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OK, so now what?

March 6, 2019
Pine Island Eagle

To the editor:

Matlacha is 0002.6 of the land mass in Lee County. Please forgive me if that percentage is inaccurate but the land mass of Matlacha is .2 square miles and Lee County is 785 square miles of land mass.

0002.6 is not very much, as land mass calculations go, but significant in that the transformation in Matlacha, from 1926, when Lee County put a second hand bridge across the pass, to now, is rather remarkable. Like it or not Matlacha, that "squatters roost," that "little fishing village," that "Key West of the North," that "Arts and Crafts Community" is now a destination for tourists and home to over 700 people.

The entrepreneurs, shop owners, crafters, restaurateurs, overnight accommodations establishment owners and other commercial enterprise risk takers have worked over the years to make it so. I am not going to attempt to characterize their dedication, rather suffice it to say, they, and the fact they have worked to develop an interest in their businesses, is part of the overall tourist trade in "our little corner" of Florida.

Now, how do we make sure we are mindful that the rights of the property and business owners in Matlacha (not the same persons in some cases), the traveling public to see and purchase goods and services, the property owners on Pine Island (proper) and all who seek commercial enterprise on Pine Island and in Matlacha, are assured.

"Blaming and taking shots from afar" will not get it done. There have been court battles in the past to try to change the historic course of Matlacha, but they failed. I don't really like to reduce this to worn out clich but, "it is what it is." Quantifying something does not change it. Repeating it does not improve it. Studies beget delay and they are expensive. A fresh look is in order here.

Anything substantive that happens from here on out must address the cause of the problem of traffic control in Matlacha. The cause of the problem is not the success of the business community in Matlacha. The cause is absence of proper control of foot and vehicular traffic. This is not something the business owners can or should shoulder alone.

The park systems throughout the area use varying forms of parking access and control. One of which is a payment for the use of the land, for vehicle parking, so the occupants can visit public and private entities. Using the grassy area in Matlacha Park could arguably be the best use of the property during winter tourist season. It would be a user fee plain and simple. When traffic builds, open the park. At the end of a productive day, close the parking area. Any vehicles left after the parking area closes would have to be towed at the owner's expense. A posting near the payment kiosk could outline all of the rules for use of the property. Any revenue collected for the user fee would be used to help defray the cost of policing in the commercial area of Matlacha, and to help cover costs for parking lot attendants.

If there are naysayers on the use of Matlacha Park property for Matlacha business patrons' parking, then let's all start getting used to hearing ourselves say "by-pass causeway." Or make a deal with the German American Club on Pine Island Road for contract use of their parking areas and have LeeTran set up a bus route to Pine Island from the Cape Coral LeeTran Transfer Center, with a regular stop or two in Matlacha, and charge regular transit fares. Someone with authority to fix this has to recognize this isn't going away.

Contract use of the German American Club property and LeeTran may be the most feasible because they can be ended easily at the end of tourist season or ended completely if the demand or need ceases.

John Norton

St. James City

 
 

 

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