The Veterans’ Community Park has a ‘Master Plan’ which was painstakingly designed by a group of about 18 citizens from all areas of life on Marco Island. The committee met for several months, gathering ideas from the general public and working with professionals to develop an architectural plan. The Master Plan was set in stages, so work on the park could be done according to available funds and grants. Once the economy began to change, funds were not readily available to begin work and the community was left with a stark field. A few keen islanders, particularly Carla Mickes and Steve Stefanides began conversations with Parks and Rec Director, Bryan Milk about what it would take to put some trees around the park to make it more appealing. Those discussions led to a group of volunteers coming together and the ‘Trees R Cool’ committee was born. The committee is comprised of Carla Mickes-chairperson, Steve Stefanides, Barbara Murphy, Bryan Hauser, Bob Bowe and Bryan Milk.
The committee’s first goal was to establish an easy way for citizens to donate trees or benches. High on the priority list was to search out possible funding and apply for any available grants. Carla Mickes explained, “We applied for a forestry grant which was an in-depth, complex process. After several months we learned the grant was approved! This was not a matching grant, it was straight stimulus grant. The city did not fund it!”
The committee put together brochures for the general public and placed them in several locations around the island. Once the word got out, the donations started coming in. In total, theTrees R Cool committee raised $28,850 in private donations. This is separate from the $18,347 received in grant money.
The success of the committee’s effort is evident. Trees are planted all around Veterans’ Community Park and several park benches have been installed. The Veterans’ Memorial area is encircled with Royal Palm trees. Bob Bowe commented, “It took a year to get this far. It’s a great accomplishment!”
According to Bryan Hauser, “There are only three Foxtail Palms at $300each available for purchase. Please contact Patty Mastronardi at 389-5035. We’ve planted canopy trees, several flowering trees and palm trees. Flowering trees such as Royal Poincianas, can’t be fully appreciated until they come into bloom. We’ve planted the flowering trees so they bloom at varying times of the year. I can’t wait to see this park in a year’s time!”
“The great thing is everything has been laid out to comply with the Master Plan for the park. Everything fits to a ‘T’” said Bryan Milk. “Rob Whitman from Whitman Industries did a beautiful job with the concrete pads for the benches. We need to thank Hannula Landscaping and Irrigation for helping us get everything planted, and Mike McGee for his assistance with the grant and making sure we were planting in the right places.”
Carla pointed out, “The committee wants to thank Bryan Milk, Patty Mastronardi and Jim Hodgdon for their help in bringing the vision to reality. We’re truly fortunate we were able to bring together such a great group of professionals!” Steve Stefanides noted, “See what happened? People came together to work on making this a better place for everybody and we achieved the goal!”
Bob added it was a very touching experience. “The stories behind the dedication plaques were very heartwarming. Someone paid tribute to a son killed in an accident. The Gems an Jewels, a former Newcomers’ group, got together to honor a deceased member, Elaine Glenn. One Trees R Cool committee member, Barb Murphy, and her husband Mike, dedicated a cluster of trees; one for each set of parents and another for a granddaughter who was lost.”
So, what is the next step for the committee? Carla and Bryan Milk agree, “We’re pretty well planted. Now we’d like to see how the park is utilized before we do more planting.”
The park is the venue for several community events throughout the year. The added trees and benches have come a long way in making an enjoyable place for all. The Committee wishes to offer a profound thank you to all donors. Construction on the Veterans’ Memorial will begin soon.