By Donna Fiala
Many boaters have traveled to the Goodland Boat Park since it opened last August. This wonderful 5.2 acre park adds much needed boating access to the County’s inventory, with 75 boat trailer parking spaces, 16 regular vehicle parking spaces, 22 wet slips (available for rent, by the way), a two-lane boat loading ramp, a fish cleaning station, a dock master station with a small convenience store, a small meeting room, a covered picnic pavilion, bicycle racks and more.
It is also a terrific place for the Goodlanders to hold three festivals a year, which is a promise the county made to them during their negotiations. The Boat launching fee is $8.00, or a $75 per year non-commercial boat launch pass. We ran into a few problems once the ramp opened with regard to the drop-off at the end of the ramp, so in May the county extended the ramp an additional 15 feet to accommodate adequate boat launching during extreme low tide conditions. The cost to extend the ramp was borne by the design firm. The ramp is now 82 feet in length and is a very popular destination for boaters, and the park itself is a welcome addition to the Goodlanders.
Also on Goodland is a little place called Margood. You might remember it from the past if you went to the movie house (yes, there was a movie house there with all the old movie equipment, etc.) or saw the tiny little cottages for rent, or saw the washhouse or just got a few bites to eat at the restaurant/convenience store. I used to marvel at all the historical items just laying around the convenience store and wished some of those things were in a museum for all to see. County staff also saw the value in rescuing this bit of history and worked with the Florida Community Trust, who funded $1.9 million for us to acquire the park.
The county’s responsibility in order to receive the funding was to build a park. Since then, County Staff has worked closely with the residents of Goodland to develop a design for a passive neighborhood park, which will be a terrific new amenity for residents and visitors to the Goodland community. The BCC (Board of County Commissioners) approved a $1.1 million contract at their May 10th meeting to develop the park and salvage some of the historical items, which will be housed in a museum within the county. This park will also have a launch area for kayaks and canoes. Also included is a playground, which many young families had requested. Next time you go to Stan’s on a Sunday, make a special effort to find Margood and the Goodland Boat Park. You’ll be glad you did.
I’m sure you have all heard of the catastrophe that struck the Ted Smallwood Store in Chokoloskee, but in case you haven’t, let me bring you up to date. In April, Florida-Georgia Grove LLP, the developer that owns the property north of the Store decided, WITHOUT NOTICE, to bulldoze the south end of Mamie Street in Chokoloskee, cutting off access to the Smallwood Store and Museum!!! Mamie Street has been used for the past 60 years as the only direct access to the Ted Smallwood Store. The closure of the street also cut off access to a residential property!
The company is in the process of attempting to develop a marina and apparently decided to take this action after learning that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers planned to deny a permit application filed by the company to put in an alternate access road. The decision to tear up this part of Mamie Street creates an economic hardship for the Chokoloskee community. Tour operators are no longer bringing visitors to the Smallwood Store and those same visitors will no longer patronize local businesses and restaurants. Several years ago the county considered purchasing this property from the developer in order to develop a marina, but declined because of the extensive permitting and dredging that would be required.
The need is no longer there since the opening of Goodland Boat Park , and the county purchase of the Port of the Islands Marina in 2008 have provided greater boat launching access. At the May 10th BCC meeting, the Commissioners voted to file a lawsuit against the developer, contingent upon the Smallwood family joining the suit. I will keep you posted as this saga continues.