Coming together on Gilchrist

December 18, 2015
By Marcy Shortuse

Gilchrist Ave Boca Grande FL-print-011-18-DJI 0011-3992x2242-300dpi(2)
To the Editor:
I fully support the mission of the churches on Gilchrist, but as a resident of Gilchrist I also want to protect the historical neighborhood I love. It is time for us to come together to provide ample church parking on the median for scheduled church services, weddings and funerals. If this is allowed and enforced by Lee County, this will satisfy the vast majority of the churches’ parking needs and protect the historical median for generations to come. To be perfectly clear, I do not believe that the churches need the median to survive and thrive, but if this common-sense solution brings closure to a contentious issue, I am all for it.
From my perspective, the Gilchrist situation is about protecting green space, supporting the good work of the churches and protecting a historical neighborhood. During my thirty-year history with Gilchrist Avenue, I have witnessed a steady deterioration of the median that has dramatically accelerated over the past ten years. I often wonder if the degradation has occurred due to lack of interest, lack of oversight, lack of planning, laziness, entitlement or simply hoping that the issue will resolve itself.
My biggest concern is that the median becomes a seven-day-a-week parking problem. From my standpoint, some members of our community are attempting to create a Mirage of Need. The reality is that we have a convenience problem, not a parking problem. More than enough parking exists within a few blocks of where people are trying to go, and many of the handicap spaces go unused. If the churches are allowed to use the median during their time of greatest need, maybe it will lead to a peaceful resolution. Simply put, it makes sense for those who worship and live in our neighborhood.
Please consider the following common-sense questions:

  • On how many historical boulevards in Lee County are people allowed to park their automobiles?


  • How many historical boulevards have been turned into parking lots based on convenience?


  • In how many areas of Lee County are people expected to back their car into 30 mph traffic from a parked position?


  • Under the stewardship of Lee County, how many dead or damaged palms in the median have been replaced over the past 10 years?

Historical and unique places like Boca Grande are disappearing at a rapid rate. We have the opportunity, responsibility and the privilege of restoring a historical median for generations to come. Please stop thinking about your individual parking needs and think about what our island will look like fifty years from now. Please consider what is right and not what is easy. Restore our historical median to what Frederick Olmsted, Governor Gilchrist and the people who donated the median to Lee County envisioned and planned for it to be. It is important to note that the people who call Gilchrist home have worked diligently to make sure that contractors or people visiting our homes do not use the median. Our neighborhood is leading by example. We do not need, nor are we requesting to park in the median.
This is a homegrown problem that we as a community need to solve for ourselves. Too much time, effort and money have been spent pandering to Lee County officials who have demonstrated time and again over the years that they just do not care about this issue.
There are good-natured, experienced and high- quality people on both sides of this issue. Let’s come together to solve this and move on.
Michael Ott
Boca Grande Resident
and local business owner