Sunday, January 16, 2022




Donna Fiala

Recently, a group of 16 people joined me to take a tram trip through parts of the Fakahatchee Strand State Park. Most of these interested people were from Marco Island I’m proud to say. We were amazed to learn so much about an area we really knew nothing about.

Fakahatchee is the largest state park in Florida. It stretches about 100 square miles starting along Alligator Alley, approximately one mile east of Collier Blvd. to SR-29, crossing over US-41E and all the way to the Marco Island Airport! I never realized we were looking at a state park when we would drive to Goodland or Everglades City by way of US-41E. Within the park grows the rare Ghost Orchid and more native orchid species than anywhere else in the U.S.A.! Who would have guessed?

Our tour guides, Tom Maish and Naturalist Glen Stacell answered all of our questions and provided more information than we ever knew existed within this beautiful, pristine strand. The Friends of Fakahatchee provide official swamp walks through the waters of the Fakahatchee Strand, offering a chance to get up close and personal to a fabulous array of orchids and bromeliads. Be prepared to get wet, because you can’t do it staying dry.

The “Friends” offer other opportunities such as the naturalist-led Ghost Rider tram tour telling you how the Fakahatchee swamp recharges groundwater supplies, moderates the climate and provides food and habitat for native wildlife. It is the main drainage slough of the southwestern Big Cypress Swamp, the home of the largest stand of royal palms in North America and one of the last remaining stands of old growth Bald Cypress, many of them hundreds of years old. A major portion of the Strand, a narrow forested swamp about 20 miles long and three to five miles wide, lies within the state park. For more information see:

*There are many people from the Midwest in Collier, hailing from Wisconsin and Michigan, home of Culver’s Ice Cream. When we Ohioans heard about this terrific place and that Culver’s wanted to build four restaurants in Collier County, we all got to work and sent letters requesting that they come to our section of town where many Midwesterners live. We were thrilled to see the Culver’s sign go up, but shortly had to come down because of low property elevation.

We were worried we had lost them, but are delighted to see the Culver’s sign go up on the newest shopping center being built adjacent to the new development of Isles of Collier Preserve, the extension of Hammock Cove. You’ll know them best by Foxboro, Brunina’s and Publix. This shopping area will be bustling with activity very soon! We know they will be well received!

*Recently I was invited to speak to the Marco Island Men’s Club. I really enjoy this group of well-informed community leaders. One of the questions they asked was about concerns regarding the water requirements for the oil drilling project in Golden Gate Estates Mr. Charles Kracht e-mailed me to ask about my answer, which I misstated and need to update, as I was unclear about the results at that time.

The DEP had asked for the opinion from the Big Cypress Swamp Advisory Panel, which responded by holding several days of hearings on the matter at the request of the DEP, and ultimately recommended denial of the Estates oil well permit. This recommendation was advisory only, and the DEP decided to uphold its previous decision to grant the permit. Thank you so much, Mr. Kracht, for bringing this to my attention and allowing me to amend my statement. Many of us are displeased with the disregard the Hughes Oil Company has shown our residents.

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