This month we will be conducting a tour of the Marco Island History Museum, where the displays are outstanding! And, you’ll get to see the Marco Cat, which always remains within the eyes of security. This whole museum follows the discovery of Marco Island by the Calusa Indians, which is thought to be 6,000 years ago. It goes on to show their life, that they were a fierce tribe, what they wore and what they carved, and what their family life was all about. It showed that they met their extinction through disease. It also features the birth of civilization on Marco Island, and how it progressed. It is so interesting! They even focus on Pioneer Days, homes back then, the local airline, and so much more. The majority of the employees work for the Historical Society, who raises funds to pay their salaries. You will find it fascinating. The Marco Island Historical Museum is also a part of the Collier County Museum system, in case you didn’t know that, and supported also in part by the Tourist Development Council. Their prize display is, of course, the Marco Cat, which is on a two-year loan from the Smithsonian Institute, plus some carved masks on loan from the Museum in Pennsylvania and from London, England. There must be security on hand at all times when the museum is open, and there were many requirements that needed to be met before the Museum would display these artifacts. If you haven’t seen it yet, you must make a special effort to attend this free tour. Oh, and they have a great gift shop inside that is very popular. The tour takes place on Thursday, April 25th at 10 AM. Mike Brownlee will be in charge of taking reservations, so please e-mail him at Michael.Brownlee@colliercountyfl.gov, or you may also call him at 239-252-8601. You will have special escorts to explain some of the things you see.
- Surely you’ve noticed the drop in traffic since March 28th! I find many people are relaxing while driving now, and rarely do we hear horns anymore. It’s much easier to get into restaurants and grocery stores. But we also lost our volunteer work force! These winter residents come into town and immediately sign up to help in our community, thus making it their own, so you can notice their absence at the hospitals, the animal services, the sheriff’s department, parks and rec and much more. It’s nice not to be in such a frenzy, yet these winter residents’ departure leaves a lot of empty places in our community.
- Recently I asked the Sheriff’s Operations Department if they would arrange a special tour of their Special Operations Facility for a tour group, and they graciously accepted the request. We were allowed 40 people, but after 80 had signed up within three hours, we had to cut the calls off. There were some that had to drop out, so we were able to fill a few places, but there were a lot more that couldn’t take this popular tour because there was a huge amount of interest and only a few people (40) who could come. I think it would have been especially important for the Marco residents to see what they had to offer because we hear people grumbling that they have to pay for the Sheriff when they have their own police department. Luckily two people from Marco were on the tour and could see with their own eyes what they have to offer. We saw the school protection program, the bomb squad, the night helicopter search and rescue operation; the Sheriff gave us a fantastic overview of all that goes on behind the scenes, plus we saw the robot, the drone operation, the SWAT vehicle and duties, the tactical unit, discussed cyber-crime, we saw the “water buckets” hauled by helicopters to help put out forest fires, which we see quite often at this time of year, the motorcycle squad, and more! Everyone was totally awed at what they saw and heard, and oh by the way, it’s a very secure area that many never even knew existed. If we have one next year, I truly hope a number of Marco people go! We had people from many developments in East Naples, plus some from North Naples, Port of the Islands, and the City of Naples. By attending, you would see all the protections we have in place to take care of us. It’s your tax dollars at work folks, working for you and for your families.
- Just in case you missed the news about the “skeleton building,” the developers are finally working on it, with plans to finish before the end of the year. Excuse my bluntness, but after 10 years of sitting there watching it decay, it’s about time! I don’t believe they have firm commitments for all the space, but at least as your car enters Collier County from the airport, we won’t see that awful structure anymore. It was not a welcome sight for those visiting us for the first time… even those coming back after summer hoping to see a more welcome development.
- If you haven’t been to Bayshore recently, it’s changing rapidly and developing into the Arts & Entertainment District which has always been the goal. It’s amazing to watch the transformation. A little something came along recently regarding FGCU and their desire to build a Research Center on the prized 17 acres the CRA owns and had plans for, which was a Performance Hall and Arts Display, plus a nice parking lot and needed green space. There were some rocky roads on the way, but thankfully it looks like the dream is back on the front burner. If the Bayshore Cultural and Performing Arts gets the support it needs, you’ll see some progress in the right direction. Luckily FGCU already owns a building at the entry to the Botanical Garden, so they can always add a second floor to that building or change it into the Research Center they want, and it’s very close by and on the same street. This project is still a “work of art,” but we’re hoping it makes it to the finish line to seal the dream that has been waiting for many, many years. Good heavens, I worked on that committee way back in the late 90’s. Back then the street was in a very different shape. So much work had to be done through the CRA and an MSTU, plus many “fixes” to get this far… but here we are! This is what the residents have been hoping for and dreaming about! Stay tuned to see where this goes. I’m just hoping it goes in the right direction.
- Sunday evening was a marvelous event on Marco Island: The Marco Rotary Spirit Awards Gala was held at Bistro Soleil, and marvelous doesn’t even touch the evening. The food was over the top great, but the company was even better! The event must have been sold out, because I didn’t see a chair available. I went especially to support Joe Swaja, but the others were fantastic as well, and all five were very deserving! The things they have accomplished in their life and career are mind boggling! Joe’s sisters even came in from St. Augustine to be with him, along with his wife Kathi. The sisters cried they were so proud of him. Jim Richards was another one that stole the show, right after Joe (of course Joe is my longtime friend – can you tell?). The others were equally deserving, so I’m glad I wasn’t on the selection committee, because they must have really had some tough decisions to make. You’ll read about the other winners in a column right here in the Coastal Breeze, but I just wanted to assert a little something extra to say Marco Island is the most wonderful community to live in, and if you can’t live there, at least you can be their commissioner and take part in everything!
- Mark your calendars for April 27 to May 4 and attend the Minto U.S. Open Pickleball Championships, the world’s premier pickleball tournament. East Naples Community Park will be transformed into a spectacular pickleball experience for the U.S. Open with 51 courts surrounding the Zing Zang Championship Court. East Naples Community Park is located at 3500 Thomasson Drive, Naples. For a full schedule of events and more information, visit usopenpickleballchampionship.com.