Spring Fling Festival at Holten Eco-Preserve

Spring Fling Festival 2017

A Family Day of Fun and Learning About Our SW Florida Environment

The Holten Eco-Preserve invites you to join them on Saturday, May 13 from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. for Spring Fling Festival 2017. Bring your family to celebrate the Preserve’s 2nd Annual Butterfly Release, and to learn about all plants bright and beautiful in our Southwest Florida environment. Exhibitors and delicious food vendors will be on site making this a great event for families and well as our environment. There will also be guest speakers, children’s activities, and demonstrations.

The Eco-Preserve is a South Fort Myers non-profit dedicated to helping neighbors be good environmental stewards. Join the fun and games, meet some neighbors, and learn how to be better stewards of our environment! For more information, call Bill Petrarca, 239-561-2700. The Holten Eco-Preserve is located at 13411 Shire Lane, Fort Myers, 33912.

Unsettled Land Battle

Proposed Reclassification of Palomino/Appaloosa CPA Still Undetermined                                  

by Don Long

Residents who live along the Daniels corridor have beaten back two attempts to enable new mixed-use development and multi-family housing on parcels of land in the Appaloosa/Palomino area on the north side of Daniels Parkway. However, the long-term use of these properties is yet to be determined.

The Lee County Local Planning Agency advisory board voted 5-1 on March 27 to “not transmit” to the Lee County Board of Commissioners a request for the reclassification of a 50-acre parcel of land from Outlying Suburban (allowing no more than three homes per acre) to General Interchange (allowing a maximum of 22 dwelling units per acre).

Previously, area residents had launched a campaign to defeat reclassification of a much larger area – 137 acres of land between Appaloosa and Palomino – to Central Urban, allowing high-density multi-family housing. The planning board rejected that proposal, a decision applauded by local residents, including 1,000 who signed a petition asking the board to reject the plan.

The planning agency staff then returned with the revised CPA for the much-reduced 50-acre parcel which, like the previous proposal, would allow – though at a lower density – multi-family housing. The vote “not to transmit” the proposal came after a majority of residents claimed at the meeting that the reclassification would have a range of negative impacts on local travel and the surrounding communities.

The most frequent concern was the way in which any multi-family housing in the area would increase the traffic on Daniels.

However, the planning board’s decision does not kill the proposal. The CPA – its terms unchanged – will be presented to the Board of County Commissioners at a public hearing, according to Betsy Clayton, Communications Director for Lee County. As of mid-April, the date for a hearing had not been set, Clayton said.

The likeliest options for the county seems to be rejecting the proposal and forwarding it to state officials, or sending it back to county planners for another try.

Looking to any future decisions by the county, Richard Platt, who on Change.org has rallied residents against the reclassification, said the planning board’s March 27 decision “was only a small step forward with a lot of work remaining to completely stop this initiative. This is not going to go away without coordinated community effort.”

Planning staff at the March 27 meeting first outlined the reclassification proposal and answered questions from LPA board members. This was followed by citizen comment, with 13 residents speaking against reclassification and two in favor.

Robert Varnum, a resident of Cross Creek Estates, noted the frequent difficulties drivers face in negotiating Daniels’ heavy and congested traffic. He particularly cited the difficulties of entering Daniels from the communities that have only one point of entry.

Curtailing traffic on Daniels is even more important, Varnum emphasized, since it is a primary hurricane evacuation route. He also said that the sale of land targeted for development would be a “financial windfall for a handful of landowners” but “at the expense of thousands of people, which is very unfair.”

Varnum thinks many other open areas around Fort Myers would be better suited for construction of lower-cost multi-family housing.

Olde Hickory resident Faith Hartway also expressed concern not for nearby communities and all drivers on Daniels. After the meeting, Hartway said she thought the board members had not seemed concerned about those who deal daily with heavy traffic when trying to get onto and off Daniels via the I-75/Daniels interchange.

Despite the vote of the planning board, Hartway left the meeting without the feeling of a win. The board members “seemed to be addressing this only as a zoning problem,” she said, “and didn’t want to talk about the traffic.” She hopes for some longer-term proposals by county officials to deal with the problems of Daniels congestion, more than just the recent addition of a bike path along the south side.

Presenting an alternate view on the reclassification proposal was Nick Paulus, one of the two people at the meeting speaking in favor of the reclassification. Paulus, manager of the Bella Villa shops on Selrose Lane, which parallels Daniels, was until two years ago a resident in the Palomino/Pinto area. He focused his comments on the potential benefits of reclassification.

Interviewed after the meeting, Paulus argued that the classification change offered a chance for the best possible uses for the property because added development in the area is inevitable. He said that any new multi-family housing would serve as a buffer to commercial development, while offering easy walking distance to nearby businesses, which is especially important during Fort Myers “off season.” He downplayed the impact of additional traffic on Daniels, with multi-family housing likely to have impact of just 2% more, according to the report of the planning staff.

Paulus claimed there had been a lot of “misinformation” on the issue, and that residents were being too emotional in fearing the results of added traffic or a loss in their home values and quality of life. He believes the proposed reclassification for the 50-acre parcel is “responsible and not something that’s going to ruin your neighborhoods.”

The Lee County School District also has an interest in what will happen in the area, since the 50-acre parcel includes about 20 acres of east of Palomino that is zoned for Commercial Planned Development and approved for a combination of retail and office uses. While the school district has suggested the need for developing lower-cost housing for teachers there, this acreage would require rezoning at a public hearing to be developed for residential use.

Clayton said that as of mid-April there were no pending zoning requests for any land identified in either the previous or the revised CPA.

Local Paint and Wine studio ranked Top 10 in all of Florida

Vino’s Picasso Fort Myers and Naples get state-wide recognition.

Southwest Florida’s first paint, wine and art gallery combination has been ranked as a Top 10 Paint and Wine studio throughout the state of Florida by Best Things Florida. Stacked against well over 100 paint and wine studios across the state Vino’s Picasso Fort Myers and Naples nearly tops the list at #4.

Best Things Florida is an online source for all things Florida. Their website ranks dozens of restaurants, entertainment venues, theme parks and small businesses like Vino’s Picasso.

“It is so exciting to get noticed and be ranked in the Top 10 throughout the entire state! We have always made it a point to create a paint and wine studio that was different than your run of the mill franchise. We create unique art with a SWFL twist, painting on coconuts, creating beach décor on wood pallets and we partner with Florida-based artists. We are all things SWFL!” says owner, Mercedes Price Harry.

The cheerful and encouraging Artists at Vino’s Picasso help contribute to this fun-filled experience walking groups through a variety of arts and crafts including wood pallet workshops, acrylic on canvas, coconut painting, glass painting and jewelry making.

“Over 90% of our customers are inexperienced with art.” explains Owner, Mercedes Price Harry. “I want to assure the most skeptical person that this is not about being artistic as much as it’s about creating something fun while sipping something good! Think about date night, ladies night or a team builder with your staff. There are proven health benefits when you engage in creative activities as you rest your mind and it’s so fun!”

View the Top 10 list by visiting www.bestthingsfl.com/paint-and-wine/

Lee County Fallen Officer Memorial Service

The annual Lee County Fallen Officer Memorial Service will take place on Thursday, May 18, 2017 at 9:00 a.m. at Centennial Park located at 2000 W. First Street, Fort Myers.

This year’s event will feature a law enforcement vessel display, a fly over, and several other exhibits to help us honor our fallen officers.

This Memorial Services allows us to remember our heroes, the ones who served, the ones who are still serving and the ones who paid the ultimate price.

The public is invited to this free event.

Guided walking tours continue at Six Mile Cypress Slough Preserve this summer

Guided walking tours will continue this summer at 9:30 a.m. every Wednesday and fourth Saturday of the month along the boardwalk at the Six Mile Cypress Slough Preserve, 7751 Penzance Blvd., Fort Myers.

The Interpretive Center at the preserve will close for scheduled maintenance on May 15 and is scheduled to reopen June 10.

Along with the ADA-accessible, elevated 1.2-mile boardwalk, the Rock and Stroll Garden will remain open to the public at the preserve. The Rock and Stroll Garden features picnic tables and native plants to attract birds and butterflies.

Six Mile Cypress Slough Preserve is among Lee County’s earliest protected conservation areas.  In 1976, Lee County voters approved a ballot initiative to purchase the land to protect the Six Mile Cypress watershed and maintain it as a wildlife habitat preserve. The Six Mile Cypress Slough Preserve is open daily from dawn until dusk. For more information, visit the website atwww.leegov.com/conservation2020/preserves or call 239-533-7550.


Lakes Park Enrichment Foundation to host National Public Garden Day on Friday, May 12

The Lakes Park Enrichment Foundation will host a celebration in recognition of National Public Gardens Day from 8 a.m. to noon Friday, May 12, at Lakes Regional Park, 7330 Gladiolus Drive, Fort Myers.

Lakes Park joins more than 500 public gardens in the nationwide celebration. The public is urged to come and see the beauty of the gardens, as well as participate in activities. In addition, a plant sale will be held in the fragrance garden from 9 a.m. to noon. Most of the plants have been propagated using cuttings or seeds from specimens from the garden.

There will be tours of the Botanic Gardens including the Community Garden, the Fragrance Garden, the Rose Garden, Succulent Garden and Water Garden. Refreshments will be available in the Community Garden. A special Community Garden tour will be offered by, Roy Beckford, Ph.D., Lee County Extension director.

Educational talks will be presented in the Railroad Museum. Kids’ activities will be presented in the Children’s Garden, along with opportunities to purchase engraved bricks. A representative from Conservation 20/20, Lee County’s environmentally sensitive land acquisition and management program, will discuss native plants and wildflowers supported by the Conservation 20/20 preserves.

Educational programs are:

  • 8 a.m.               Garden tours begin
  • 8:30 a.m.         Adrienne Diaz, “Gardening in SWFL – Growing Veggies”
  • 9 a.m.               Wesley Higgins, “Everglades Conservation” – Railroad Museum
  • 9 a.m.               Plant watering activity – Children’s Garden
  • 9:30 a.m.         Pre-schoolers StoryTime, followed by seed planting activity – Children’s Garden
  • 9:30 a.m.         Adrienne Diaz, “Gardening in SWFL – Growing Herbs”
  • 10 a.m.             Charles Sobczak, “The Changing Face of Nature” – Railroad Museum
  • 10:30 a.m.       Adrienne Diaz, “Gardening in SWFL – Bug ID”
  • 11 a.m.              Mayer Berg, Riverland Nursery, “Choosing Florida Friendly Plants” – Railroad Museum

“The purpose of this event is to give the public a view of the present gardens, as well as the plans for the Children’s Garden,” said Wesley Higgins, chairman of the Botanic Garden Committee. “It also emphasizes the importance of plants in our daily lives.”

The event is being sponsored locally by the Lakes Park Enrichment Foundation, a non-profit organization that enriches the park with many projects, the latest of which is the planning and construction of a Children’s Garden. The foundation’s main focus is to assist Lee County Parks & Recreation by enhancing the park’s environmental aesthetics, wildlife habitat and recreational amenities for the community to enjoy. Additional sponsorship provided by Lowes Home Improvement Warehouse.

To find information about the Foundation, make a donation, become a member or a volunteer, visit www.lakespark.org.

Lakes Regional Park features 158 acres of freshwater quarry lake on the 279-acre facility. In 1991 the Fragrance Garden was introduced and has been grown from a small area of fragrant herbs, flowers and plants to a botanical type status with a wide variety of plants, trees, shrubs and ground cover.

Free parking is available by downloading a voucher at www.lakespark.org. Lakes Regional Park is located on Gladiolus Drive just west of U.S. 41. Typically, parking fees are $1 an hour per vehicle with a maximum of $5 for the day.

Register for Lee County summer programs for children and teens

Registration is open now for youth programs offering summer fun from Lee County Parks & Recreation, Libraries and LeeTran.

Parks & Recreation

Registration has started for the 2017 summer camps at Lee County Parks & Recreation. These camps draw thousands of youngsters throughout the region to programs, outings and activities at traditional camps, teen camps and specialty camps.

Don’t procrastinate – each year, the spots at Wa-Ke Hatchee, Lakes Regional Park and Estero Recreation Center fill up well before school is out. Summer camp runs eight weeks from June 5 through July 28.

Here’s a tip from the registration desk: If you plan to register for camp at one of the four major recreation centers, you need to obtain a facility membership first. This applies to Wa-Ke Hatchee, Estero, North Fort Myers or Veterans Park in Lehigh Acres.

Parents interested in swimming lessons also can register now. Those lessons and other summer aquatics programs are available at the county’s four year-round community pools located in Lehigh Acres, North Fort Myers, Pine Island and San Carlos Park. To register visit your nearest community pool or online at www.LeeParks.org.

For summer camp and aquatic registration call 239-533-7275, or go online to www.LeeParks.org.

Event schedules are available in the libraries, or at www.leelibrary.net/calendar. All events are free, but tickets or advanced registration is required, depending on location. For more information, visit a library, go to www.leelibrary.net/summer-reading-program or call 239-479-INFO.


This summer, and all year round, students are eligible to ride LeeTran for half price with a LeeTran student ID! Bring your school ID to Rosa Parks Transportation Center, 2250 Widman Way, Fort Myers, and for just $1 receive your LeeTran Student ID card. This card allows you to ride all Fixed Route buses for just 75 cents and the Beach Trolley for just 35 cents.

Later this summer, join LeeTran for Summer Bus Bash and scavenger hunt fun. Students will be eligible to win prizes for visiting select locations throughout Lee County that are accessible by LeeTran bus routes. In June, visit www.RideLeeTran.comfor contest rules and more information or call 239-LEE-TRAN.

Young Girl Scouts Share Plans for Community Projects

Fourteen members of Girl Scout Troop 176 shared some big plans for community service projects at their April 4 meeting, as part of the troop’s “Give Back Challenge.” With five-hundred dollars in project support funds on the line, the competition was tough but friendly.

Girls were directed to research needs in the local community and develop plans for helping meet those needs. Guest judges Sandy Smith and Louse Hawthorne from United Way of Lee, Hendry, Glades, and Okeechobee Counties were asked to select the top five projects, based on which they thought would have the most community impact.

The five winners include troop members Penelope, Sophia, Maddalyn, Catelyn, and Sophia. Their plans include projects to benefit Ding Darling Refuge, Valerie’s House, and Furry Friends, as well as the establishment of a local lending library and a community garden. Each winner will be allotted $100 from the troop’s recent cookie sale profits to offset costs for their projects.

“I was so impressed with the presentations” said Sandy Smith, Community Development Manager for United Way. “So many of them had done research and really thought about what they wanted to improve in the community.”

Members of the troop range in age from first through third grades. “I could not be any more proud of these girls and their incredible ideas to support their community. I’m in awe of how they are thinking of others first and that each had a completely different idea than the next,” said Cara Pennetti, Lee14 Service Unit Manager and Troop Leader. “This is why we volunteer with Girl Scouts and enjoy our time with the girls.”

For more information about Girl Scouts of Gulfcoast Florida, visit www.gsgcf.org or call 800-232-4475.

About Girl Scouts of Gulfcoast Florida, Inc.: Girl Scouting builds girls of courage, confidence, and character, who make the world a better place.  Girl Scouts of Gulfcoast Florida is chartered by Girl Scouts of the USA and serves nearly 6,500 girls in ten counties including Manatee, Hardee, Highlands, Sarasota, DeSoto, Charlotte, Glades, Lee, Hendry, and Collier.  For more information about Girl Scouts of Gulfcoast Florida visit www.gsgcf.org.


Lee County Domestic Animal Services celebrates May with two promotions

Lee County Domestic Animal Services will feature two promotions in May.

May 1-31: In honor of prom season, adoption fees for senior pets will be $20 all month. Adult dogs and cats will cost $30.

The adoption package valued at $500 includes: Spay/neuter surgery, age-appropriate vaccinations, Lee County Pet License, microchip ID, de-worming, heartworm test for dogs six months and over, feline AIDS and leukemia test for cats, Pet Behavior Helpline and a 10-day Pet Guarantee.

May 20: To help with kitten season, a special “kitten shower” event will be held noon to 3 p.m. Saturday, May 20. Several groups will join Animal Services, and presentations are planned on topics such as fostering and adoption.

Lee County Domestic Animal Services is located at 5600 Banner Drive, Fort Myers. The adoption center is open 10:30 a.m. – 3:30 p.m. Monday to Saturday. Available pets can be viewed online at www.leelostpets.com; also visit the Facebook page. Call239-533-7387 for more information.

Gateway church raises $45,500 for two local charities 

Gateway Trinity Lutheran Church’s sixth annual Charity Golf Tournament raised $45,500.

One-hundred percent of the proceeds will be split evenly between the Golisano Children’s Hospital of Southwest Florida and Community Cooperative. The event was held at Gateway Golf and Country Club on Saturday, March 18, 2017.

“The community response has once again been overwhelming this year as it has the last five years,” said Russ Reynolds, tournament director. “Our two deserving charities provide so much help and support to those who are less fortunate, and our success comes from the generous community of families and businesses that have donated more than $176,000 during the last six years.”

Based on community support, last year, GTLC pledged to raise $200,000 during the next five years to be split between the Golisano Children’s Hospital and Community Cooperative.

Gateway Trinity Lutheran Church is a multi-generational community that offers ministry for all ages through youth programs, Bible study and various small groups. Services are held Sunday mornings. For more information, visit www.gtlc.org.