The Gasparilla Inn Gilchrist Parking Plan represents the sharpest calculations of the commercial interests of the village, and I included the Protestant churches in this characterization, to the exclusion of the neighbors.
The GICIA news release characterizes the arrangement as “optimizing the number of parking spaces allowed.” This is flak-talk for shoe-horning in as many vehicles as possible, which by my count is 64 per block or 256 for the corridor; on a banner day this could bring a thousand souls to our doorsteps.
While it will take more years than are left to me, the demand from the 75,000 additional residents of the Cape Haze peninsula will ultimately fill these slots year-round as beachgoers make their way to the most convenient sand and water.
The creation of a vast parking lot in a residential neighborhood will diminish real estate values not only on Gilchrist but for those areas south of First Street and especially the north end of Boca Bay. Who wants to face an unsightly and unsafe gauntlet of steel and flesh on most every auto outing? The appropriation of the Gilchrist median for trade purposes seems a sly end run around eminent domain requirements.
I leave to Davis Hammond the animation of his great aunt’s memory and content myself with certifiable expressions of her sentiment. The GICIA endorsement of the parking scheme approving gushes “this plan is based on Mrs. Crowninshield’s vision of how Gilchrist should look.” This glowing interpretation is certainly at odds with her written concern about the prospect of the causeway increasing traffic on the island. In a letter dated May 9, 1950, blown up and on display in the Clinic Annex, Mrs. Crowninshield expresses herself to a Mr. Gaines, “We are simply shattered, all of us, about the bridge. It means the end of Boca Grande for any people who care for their places…It seems hard after working so many years to have Paradise crumble before one’s eyes.”
While Boca Grande did not implode an era came to an end. 60 years later the GICIA’s power play has disturbed the civility of the life that survived.
William H. RegneryBoca Grande
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