On the evening April 9, 2018, Jack Miller was returning from an errand on Marco Island. It’s not often that we venture out at night in Goodland. He was stunned by what he saw as he turned off San Marco Road. The Goodland Water Tank, so recently restored by Bonnie and Kevin Hauke, was now bathed in brilliant light, illuminated by flood lights that had been placed around its base. When Jack told me of this the next day, it was with a sense of awe at what he had seen. Goodland Road can be kind of dark and eerie at night as it winds through the mangrove forest which separates us from the rest of the island. I went out to see for myself the next night and like Jack, I was too moved by the sight. This magnificent artwork would now be welcoming all who were entering Goodland – night or day.
According to Jack Swisher, the Goodland Water Tank was originally installed by Collier County in the early ‘70s to service Moran’s Marina at the foot of the newly built Goodland Bridge. A few years later Allen Greer, the owner/manager of Drop Anchor trailer park, prevailed upon the county to run a water line from the tank into Goodland. Up until that time the village depended on their cisterns supplemented by deliveries from tank trucks.
In 1995, Bonnie and Kevin Hauke, owners of the Sign Artist in Marco Island, at their own expense and unbidden, painted a huge mural on the tank depicting the flora and fauna which literally surrounds us. By March 2017, the Haukes’ 1995 mural had faded, prompting Bonnie and Kevin to restore it – again unbidden and at their own expense. (The county did buy them $200 worth of paint and went to considerable expense to paint the rest of the tank, weather sealing all of it, including the restored mural.) The people of Goodland gave another $3,000 to the Haukes to defray expenses.
Working through the unprecedented rains of the spring of 2017 (19 inches in a month), followed by an almost biblical plague of swarming salt marsh mosquitoes, a gaggle of construction equipment blocking the site (CC was replacing the 1970s main water line along Goodland Road and had stored their equipment and supplies around the tank.), and finally Hurricane Irma, it took Bonnie and Kevin eight months and gallons of insect repellent to restore the mural to its former brilliance.
Collier County has always looked on Goodland with benevolence. In the person of Commissioner Donna Fiala, who has held office since 2000, we have had a champion who has grown to love and appreciate us for who we are and for what we bring to the culture and economic life of Collier County. She has become for us and for the Collier County government, the most venerated and respected of commissioners. This time however, it was the county Department of Water Distribution that at their own instigation decided to bestow still another gift on our community, realizing no doubt that Donna would whole heartedly approve.
On the morning of April 12, 2018, I noticed a bunch of workmen doing some landscaping around the tank. They seemed to be planting shrubbery. Several Collier County trucks were parked around the site. “This came directly from the top,” said crew leader Josh Bauer, referring to Steve Messner, director of the huge Water Division of the county Public Utilities Department. With Messner’s approval, Bauer and Water Distribution Director, Pamela Libby were working together to further beautify this iconic land mark.
Libby is among the many who often visit Goodland to enjoy the cuisine and the excellent country and blues bands that perform here. Bauer comes here often to fish and had just completed overseeing the replacement of Goodland’s main water line. He had witnessed firsthand, the struggles of the Haukes as they labored on the mural restoration. Both were enamored of the water tank. “It is the first thing people see, when they enter Goodland,” Libby said of the tank, “Josh suggested that we do something to enhance the area around the tank.” Libby found $5,000 in her budget and told Josh to get to work. She picked the right man for the job. “I knew this was an important landmark for Goodland,” he said, “I just wanted to make it look even better.”
Inspired by the Goodland Water Tank, Libby had sought to have other county tanks painted in the same manner. “But I could never get the funding for it,” she said. It is no wonder. The Haukes had spent hundreds of hours doing the Goodland mural – for free. Unless there are others like them out there somewhere, there will be no further iterations of work like this anywhere else.
And so, on the morning of April 12, Bauer and his crew were out making it look better. They were planting 30 green island ficas and four European fan palms, picked by Bauer because of their ability to withstand draught and stand close to salt water. “We’re going to hand water these only until the start of the rainy season,” Bauer said, “After that they will need no watering.” So as not to obstruct the view, the ficas will be kept pruned to two feet. Earlier that day, Bauer’s crew had installed a seven-foot bench for people who wanted to gaze at and ponder this giant Audubonesque mural.
Bauer took a lot of pride in this job. Like countless others who have made the journey down our winding leafy road, he freely expresses his love for Goodland. He personally picked and purchased the plants and bench. That was the reason we were able to do it for less than $5K Libby said. “Except for the floodlights the county did all the work.”
The next morning, Bauer and his crew were back, spreading and grading a fresh load of finely crushed white limestone. It was dazzling in the spring sunlight. The Goodland Water Tank had become a de facto county park to be enjoyed by the thousands who visit us each year. On Friday, April 27, a tourist group was observed taking each other’s pictures against the backdrop of the mural. As a final touch, it would be fitting for a plaque to be placed at the site, commemorating Bonnie and Kevin Hauke and the work they did there.
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.