Steve “Stef” Stefanides
Sitting around for coffee the other morning we were talking about challenges facing the community and across the bridge just off the island. The conversation was wide ranging and involved a great many topics, some very serious and others a little more lighthearted.
Having owned here for 30 years and living fulltime on the island for over 27, I couldn’t help but reflect on some of the changes we’ve seen, while laughing about some of the humorous goings-on here on our little stretch of sand.
I remember so well the small two-lane road which used to run from I-75 to the island. How dark and desolate it was making that 18-mile ride from the exit on the interstate highway to the small two lane bridge that connected us with the rest of world. On one such visit to the island a good friend of mine that I once worked with accompanied me from her home in Venice for a long weekend. I’ll never forget her face when she asked, “Stef, where are we going? This is the middle of nowhere,” and how her expression changed when we came up to the top of the bridge.
We also had a good laugh when we’d share our individual theories of where the road would be going when they had the gravel and dirt piled up so high just north of the Isle of Capri Road. The roadway was being expanded to four lanes and eventually merged back into two lanes before the construction of the second bridge. We would laugh at how all our theories were a little off the mark, to say the least.
When we celebrate Christmas here on the island we marvel at the beauty of the festive lights seen all over the island. However, at one of the Christmas Boat Parades those lights all went out, when the mast of a well decorated sailboat hit the power lines crossing the river near the Marco River. Needless to say since then, clearance was something we always took into account.
Early city council meeting would also give us reason to chuckle, as serious debates would break out regarding some of the most trivial matters. One of those was whether men should be wearing shirts if they mowed their lawns. Another not so serious debate raged about whether we should have the tourist gambling boat run out of the dock at the Snook Inn. These trivial matters cause us to chuckle now when we reflect back on how ridiculous the conversations were back then.
The day the island received over 18’’ of rain and saw adults and kids alike paddling down San Marco and Winterberry in kayaks. Some were even seen to be fishing while navigating down through the deeper waters and actually catching fish where autos and trucks normally would run.
The great laughs and smiles that would be had as the community came together to build what is known today as “Kids Cove,” at Mackle Park. Men and women from all walks of life and varied political persuasions come together to do something good for the community as a whole.
I also reflect on the smiles and joy that I’ve had the opportunity to witness, whether it be at a Charter Middle School basketball game, along San Marco Road during our annual Christmas Parade, the pride that is exhibited when the annual Shell Show is held, the Calusa Island Garden Club’s various exhibitions, the smiling faces at the Fire Foundation’s Pancake Breakfast or the great attendance at the Marco Island Seafood and Music Festival.
Couple those things with the dedication we find at the regularly scheduled beach cleanups by various volunteer groups, the work that is undertaken to provide scholarships for our graduating seniors by the various clubs and social organizations or the charitable work undertaken by the Knights of Columbus and others throughout the island.
We do live in a great place and these were just some of the items that ran through my mind as we’d sit and reminisce about the past. Things that made us smile and feel proud of the community we’ve become. All too often I think we tend to take ourselves too seriously and need to reflect on the wonderful times we do have here.
This is your community and you should all stay involved and educated as to what is going on around you. We all need to help support the positive things which make this such a wonderful place to live, bring up our families and help to make a difference in those lives we all touch on a daily basis.
Steve Stefanides, well-known by his nickname “Stef,” is an experienced award-winning reporter of local civic and public interest news. Stef’s More Straight Talk column (and its predecessor, Straight Talk), on a variety of subjects, is a favorite of readers who trust him to bring them the facts. A Marco Island resident, Stef contributes to the community in many ways, having served on a number of city committees, charitable groups, boards and local organizations. Contact him by email at Stef@coastalbreezenews.com