A common thread that weaves through conversations regarding what was a visitor’s first impression of Marco Island, almost always revolves around the island’s beauty; the pristine nature of the landscaping and how spectacular the views are from the top of the Jolly Bridge.
“We just fell in love with the island as soon as we reached the other side of the bridge,” or “My God, what an absolutely beautiful ride it is down Collier Boulevard,” say many of our visitors.
The spectacular beauty of the island did not always exist as it does today. In fact, during the early construction period of dredging and filling one might not have envisioned the look that exists on modern Marco.
In fact, it wasn’t until residents in the early 1980s voted to impose a tax upon themselves to improve the landscaping along roadway medians, did the look we’ve come to admire today begin its development into what we all hold in such high esteem.
In 1981, residents voted to create a MSTU (Municipal Service Taxing Unit) for the purposes of improving the landscaping along the medians. It was an historic vote, as it was the first time in the State of Florida that voters had approved a MSTU for the purpose of funding landscaping and beautification.
Residents recognized the need to protect the tropical ambiance of the island and began a process of ensuring the replacement of trees and other vegetation that were removed to make way for the erection of new homes and businesses across the island.
The MSTU was removed shortly after the incorporation of the city and the funding of those same projects would now be rolled into the municipal tax bill and not show up as a separate tax unit.
The city’s own Beautification Advisory Committee would be shortly formed to advise the city council on priorities that the citizenry saw as important. Its mission statement today reads: To advise the Marco Island City Council on beautification of the community’s landscape consistent with the tropical character and natural beauty of Marco Island.
Marco Island is a living and evolving entity. One which requires a continual re-evaluation of its needs and changes that are required, either due to challenges presented by mother-nature herself, or those that are caused by our human counterparts.
Hurricane Irma caused the loss of countless trees and other vegetation, none of which can be replaced at the snap of a finger. The committee is evaluating the cost and how to proceed, determining what varieties of trees and shrubs will be most practical.
An example of the human impact can be as simple as the questionable design on some of our medians. Raising those medians and “crowning” them causes water to “run-off” and not properly irrigate plants and grass, in addition to presenting line of sight issues for drivers.
The city is proceeding to follow the suggestions of the committee and the city landscaper to make the necessary adjustments to those medians that are affected and are moving towards a more “Florida Friendly” style of landscaping. This will therefore save on water and provide better sightlines for motorists.
The committee has also been strongly involved in attempting to educate the public as to a number of issues. Every February the committee presents speakers covering topics including water conservation, identification of native plants, water quality and proper use of fertilizer. This past February, we concentrated on water conservation through proper use of irrigation systems and its design and Florida friendly plantings.
The committee has also collaborated with private clubs and organizations such as the Calusa Garden Club to work on projects such as the Calusa Park.
The Marco In Bloom Contest is another great tool which draws the public attention to the issues concerning landscaping and encourages both residential and commercial involvement in the process.
The committee meets the first Wednesday of every month at 3 PM. The public is always welcomed, and the meetings are also televised live or by going to the city’s website at www.cityofmarcoisland.com and clicking on Marco Island TV to review what committees are meeting and when.