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Tourist Development Tax Assists Barrier Island Parks

October 12, 2023
By Garland Pollard

Two budget items benefitting the Barrier Island Parks Society, including paths for Gasparilla Island State Park and a boat for Cayo Costa, will be presented at the Oct. 17, 2023 meeting of the Board of County Commissioners for Lee County.

Project number 403386 will provide $68,714 for a boat to transport volunteers and staff to and from Cayo Costa for maintenance duties and trash removal. The application from the group stated that the yearly economic impact of Cayo Costa was over $23 million, and the request reported that the park had 196,000 “eco and heritage tourists” in FY 2021-22 .

Another second Tourist Development Tax project for BIPS is for Gasparilla Lighthouse walking trail maintenance at Gasparilla Island State Park. The project, agenda item 401710, will also include interpretive signage and overall maintenance of the shoreline facility for a cost of $44,500. The application states that the project will “help all visitors understand the importance of the dune system and keep them safe during their visit.” 

The project also includes new batteries for golf carts, replacement of lost vegetation, removal of spiny plants and adding soil to surface roots exposed after storms. The request stated that the park had an impact in 2021-22 of $177 million and 1,490,623.

The money is part of a $4,377,203 set of projects funded from Lee County’s Tourist Development Tax. The largest item on the list is over $2.2 million for beach park maintenance in Sanibel, and the second-largest item is $1.1 million in beach and shoreline maintenance for the town of Fort Myers Beach.

The smallest item on the list was a $5,000 interpretive kiosk for Ding Darling Wildlife Society on behalf of the Ding Darling State Park.

The projects were recommended for approval in May 2023 by the Tourist Development Council, and were included in the already approved FY 2023-24 budget.