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.