A 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!