Tuesday, December 7, 2021

About Travel and More




Donna Fiala

Here’s a “hopeful” item that will affect many, but mostly those who travel U.S. 41E starting at the new widened road from 951 East to Greenway Road. When the FDOT widened that road they never installed any streetlights, or sidewalks, or pathways. The folks in that area, mainly those living in Reflection Lakes and Imperial Wilderness, brought their concerns to my office because of their fears that nothing can been seen in the darkness, and it gets very dark in the winter months. We all remember when the FDOT didn’t install streetlights in the section of U.S. 41 west of 951 through the Naples Manor area. We in E. Naples asked for the lights because of the darkness, and were refused. A couple months later a little boy who wandered into the street was killed because the couple driving the normal speed limit could not see him in the dark. Streetlights appeared a short time after that, thanks to the county folks who found a way to get it done on our own dime, with the help of developers who were coming to that area. Let’s hope we can get this problem fixed now before any consequences occur. We have identified locations where lights are extremely important: the exits from the new Tamiami Crossings Shopping Center onto U.S. 41E, the entrance to Trail Ridge (a Habitat village), the entrance to both of the Manatee Schools and to Manatee Road which connects to 951, the entrance to Charlee Estates (another Habitat village), the entrance to Reflection Lakes and Naples Reserve, the entrance to Imperial Wilderness (a 55 and older mobile home community), and the entrance to Paradise Point (another 55 and older mobile home community). Some of these areas are filled with people who ride bikes and walk, plus other communities with residents older than 55 who might have more of a problem seeing at night. My office has drawn a map for FDOT (thanks Mike) and identified each area that lighting is essential for safety to these communities! The ball is now in their court. We’ll keep you updated when we receive an answer from FDOT.

• For those of you looking for something a little different to fill the long summer days, have you checked out the Key West Express? There’s nothing better than “slicing” (their own words) through the Gulf waters on a fast ferry. It’s cheaper than flying and faster than driving. The Key West Express docks at 951 Bald Eagle Drive on Marco Island (239-463-5733). They depart Marco Island (closest spot for the City of Naples, East Naples and Golden Gate people as well) at 8:30 AM. If you choose, you can stay a couple days, or explore shopping, museums, and tours all in one day. They have many places to eat and drink. Hemingway Days run until July 24th, or Lobster Mini Season on July 27th and 28th. An actual Lobster Fest will be held on August 11th to 14th. Who knows? You might have been looking for something a little special to do away from home, but not too far. The tickets start at $125 round-trip.

• Speaking of the travel industry: The Marco Island Airport will again expand to meet the needs of the flying public. The county-owned airport and property will be building a new passenger terminal on vacant land just east of the existing terminal. The old terminal will be coming down to make way for a new aircraft hangar. The airport authority will construct the necessary infrastructure to accommodate the hangar, including but not limited to, aircraft parking apron, drainage, and utilities. These infrastructure improvements are eligible for 80% FDOT financial participation, with 20% match required from the county. The county will lease the improved vacant property to Image Air Charter (who was selected after bids were received and finalized). Staff will negotiate the details and bring them back to the Board of County Commissioners for final approval. Image Air will then fund and construct a corporate aircraft hangar at the Marco Island Airport. Staff is now pursuing FDOT grant participation for the required infrastructure improvements and will begin lease negotiations with Image Air.

• The Board of County Commissioners might be embarking on a new venture. They have directed staff to pursue a Focused Environmental Assessment and potential grant funding for the establishment of a seaplane base at the Everglades Airpark. Salt Island Seaplanes has indicated it would base sufficient aircraft at Everglades Airpark to make the airport eligible for FAA grant funding. The county has been met with favorable reactions from FAA and FDOT in preliminary discussions. This would take this airport in a whole new direction. Our new (not too new) airport director, Justin Lobb, has been doing a magnificent job in his new role.

• Speaking of all this travel information: I wonder when another new business will appear such as deep sea diving and snorkeling? With the huge reef growing so rapidly (sea life abounds already – I hope you saw the movie!) and bringing fish back to our waters that have not been here for many years, this could add another benefit to our tourism industry!

• Enjoy your summer! Soon will come my annual Amish edition.

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