Another typical island controversy arises … oh, joy

September 13, 2019
By Marcy Shortuse

In my house, the quickest way to lose privileges is to demand them … especially when said privilege is far above and beyond a basic need. I’m reminded of that when I read comments on our Facebook post about the proposed dog park and the public hearing that is scheduled for November.
If you don’t follow “The Facebook,” when we posted that story last week a plethora of comments were made.Here’s what we learned from those comments:
1) Some people don’t care about a dog park;
2) Some people don’t care about a farmer’s market;
3) One person would miss the ballfield if it was gone;
4) Some people think the proposed dog park is too small; and
5) Some people want a bigger fitness center.
I know this is confusing, so let me start from the beginning. On the afternoon of Thursday, Sept. 5, after we went to press, the County sent out a memo stating a public meeting regarding the proposed dog park on the island will be held on Tuesday, Nov. 5. It said the park is being considered for the Wheeler Road ballfield location, it would be built during the 2019-20 fiscal year, and it would be a quarter-acre in size. In the memo, Lee County said that size is comparable to other dog parks in the county and would include landscaping, a fenced yard for large dogs, a separate fenced yard for small dogs, a drinking water station and a dog-wash area.
If you didn’t know, the 7th Street dog park was officially closed on September 6, but no work has started on the Beach Club project yet. Some very generous people from the community got together, promised some money and approached the County about putting a new dog park up on Wheeler Road.
Other locations were looked at from what I understand, but none of them made as much sense. There is quite a bit of space at the end of Wheeler (all County-owned property), plenty of room to park cars and golf carts, even restroom facilities at the tennis courts across the road for the humans to use.
We waited for weeks to get any kind of notification from the County as to what was going on with the project. I knew there was a tentative plan to begin work on the dog park this summer, with the hope they would have it done by November or December. Those hopes were dashed when some of the neighbors on Wheeler voiced their dog park concerns to the County … because they didn’t want it there.
Fast-forward to September 5, when the post was created about the public meeting to be held in November. The diversity of this community may not be as apparent to someone who doesn’t know the personalities, but to those of us who do, we realize how all over the board people’s opinions here can be.
One thing I didn’t expect was a mild attack on the farmer’s market. Some people were concerned that a for-profit venue that is only present one morning a week for a few months a year would take precedence over a community amenity that could be used all day, every day. It’s not an invalid argument, save for the fact it seems as though there would be plenty of room for the farmer’s market, the ballfield and a dog park in that spot. It has to be about five acres, and the famer’s market only takes up a very small amount of space when it’s there.
Another obvious argument that makes even more sense is that a quarter-acre dog park split in two is not very big at all. A normal-sized house lot is a quarter-acre. Surely they could make the fenced-in area a bit bigger than that.
Another person argued that they could surely hold the farmer’s market at the Community Center, or on the bike path. That all comes back to parking vs. patrons, a hot- button topic for the County right now. No one has any idea how many people will show up to a special event at the Community Center, but it is fair to say we know about how many people will show up at a typical farmer’s market. If you think about the parking needs for that venue, they are pretty expansive. People would be parking in the rafters if they take the market to a smaller location.
So once again we are left a community torn, a small group of people who have vastly diverse opinions about what it more important. I sure hope we can work together on this one or, as I said earlier, we might just lose our privileges. If the County were to adhere strictly to Lee County’s code for unincorporated villages and towns, they could yank our diagonal parking AND our benches and potted plants in the downtown area. They could take those pretty, shell-gravel beach accesses and blacktop them with bright yellow lines delineating where to park. They could rip out all the plantings along the Gilchrist easement and make more parking there … this list could go on and on. So I sure hope we can play nice in the sandbox on this one and be considerate of everyone’s opinions, and maybe we can – for once – work this out.
As far as the fitness room goes, stay tuned. We’re working on that.