By Barry Gwinn
The GCA was incorporated in 1978 as a “corporation, not for profit.” It is designated as a 501(c)(3) corporation in the IRS Code. The first two of its stated primary purposes were, “To preserve in perpetuity, the good life of Goodland,” and “To promote the general welfare of the residents and property owners of the community of Goodland…” Forty-two of our residents signed as subscribers. Of these, 12 were named as directors. It would be fair to say that these men and women were the founding fathers of our village, as we know it today. Some of their children are still active in the community. The original subscribers included Stanley Gober, founder of Stan’s, Arthur “Bud” Kirk, founder of the Kirk Fish Co., L. Allen Greer, owner of the Drop Anchor Trailer Park, Nadine Cursie, and Harold Inglis. Nadine’s husband, Ted Cursie developed much of Goodland. The Kirk Fish Company still thrives here and Jim Inglis is the long serving treasurer of the GCA today.
In 1978, there was no organized group to speak for Goodland. Drop Anchor came close but it was more a social group of mainly Midwesterners who wintered there. It had no structure and was run by its owner, Allen Greer. The GCA’s first secretary, Bobbie Swisher still resides in Drop Anchor, where she and her husband Jack have been wintering for over 40 years. The impetus for forming GCA came from the desire to have a water line extended into Goodland. “Goodland had electricity, but no running water,” recalled Swisher, “That was our first priority.” Until that time the residents of Goodland made do with their own cisterns or with water pumped daily from tank trucks into Ted Cursie’s community cistern at Goodland Drive West and Coconut Avenue. Many residents had to fill their owncontainers from Cursie’s cistern. “To gain support, we went throughout Goodland, polling everyone to see who was in favor of forming a civic association,” said Swisher, “The idea of advocating for running water gained a lot of supporters.” Consequently on April 29, 1978, the GCA was born. Allen Greer was elected vice president and was also listed as the GCA’s registered agent. He was soon busy lobbying Collier County to extend the water line into Goodland. “Greer was a former state senator,” Swisher said, “He had a lot of clout.” The first president of the GCA was George Pattison, Jr., who, according to Swisher, owned a marina on Marco Island and a large spacious house, at 228 Goodland Drive West. “We met at Pattison’s house up until the time we moved into the firehouse on Pear Tree Ave.,” said Swisher, “I don’t recall meeting anywhere else.”
Vicky Wood, whose family has lived next to the firehouse since 1985, recalls that in the 1980s the GCA began meeting in Margood Park. Wood has been secretary, vice president, and president of the GCA. It was felt by some that Margood Park exerted a measure of control over the GCA, due to meetings being held on their premises. “Margood Park was the most tightly organized residential group in the town,” Vicky said. “I felt that we needed to somehow get our own meeting place.” Sentiment began building for the GCA to do just that. It finally succeeded, but only after it failed to get a firehouse. Craig Woodward chronicled the series of events in a beautifully written account in the Marco Island Fire Control District, 50th Anniversary Edition, now on sale at the Marco Firehouse.
Woodward notes that when the Marco Island Fire Control District (MIFCD) was formed in 1965, Goodland was the largest community on theisland. Arthur “Bud” Kirk was one of the three fire district commissioners initially elected. In 1969 a new engine was installed at its station on Elkcam Circle East. In 1974, a second station was commissioned on S. Barfield Drive. And in 1985, the Fire District launched a $150,000 fundraising drive, $115,000 of which was earmarked for the building of a new fire station in Goodland. According to Jack Swisher, the idea for a Goodland firehouse originated with Allen Greer, the owner of Drop Anchor Trailer Park and vice president of the GCA. Greer threw a community picnic in the lot adjacent to the post office. “Greer warned that it would only take three to five minutes for the trailers to burn down in the trailer park,” recalls Swisher, “He warned that the Marco Fire Department couldn’t get down here in that time.” Greer concluded that we needed our own fire station. Greer, who had already brought running water and streetlights to Goodland, proceeded to organize the effort.
Woodward recalls that it fell to the people and businesses of Goodland to provide a site for the firehouse and to the fire district to raise the money for the building. One Hermon Weirich was willing to sell a vacant lot on Mango (between Vicky Wood’s house on the right and Ray Bozicnik’s house on the left). He would let the GCA have it for $18,000. Records obtained from Linda VanMeter reflect that the GCA moved quickly to raise the money. In January and February 1985, volunteers went door to door in Goodland, receiving 88 pledges totaling $15,137. The pledges ranged from $3 to $1,000. Virtually every Goodland business contributed. By August 1985, the GCA had raised the entire amount, and the lot at 417 Mango Ave. was purchased. In April 1986, the GCA donated andconveyed this land to the MIFCD, and construction began soon thereafter.
When the fire station was completed, the fire district commissioners affixed a plaque listing some of those who gave. As far as I can tell, those listed gave at least $1,000, although there were others who gave this much who did not make the list. The building was actually used as a fire station from about 1990 to 1992. “The station was never manned,” Wood recalled, “About twice a week, a couple guys would drive an engine over and park it in the firehouse. The Fire Chief, John Jackson, lived next door to me.” “We were supposed to get a fire engine,” Bobbie Swisher recalled, “but this would have required a resident fireman to be on call. We couldn’t get anyone to volunteer. It was so sad.”
The GCA continued to meet at Margood Park during this period. According to Craig Woodward, who was then the MIFCD’s lawyer, the Fire District started raising money (by newly authorized “Fire Impact Fees”) for a centrally located fire station. In January 1992, the district was able to buy the Deltona Corporation’s old sales center at the corner of San Marco Road and Bald Eagle Drive, where it remains today. As a result, the GCA was told that the Goodland Fire Station was no longer needed. In September 1992, the property was donated back to the GCA’s ownership, and GCA town meetings commenced thereafter. “One thing ate at us however,” said Wood, “The plaque [commemorating the Goodlanders who had raised the money for the building] had been taken by the Marco firemen. We had to fight hard to get it back. My parents were among the donors listed on that plaque.”
Wood recalls that at the time of the move to firehouse, the officers were Nikki Graham, president,Vicky Wood, secretary, and Irene Habermehl, treasurer. Mike Barbush became president shortly after this. “Kappy Kirk (Tommie Barfield’s niece) was also on the board at about this time,” Vicky recalled. The meetings were held downstairs even though there was a meeting room, a couple of bathrooms, and a kitchenette upstairs. “The stairway was steep and poorly lighted,” Vicky said, “one of our members, Ray Bozicnik, actually fell down the stairs once.” The first floor had no facilities or plumbing. When necessary, a hose was run in from a spigot outside. “Members had to go upstairs to go to the bathroom,” recalls VanMeter, “To avoid this, we had to plan ahead when coming to meetings.”
Up until about the mid 1990s, the GCA had accomplished most of its goals and was popular in the community. “We had 325 members and as much as $75,000 in our treasury,” recalls Wood, “A lot of the income came from parking cars [for the Sunday crowds at Stan’s] at $10 a car. Shelly Balante let us use the Old Marco Lodge lot at the corner of Goodland Road and Sunset Court.” There were other fundraisers at Goodland restaurants and at Margood Park. There were plenty of GCA social events, such as fish frys and spaghetti dinners. VanMeter recalls the potluck suppers and town meetings as largely social in character. “I don’t recall any major issues we had to grapple with,” she said, “We all got along.”
The peace and harmony didn’t survive the 1990s however. “The GCA – Controversy and Accomplishments” will be the subject of this column in the next edition of Coastal Breeze News.
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.