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Restore Fort Myers Beach Arches

Letter to the Editor

September 13, 2016
Jessica Salmond - News Editor ( , Fort Myers Beach Bulletin, Fort Myers Beach Observer

Restore Fort Myers Beach Arches

To the Editor:

"We request your reconsideration for the Fort Myers Beach Arches over the road. "Restore Fort Myers Beach Arches" is in this fight to restore our beloved over the road arches for the long haul. When one remembers the old coquina rock arches, they remember the passionate nostalgia that marked the approach to Fort Myers Beach for more than half a century. We would like to restore that history and create a tourist attraction and icon for future generations to enjoy as we did.

Built by many, the vision of developer Tom Phillips completed in 1924 as an entrance to a housing subdivision that was never built, they became the physical gateway to the beach. They not only did they precede San Carlos Blvd, but San Carlos Island. They survived the Great 1926 hurricane, a storm so powerful it created Hurricane Pass turning San Carlos into an island. They were loved by many generations, iconic to the area, and an integral part of Fort Myers Beach history.

Some 37 years later, they are the cover page on almost all Fort Myers area Facebook pages, they are the backdrop to Fort Myers Beach Town Council Chambers.

"You couldn't get on Fort Myers Beach-or the bridge to it-without going through these beautiful arches, I've been under them probably a thousand times. I cried when they tore them down." ~ Louise Barnes of Bokeelia, she died in 2004

"When I came under those arches, I knew I was home and that was a great feeling". ~ Frances Santini,

resident since 1933.

"When you crossed the arches, you knew you were at Fort Myers Beach; you realized you entered a

magical place where you were going to make memories". ~ Paul Sessions.

Every time I drove under them it meant I was arriving somewhere special. I always thought about them, and with great sadness they are gone. They should have been preserved.

Many were horrified and heartbroken to find out they were destroying them. The Fort Myers Beach Jaycees tried to save our wonderful arches in 1979; they did not have the resources. Then the landmark arches were gone; demolished without fanfare, unceremoniously, to make way for the Matanzas Pass Sky Bridge. It is like destroying Cinderella's Castle and Mickey Mouse at Disney world. We were outraged.

Our group of over 400 members, identified parts of the old arches that are still in the area. "Restore Fort Myers Beach Arches" was intent on gathering the original materials and putting up new arches in the same construction/manner that meets FDOT requirements. It is too late to save the old arches; but not too late to re-create them.

While the Lee County Commission are set to explode the beach in development, we want one part of the old beach restored over the road. We will keep fighting for the return of the overhead arches. We submitted a look-ahead to a private citizen funded and conceived project to FDOT to see if it was doable; a Community Aesthetic Feature Agreement (The Arches). FDOT did not disapprove; instead they told us we must work with a local government entity, being that our selected location is San Carlos and Main Street, just a few hundred yards from where they once stood. That entity would be the Lee County Commissioner's. We presented our project to the commission only to be told that Mr. Kiker has plans to put up a small representation of the once grand entrance. You must disclose your idea publicly or consider our proposal without prejudice. We will not stop; we loved those arches. Put them back where they belong, to drive under, we will do whatever it takes. We imagine a ribbon cutting ceremony one day. Reconsider you decision.

Steven McDonald

Assistant Project Manager,

Restore Fort Myers Beach Arches



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