It might be more appropriate to add the name of Collier County (CC) Commissioner Donna Fiala to the title of this piece. For it is she who has fought persistently and doggedly for “the folks at the end of the road,” as she calls us. In Goodland’s fight to preserve Goodland Road, Donna (That’s how we affectionately address her) gave us a place at the table and a powerful voice in county councils, not to mention a measure of influence with the Marco Island (MI) city government. Early on in her career, Fiala had tried to buy a place in Goodland. She realized then as she does now, that Goodland’s uniqueness was well worth preserving. She also fell in love with the place. That love has paid big dividends for us.
The story of how the county conveyed Goodland Road to MI (7/30/02) and how MI was alleged to have neglected its upkeep has been well chronicled in this Goodland Life column. By, 2010, Fiala, who was first elected in November 2000 and has won every succeeding election since, was leading the fight for the county to take back the road. By that time, amid overwhelming voter support, she had gained such a degree of eminence and respect in Collier County that, on June 20, 2017, her efforts resulted in the return of Goodland Road to the county. More significantly, the agreement all but committed the county to a complete reconstruction of the oft-flooded road, at an estimated cost of 5.7 million dollars. It took only a few months for the county to act after the agreement was signed.
I had first driven this storied road in 2004 when looking for a retirement home in Southwest Florida. I thought that its winding path through the mangroves was a delightful trip and that it would add to the enjoyment of this wonderful place. Instead, it has turned into an on-again off-again nightmare for me and my wife, and for numerous other Goodland Residents, all of whom depend on this road for their very existence. It is our only overland link to the mainland. Periodic flooding due to rising sea levels has at times restricted use of the road and has kept people from going out or coming in. Even when the road is dry, its patched, cracked, and raveled surface resulted in a bumpy uncomfortable ride. Except for a 60-foot stretch, MI had made no attempt to resurface this road in the 11 years that I have lived here. I grew to dread driving on it, and would have avoided it altogether if it were possible. On December 11, 2017, just six months after the county had taken the road back, everything changed.
On that day, as I was making my daily one-mile round trip walk to the post office (I do so, both for the exercise and for stories I come across along the way), I came across a scene which was to result in one of the happiest Christmases I have ever spent here. A construction crew was again working on the road, but what could they be doing now? Besides continuing to fill potholes, there was nothing scheduled or expected until CC had perfected its plans and begun a complete reconstruction of the road. CC Senior Project Manager, Andy Miller advises that “subject to change” the plan is now to complete planning and permitting in about two years, with actual reconstruction to begin in the late fall of 2020. That will occur over the next year after that, he said.
Scott Williams, the affable construction superintendent for Construction Materials, Inc. out of Ft. Myers set me straight. “Collier County has contracted with us to resurface [the roughest part of] Goodland Road from the water tank to Angler Drive,” Williams said, “We started at 7 AM this morning and should be done before sunset tonight.” How bad a shape was this road in, I asked. “I have been doing this for 35 years,” Williams told me, “and I have seen few roads worse than this one.” On a scale of 1 to 10, with 10 indicating the worst road conditions, Williams rated Goodland Road as an 8. This is by no means a permanent fix, Williams said. He likened it to a band aid until such time as reconstruction occurs. “We have put down 1½ inches of asphalt with 3 inches along those edges which had started to crumble,” Williams said. “When all the utility lines are in, the road will be resurfaced all the way out to [the County Boat Park].” That night, after dark, I decided to take a look at what Williams and his crew had accomplished. Entering the resurfaced portion, my headlights brought into focus a sight that I sometimes thought I would never live to see. Goodland Road stretched out before me like a giant Christmas display. Bright lines, punctuated by sparkling mid-road reflectors beckoned me on, offering assurance that this portion, at least, was now safe, smooth, and welcoming for all who would travel it. Euphoria, joy, and gratitude flooded into my being all at once. Perhaps a bit melodramatic, but this is what I felt, so closely have I identified with this wonderful road. Many Goodland residents agreed, at least with the gratitude part.
Through this Goodland Life column, and minutes of Goodland Civic Association meetings since 2008, I have closely followed the frustrating and tragic plight of Goodland Road as it slowly crumbled and began sinking beneath the waves. No one, it seemed, wanted to step up to the plate. Now, despite the fact that this was only a temporary fix, which would be undone in time by continued flooding and heavy traffic, Collier County has given us a wonderful reprieve and a glimpse of the future, when the road will be completely reconstructed and raised above flood levels. At this time of year and after the body punches of Hurricane Irma, it could not have come at a better time. Barry was a practicing attorney before he worked as a Special Agent of the FBI for 31 years. Barry worked for several government agencies another ten years before retiring to Goodland in 2006. Barry is presently the Secretary of the Goodland Civic Association.