To the editor:
Lee County intends to reveal its plans for a new park at Pine Island Center on July 30. Drawings for the park will be on exhibit at the Matlacha Community Hall from 4 to 5:30 p.m. that day. The plans are very controversial because they may include destruction of the sole remaining native pine flatwoods upland parcel in Pine Island Center.
The property is the 40 acres west of the Methodist Church and south of Phillips Park. The county purchased it many years ago and about 8 or 10 years back proposed that the entire 40 acres be bulldozed to build ballfields and related facilities. Pine Islanders were unanimous in rejecting those plans, preferring instead to preserve the unique habitat and use it only for hiking, wildlife viewing, ecotourism, etc. Lee County promised to do just that.
Nonetheless, last April, the county proposed that much of the pine flatwoods be razed to create open areas that would be available for commercial rental for large events, plus pavilions, bathrooms, parking lots, and paved trails with an overlook near the water. Again, Pine Islanders overwhelmingly rejected the plans, and made it clear that we did not want open areas, bathrooms, parking lots, or even pavilions. The county promised to redo the plans, and we will get our first look at the new plans on July 30.
In announcing the July 30 event a few days ago, Lee County said that the plans would still include all of the facilities Pine Islanders have repeatedly said they did not want (and in fact already have right across the street at Phillips Park). Since that announcement, numerous Pine Islanders have emailed complaints to county management. In responding to those emails, county officials have said they will revise the plans to eliminate the open spaces and bathrooms and greatly reduce the paved areas. This is the third time they have made such promises - will they follow through this time?
We'll find out on July 30. Please be there and share your views.