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Matlacha Civic talks personal watercraft

April 24, 2013
By MEGHAN McCOY ( , Pine Island Eagle

The waterways surrounding Matlacha and Pine Island were discussed at the last Matlacha Civic Association meeting of the season at Bert's Bar and Grill Tuesday night.

Kathy Malone shared information with the attendees about a personal watercraft ordinance that will be brought before the Board of County Commissioners next month. She said Port Sanibel Marina wants to rent personal watercraft and go into the back bays and have guided tours.

"We feel that is not a good idea," Malone said, adding that the appeal will be towards those who like speed and noise. "Why encourage it? It's better for the canoes and kayaks."

She said she is having conversations with the other island civic associations about the issue.

"We encourage the commissioners not to pass the ordinance," Malone said.

Matlacha Civic Association President Michael Gibbons took a vote of the membership Wednesday night, which all disagreed with the proposed project.

Lee County Parks & Recreation Waterways Coordinator Betsy Clayton, who spoke about the Great Calusa Blueway Paddling Trail, was one of the guest speakers at the meeting last week. She said the trail has 190 miles that meanders everywhere in the county, except Lehigh.

"You guys are right at the hub," she told the audience of the Calusa Blueway, adding that someone can launch and have three different directions to choose from and still be on the trail.

The trail, Clayton said, started in 2003 and in 2005 the Pine Island community began noticing the Calusa Blueway.

"The whole purpose of the trail is to promote safety to newcomers and tourists," she said. "The purpose of the trail was to help people explore the back bays that are critical for Pine Island."

The trail has Blueway markers, which depict the picture of a canoe paddle and kayak paddle crossing. The markers are set at irregular intervals, and many can be found at a fork in the path, so individuals know where they are going.

Unfortunately, Clayton said, the markers do not always stay standing due to weather, as well as people taking them to put them in their garage or at the bar. If people see the markers outside of the water, she encourages them to give her a call, so she can get them and return them to the trail.

One of the things that was recently introduced to the public is a smart phone application for the Great Calusa Blueway Paddling Trail. Clayton said individuals can download it from the iTunes store or from Google Play.

The application is free.

Clayton said the app provides everything you want to know about the trail, as well as a GPS tracker, so you can see where you are in the mangroves.

"The idea with the trail is to give that user experience for people who would like to try paddle sports," she said.

Clayton also touched upon the economic impact the Great Calusa Blueway Paddling Trail has for the community. She said every year they hold a festival the first week of November to showcase everything an individual can do on the Blueway.

"That festival stated in Matlacha Park," Clayton said and now includes the Sanibel Causeway.

She said the event attracts about 700 people every year.

Phil Buchanan provided an update on the Ceitus boat lift issue during the meeting as well. He said since they are having trouble with receiving three out of the five Board of County Commissioners votes to put the boat lift back in, he is exploring other options.

"Six months ago, we were in good shape," he said, adding that then the election came. " (Ray) Judah was our champion for environmental issues for our entire county."

Buchanan told the crowd that they may have to do it themselves.

"We have options and I am exploring those options now," he said, adding that he knows of excellent attorneys in the local area who would work with him on the issue. "We may have local fund-raisers. The money would be helpful and the political support would be shown."

Gibbons said he has had so many fishermen come up to him and say that it is the worst season they have had.

"Being a business owner, my business, Bill's business, Mike's business, is really affected by how this turns out," he said of replacing the boat lift. "We as a community need to keep the pressure on and educate others of what is going on in the water."

Gibbons went on to say that if the subject comes up during a discussion that individuals should stand their ground and tell people what is going on.

Dominick Greco, a pro angler, master kayaker and survival instructor with Kayak Charters, was also a guest speaker last week at the meeting.

"This is a tourism based place here," he said, adding, "What you are doing is huge."

Greco said the environment, fish and grass flats are starting to decline.

"We have to do something about that," he said. "The time is now. We should have done this yesterday."

Greco encouraged the audience to contact him if they want to learn more about kayaking at

A conversation was also held about the recent break-ins taking place in Matlacha. Gibbons encouraged anyone who has information pertaining to the break-ins to please let the authorities know. He said the items that are stolen are being pawned in St. James City.

"We are a very small community," Gibbons said. "If you see someone you don't recognize in your neighborhoods, give them a second look."

Nancy Hindenach, a Matlacha resident, said one home has been broken into three times.

"Keep an eye on your home," she said, adding that they are coming from water and land.



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