families that I would like to contribute my comments.

As you know, I live in East Naples and have for 40 years. We were usually on the losing end of receiving things that others had in their section of town (but that is now changing). The playground the county built in East Naples in 1987 — Naples Community Center — was built without outdoor lights, no picnic tables, no park benches, no ball fields, not even a playground!

This park was in the heart of all the low-income families who had no playground equipment in their own back yards, so the children had no safe place to play. The families had no transportation to take their children to other parks where there were ball fields, swimming pools, wonderful playgrounds, etc. What did these kids do? They hung around on street corners! (By the way, that has changed, and the park now has quite a few things to play on and lights and picnic tables.)

In 1997, a second community park was built — Eagle Lakes Community Park — right on U.S. 41 inbetween Naples Manor and Lely Resort. The county built terrific ball fields for soccer, baseball, basketball, etc, but it didn’t build a community center. There were no employees stationed there! It had the distinction of being the only community park without a community center in Collier County, so there were no after school programs, no summer programs, no summer camps. Again, what do these kids do? Hang around street corners or try to find someplace to play. Thank heavens the Greater Marco Family YMCA stepped in and transported some of the kids to Marco Island to play in their pool and participate in summer programs or after school programs. They even offered them food when needed.

I tell you all of this because I want to emphasize how important parks are in the life of our youth (as well as adults and seniors)! In another decade, these youth will be guiding our future, our community. We want to make sure they have the proper tools to grow up in a healthy, safe environment. I’ve heard a few naysayers say they have no kids or they don’t use the parks, so why should they approve them? Well, that’s like saying I have no kids in school so I don’t want to pay school taxes. It’s a combined, community effort to continue to be the best place anyone could ever live! Mackle Park needs to be a shining example of how we can help our children grow to be productive, healthy, vibrant adults. So as you can see, if I had a vote, it would definitely be YES!

* It was a glorious day for the Goodland Boat Parade on Feb. 15: 75 degrees, no humidity, sunny, slight breeze, high tide and an Island full of happy people there to enjoy the beautiful paradise we all call home. People were even parked on the Stan Gober Memorial Bridge to watch the parade of boats. There were hot dogs cookin’, prizes awarded, a 50-50 winner, trinkets and t-shirts sold, and a terrific band called Dieter’s (pronounced deeters) Blues Machine playing great music. They played lots of wonderful hits from the 60s and 70s with their singer, Darci, belting out the tunes with her great voice! As one of the judges, I get to enjoy all the boats with my able “sister of the Goodland Boat Parade,” Linda Van Meter. I just love this woman! Hopefully, many of you got to enjoy the day with the nice crowd.

* Just so you know, the Marco Island Kiwanis Club is always interested in welcoming new members to join them on Thursday mornings 7:30 at Stonewalls for a tasty breakfast and interesting speakers while we plan our various fund raisers that Islander’s seem to enjoy so much. The Car Show was held on Feb. 16. It is one of the biggest, if not THE biggest, car show in Collier County hosted annually by the friendly, energetic, generous Kiwanis Club. You are always welcome to come and enjoy a meeting, and if you like it, maybe you’ll join. Breakfast is $11. Bring some happy dollars as well.



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Coastal Comments Sat, 08 Feb 2014 02:32:32 +0000 Donna Fiala

It’s February — the month of love. Wouldn’t it be lovely if all through the month we treated each other with loving kindness and respect, and loved our neighbor as we love our friends? And make sure your family knows how much you love THEM! Happy Valentine’s Day! Don’t forget to treat your special Valentine with love and a little token of your devotion.

• You’ll love the Erich Kunzel Concert Series presented by the Bayshore Cultural and Performing Arts Center, which continues with their next program on Friday, Feb. 7, at 7 PM at Edison State College on Lely Cultural Boulevard. It’s an exciting evening of dance with performances from classical ballet with Naples Ballet, fast-stepping Celtic dance with Tir Na Nog Academy of Irish Dance, Argentine Tango with Pablo Repun and Vicky Sierra and theater-style belly dance. Naples Ballet students will present several excerpts from the ballet “Don Quixote.” Tir Na Nog dancers will perform “Piper’s Playground,” “Celtic Dream,” “We Want to Play,” “Ladies of the Dance” and more. Pablo Repun and dance partner Vicky Sierra will perform a tango program to include traditional tango selection “Gallo Ciego” and more. Professional belly dancer Inara combines grace and elegance with exotic mystery and excitement in her performances. Concert tickets are $20 for adults and $15 for students, and can be ordered at or by calling 239-775-2800.

• As a side note, Marci Seamples, a lady who grew up on Marco Island, has just been named executive director for the Bayshore CAPA group. Marci and Keith Dameron, vice president of Marco Island Iberia Bank, have met to help develop an expanding communications strategy. He has invited Bayshore CAPA to present a program in his “In the Round” series sometime in April.

• The next free Bayshore CAPA “Jazz on the Green” Concert will be held on Feb. 16 from 2-4PM on the Edison State College Campus on the green behind Building M. Stu Shelton brings an exciting and entertaining new jazz fusion sound to the “Jazz on the Green” stage. Stu’s new group incorporates musicians skilled and experienced across the spectrum of creative jazz. Blue Fusion’s repertoire will showcase these performers along with Stu’s technique, dexterity, inventiveness and sense of Latin, pop and funk. Concert goers should bring a blanket or lawn chair.

• I would like to offer a Town Hall Meeting to the people of Marco Island to discuss issues on Marco Island that are related to Collier County, as well as projects taking place on the other side of the bridge or on adjoining Islands that would be of interest to our residents and visitors. This year, the county will be represented by our Parks and Recreation Director Barry Williams; the Administrator for the Public Services Department Steve Carnell, who oversees parks, libraries, museums and more; County Manager Leo Ochs; newly appointed Hearing Examiner Mark Strain; and yours truly, Donna Fiala (we make a good team), who will speak about growth and land use issues. There is no charge for this presentation, which will be held at the Rose Hall Auditorium adjacent to the Marco Museum.

• The Marco Island Kiwanis Club will be offering their Annual Car Show again this year. This marvelous event is a favorite for all of the citizens on each side of the bridge. The event will be held at the Marco Island Healthcare Facility on Sunday, Feb. 16 at 10 AM. All cars being displayed should arrive by 8:30 AM. There is no cost to enter and show your car. There will be everything from antique cars to Corvettes to Ferrari’s to Maserati’s and more! While enjoying the experience of seeing these gorgeous cars, the Kiwanians will be cooking up a storm, so you can enjoy munching on a hamburger or hot dog and drinking a soft drink. There are prizes to be had, 50/50’s to be won, raffles to win, baked goods to buy and much more. Please put all these wonderful activities on your calendar now so you won’t forget.

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COASTAL COMMENTS Fri, 24 Jan 2014 20:54:49 +0000 Donna Fiala

Kudos to the third grade class at Tommie Barfield! These young people sang their hearts out at the Arbor Day presentation at Veterans Park. It was so cold I had to wear gloves, and these little ones didn’t seem the least bit bothered by the weather. They were so beautiful! Then, we were entertained by the band from Marco Island Charter Middle School. I couldn’t even imagine how they could move their fingers on their instruments, much less perform so beautifully! Three city councilors were there, and the new city manager, interim city manager, fire chief, chief of police and many more. We ended with planting a tree, as in the past, thanks to Affordable Landscape Service, while Steve Reynolds oversaw the sound system. It was such a nice event.

* One of my favorites at the beginning of each year is the Change of Watch with the U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary Flotilla 95. Arne Kelsey will be the Flotilla Commander for the coming year with Keith Wohltman the Vice Flotilla Commander. A lovely evening was had by all, speckled with lots of humor and friendship.

The Flotilla’s four main cornerstones of service to our community are: recreational boating safety, teaching all phases of safety to young and old; operations and marine safety, which includes security (being a part of the Homeland Security Department); environmental protection; and finally fellowship, which was loud and clear the entire evening. To drop a few names, Chief Randall Keller of the U.S. Coast Guard conducted the Oath of Office with Commander Walter Jaskiewicz as the master of ceremonies.

Do stop by the Flotilla’s office sometime and talk with them. The county offers them the “home” they use at Caxambus Park, and they maintain it as if it were their own. Hopefully soon the county will be able to replace the facility for a little larger unit.

As a side note, a project I am working on is called “Kids Don’t Float,” which should be announced on Feb. 5th. The program will provide life jackets on a loan basis at all beaches that have no lifeguards and are open to the public. A drowning at Sugden Park was the catalyst for this program with NCH Pediatrician Dr. Todd Vedder lead on the project. The Collier County Parks and Recreation Department designed and built the racks that will hold the life jackets, which will be provided free of charge and will remain at Tigertail and South Beach, along with Sugden and Loudermilk Park, round the clock for use by children and anyone who does not swim or who feels safer using a life jacket. Our own Flotilla will check on these life jackets regularly to make sure they are in safe condition and report back to us if a new one is needed for any reason.

* The Tarpon Club Marina on Isles of Capri was honored recently by the Florida Department of Environmental Protection for achieving the “Florida Clean Marina Designation.” The Marina is owned by Gulf Bay, and they have worked diligently to earn this award. Congratulations to all for earning this honor! You don’t see this award very often.

* As you probably know, Mamie Street has been saved from destruction, or at least it is safe for now. I’m sure this won’t be the last we hear from the company who blocked access for more than a year to Smallwood’s Store on Chokoloskee as well as to a resident’s home. The company has a lot of money and probably won’t accept the vote, but as it stands, the county commissioners voted unanimously to preserve the history of this legendary store by not vacating the road that leads to it. Stay tuned for further information as it becomes available.

* There is so much building taking place on the other side of the bridge that I’d like to tell you about, but I’d better wait until the next edition for that.

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COASTAL COMMENTS Wed, 15 Jan 2014 14:54:59 +0000 Donna Fiala

The holiday season is now behind us, and most of the lights have come down. It just doesn’t look as warm and friendly and happy as it did just a week ago…..and now it feels like we’re living up north it’s so cold and dismal. Luckily, we DO live here, and we can expect it to bounce back and be our beautiful paradise soon. Until then, I even have my heat on at home. Brrrr

*Some good things are taking place right over our bridge! Yup – the Outback is growing quickly. Hopefully, they’ll be finished before season is over. If you turn left on U.S. 41 E., go past the entrance into Carrabba’s and look right, you’ll see the Chase Bank and then a block building with some steel framing worked into the block. That’s the Outback! We’ll watch it grow together.

*The other night, I was invited by my close friends to dinner at Hideaway Beach. It was a wonderful night with lots of the nicest grandchildren everywhere, delicious food and so much friendship surrounding every table. I love an atmosphere like that! While we were there, my friend Shirlee said she had a little catastrophe on New Year’s Eve. She had invited quite a few people to dinner and was going to make ribs, but after cooking a few hours in the crock pot they just didn’t pass the smell test. Now, it’s 2 PM, and she threw everything out — she just couldn’t stand the smell. She and Brian jumped into the car and decided to go to Fresh Market because it wasn‘t too far away. She said all of the employees were cheerful and helpful; the customers were smiling and happy — even though they were six to eight deep around the meat counter! Everyone treated each other with respect and a smile on their face, and some were even joking to the other strangers standing around them. The fresh tenderloin she brought home was perfect and all ended well. What was hard for her to believe was that the place was so crowded and yet everyone was in good spirits! She said the employees were “phenomenal.”

*The Marco Airport runway rehab project will begin shortly with the airport being closed starting Jan. 13. The contractor is currently on site clearing the brush on the east side of the runway. The contractor also intends to start clearing the five-acre site on the west side of the runway next. The runway will be CLOSED for about 90 days to resurface the entire runway. The airport staff has been busy making arrangements with the Naples Airport Authority to divert displaced aircraft to the Naples Airport. For anyone who has not been contacted, you can contact Pam Reinhart at the Naples Airport at 239-643-0733 for questions about landing there. The Board of County Commissioners unanimously approved suspending all hangar rent, tie-down and other use agreement fees during the duration of the construction closure. The current FAA-approved airport layout plan depicts up to an additional 30 t-hangar units (four buildings) and six additional executive-type bulk hangars, but as yet, there is no specific time table for future hangar development. It has been anticipated that once funding is received from FAA/FDOT to complete the Northwest terminal/apron area (programmed for 2015-2016), RFP’s would be solicited for commercial development of these hangars by private sector developers.

*For all you garden enthusiasts out there, the Collier County Master Gardeners will present the 2014 Educational Garden Workshop Series. Admission for the complete series is $25. The four workshops for January are: 9th – Make Your Garden Pop with Color, 16th – Edible Gardening, 23rd – New Stars for the 2014 Garden and 30th – Sustainable Florida Landscaping. There will be four more in February, including Orchids, and two more in March. The workshops will be held at Unity of Naples, 2000 Unity Way (off Davis Blvd.). For more information call the Collier County Extension office at 239-353-4244, or you can go on-line and purchase your ticket at


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COASTAL COMMENTS Tue, 31 Dec 2013 16:12:31 +0000 Donna Fiala

A new Senior Housing Development has just started construction on Rattlesnake Hammock Rd. and C.R. 951/Collier Blvd. It is being built by the same developer that built Aston Gardens in North Naples and another in Lee County. This community — Discovery Village — will be a rental community offering 120 units with an indoor pool, fitness center and movie theater. They will provide independent living, assisted living and memory care.

That whole corridor is building up quickly! There is Hacienda Lakes coming out of the ground with 1731 dwelling units, 395,000 square feet of retail and 140,000 square feet of commercial. Also, in that same corridor, The Arlington just had their ground breaking — an elegant continuum of care facility that has a few remaining units that can still be purchased. Verona Walk has purchased additional land to add many more units to their very popular community. Chili’s is being built along that same corridor in the out-parcel in front of WalMart near Davis Blvd.

Lots of action taking place, and many more places will be built for us to shop and dine as East Naples comes to life. A new shopping center is in the planning stages right now in the C.R. 951/U.S. 41 area that will host a T.J. Max, Michael’s, Marshall’s and a pet store. It will be a while yet before you see those stores, but they have already signed on the dotted line. In the area across U.S. 41 from the construction of Outback will be a Culver’s Ice Cream and Butter Burgers, which will probably begin to build in late spring. I understand that the Fresh Market has trounced all projections set for their opening months by almost double. It even beats the store in North Naples; I think we knocked their socks off. We all knew it was a great area to build — but the merchants had no idea.

Although the intersection expansion has been delayed by a couple months, the C.R. 951/U.S. 41 improvements will begin in January. All the permits and acquisitions are in order or being worked on, and everything is ready to proceed. It will be a little touchy to get through that area as the construction swings into high gear. We’ll still be able to get into the shopping center by using the back roads — Tower Rd. and Price Street — which also leads into U.S. 41 South, leading towards the city of Naples. It won’t be too bad for Marco Islanders to go in that direction, but might be a little more challenging to get to I-75. Make sure to take extra time to make trips through that intersection. The roads are being built just in time to accommodate all the new units being built, which is estimated to be around 12,000 new dwelling units. That doesn’t include shopping and commercial, nor redevelopment.

New shorebird signs will be on display at Tigertail Beach and South Marco Access as a permanent reminder to share the shore. Local artist Phil Fisher captured the black skimmer, piping plover, tern and seagull beautifully in his original watercolor painting. Lykins-Signtek created the finished product. Collier County’s Parks and Recreation Department will be installing the new shorebird protection signs along eight shorelines in Collier County. Local businessman David Collar and his 10-year-old son, Austin, sponsored the artwork and four signs. Best-selling author and snowbird, Robin Cook, donated four signs. The original watercolor artwork was graciously donated by the sponsor and will be auctioned at a future fundraiser for the Naples Audubon Society.

Lastly, may your holiday season be the best you’ve ever had, and may the New Year hold much happiness and good health to you and yours.

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