The breakdown: There are two plans floating around, and one of them might be picked as the winner. How much parking, what type of parking, and landscaping are the issues being discussed.
When the land was first donated to Lee County by the railroad, it was landscaped with some palm trees and flowers. Later on, here and there, minor changes were made, but the theme of the median strip has remained the same: Palm trees and flowers.
As Boca Grande became a busier and busier thoroughfare, more and more people started parking there. Where it once was lush, green grass, patches of baldness started showing through. Trees that were originally planted were dying, and many have been replaced.
Within the last few years, particularly after more church traffic and social functions have become the norm, parking has become more and more packed on the grassy strip. Gilchrist Avenue residents, at some point, decided that enough was enough. They created a plan that they think is appropriate, which will not only provide some parking but will beautify the street.
However, there are people on the island who do not agree with the plan. Many feel the plan provided by Gilchrist residents is too extreme in limiting parking spaces. Those spaces are used by many people who attend functions at the churches or at the Gasparilla Inn Beach Club, and it is used as overflow and employee parking for downtown businesses during high season.
That is why the Gasparilla Inn & Club, in the interest of peace-keeping, created another plan for parking and beautification.
Both of these plans have been taking to Lee County officials. In response, those officials said they will not act without community consensus. According to Lee County’s Department of Transportation, no laws are being broken by anyone parking there, with the exception of the hours posted on signs on the median strip, 9 p.m. to 6 a.m.
The first plan has been provided by a committee of people made up primarily of residents of Gilchrist Avenue. Their plan is to provide parallel parking at intervals, a 24-foot wide median, landscaped with natural vegetation to prevent cross-over traffic, and designated handicapped parking. In all, the creators of this plan believe there will be plenty of designated spaces for cars and golf carts. While it is a substantially lower number of parking spaces than what is currently provided, Gilchrist residents feel there is ample parking within easy walking distance to take advantage of as well.
The second plan was created by the Gasparilla Inn & Club in working with the three churches on Gilchrist, as well as the Boca Grande Area Chamber of Commerce. It has been endorsed by the Gasparilla Island Conservation and Improvement Association. The plan has been circulated amongst other islanders as well, and has been well-received.
This plan also has a shrub-line of native flowers planted down the middle of the median to prevent cross-through traffic, as well as cabbage palms strategically spaced to mark parking areas, but provides for pull-in parking instead of parallel parking. This provides for maximized parking, while still preventing dangerous cross-through traffic situations, and while beautifying the median strip.
The matter of designating the median strip as a historically-significant landmark will be taken up at the next Boca Grande Historic Preservation Board meeting on Wednesday, May 8, in the Woman’s Club Room of the Community Center at 10 a.m.View More images >>
See the editorial section of this week’s Boca Beacon for more letters on the median strip, and the GICIA endorsement.
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