We need to honor the soul of the island

December 31, 2015
By Marcy Shortuse

To the Editor:
They say the seasons don’t change in Florida. Well I know summer’s over because the weeds on Gilchrist are dying and a lot of my neighbors are crying. Crying once again … not in my front yard.
I do think it’s wonderful that a lot of Islanders are on board with the greening of our world. I do not think a corridor in an affluent neighborhood is going to save the planet. Perhaps if the county had not allowed homeowners to over plant our parking spaces with their own personal paradise we might have a little relief for parking on the island.
I appreciate my friend and neighbor Mike Ott’s irenic comments about the Gilchrist parking situation. We definitely should come to grips and get a consensus on the parking problems of the island … because this problem is not a mirage and banning parking is not the answer.
I don’t think a car is parked in laziness when its occupant goes off to his or her job. I do think that people are entitled to find a parking space on a public street.
And to be perfectly honest, I think the whole character of this Island is about convenience.
The county has asked us to come to a consensus on parking. I remember one public meeting when the Gilchrist parking problem came up and the room was polled. A majority of the people in the room thought that it should just be left the way it is. Later a Gilchrist resident was quoted as saying you can’t get a consensus at a public meeting. Well that was the consensus and I don’t understand why it doesn’t count for anything.
This problem, like most of our problems, occurs for about three months out of the year.
A lot has been made about the historic value of the median on Gilchrist. My history of the island only goes back 30 years and I never remembered Gilchrist being anything more then what it is right now. I do remember the GICIA planting coconut palms years ago. Some survived, some of them died from the blight that killed a lot of our coconut palms.
There were some grand plans made by a man, on leave, from a very famous firm that were never implemented. That was a long time ago so as far as we know the median never changed.
I know the county mows the grass and I believe that’s as far as its stewardship goes.
I know that there are only two historical districts in Lee County – ours and Matlacha. Of course, both have streets in them.
I know from experience when you come to a magical place like Boca Grande you want a piece of it, you want to make it your own. It’s a normal reaction. But at the same time you have to honor its soul. You can’t take it, put walls around it, wrap it up in a bunch of rules and no trespassing signs. Historically that’s not what this place was about and never has been about and I always hope that will be its legacy.
The legacy of a friendly little fishing village, where Florida crackers and billionaires were on equal footing.
Not an island that was made up of gated communities and elitist enclaves. An island whose inhabitants respected the rights and needs of all their neighbors, full-timers, part-timers and visitors all have a harmonic, symbiotic relationship.
An island of good traditions, whether it be a annual stay at our iconic inn, fishing with a local guide or as simple as having a few rounds at our local gin mills that wreak of history.
I realize that wonderful, historic places like this are vanishing, but it’s not from losing time-honored traditions such as parking your car to go to work or driving your car to the beach or going to church.
If you want to see Gilchrist in its former glory come on down next summer. It almost looks like did in the turn of the last century.
Skip Perry,
Boca Grande,
planet Earth
(Here’s hoping our legacy is one of Bonhomie)