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County offer would not Restore the Fort Myers Beach Arches

September 18, 2019
Fort Myers Beach Bulletin, Fort Myers Beach Observer

To the editor:

What do you do when you are being fought by local Government on replacing a historic structure that should have never been destroyed?

Our non-profit group Restore Fort Myers Beach Arches, Inc. has been working with local officials trying for three years to find a suitable location for the return of our iconic historic Arch structure. The Fort Myers Beach Arches that stood as a doorway to Fort Myers Beach for half a century. First we were denied any access to FDOT to discuss placing our Arches back over the road. We conceded to public opinion that the Arches should be placed roadside in Crescent Beach Family Park, and we got approval from Cecil Pendergrass Lee County District 2 Commissioner (Our Hero) to do so. We were never told what foot print was being offered when we conceded. That was "Going to be determined in the first meeting," they said. So we hired an engineering firm to listen-in to scale to engineering package appropriately. We were going to address any concerns.

Now we are being told by Jessie Lavendar, Director of Lee County Parks, "We get 40 feet." That is what we get to replicate a 104-foot structure. With this limited footprint even scaling it down would be nonsense; for instance, scaling it down to roughly 40% of its original size would make the center spire 10'4" instead of 26' tall. Making it something for kids to climb on. They wanted to use the very narrow opening in the middle as an walkway. Our engineers told them it was too narrow. Not to mention the middle had a planter filled with dirt around it. Didn't matter.

We were not given any opportunity to discuss any other option. We were actually told "This is it, you get this 40 feet or nothing at all from Lee County." No compromise. At first we said, "Let's put this decision off for a week, I can poll our group." But I remembered, we already had; Restore Fort Myers Beach Arches Facebook page poll our members. 90% of our group wanted to see a 100% scale replica of the Arches in Crescent Beach Family Park. We think our citizens want to come over the sky bridge and see the grandeur of the Arches against the Gulf. This awe would make up for not driving under them as the doorway, but still give you that feeling you are home. It would once again make the Arches uniquely Fort Myers Beach; something that the other hundreds of beaches in Florida do not have. One more thing to offer tourists. The Arches were a tourist attraction from the time they were constructed in 1924. So, 60 feet of Lee County sand keeps us from making our vision a reality. So we ended up telling Lee County this solution is not acceptable to us and our project. Unless something changes, we will not build the Arches in Crescent Beach Family Park.

We are the citizens funding it, taking all the risk, and absorbing all the costs. We only get one chance to do this right. So now we look again for private property, maybe roadways (DOT roads, not FDOT roads like SR865) and/or Fort Myers Beach City Property to accomplish our goal. We have the goal of putting the iconic Arches (That defined us for half a century) back up on the landscape of Fort Myers Beach. It was some of our earliest history. It was home.

Steven Ray McDonald

President,

Restore Fort Myers Beach Arches, Inc.

 
 

 

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