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Celebration to be held at Cayo Costa State Park

By Staff | Nov 2, 2016

A celebration will be held the first Saturday of November providing both residents and visitors with the opportunity to learn about the rich history of Cayo Costa State Park.

“Our group is a small group and we are all very passionate about Cayo Costa,” Melanie Holaway, who is a member of the Friends of Cayo Costa State Park, said. “We wanted to give an opportunity for those locally, as well as visitors, to have a chance to come out and meet the park staff, do fun activities and have a light lunch. It’s a fun day to recognize there is a lot of history and good things going on at Cayo Costa State Park.”

The fourth annual celebration will be held from 9:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 5.

“We go on the boat schedule. The boats leave out of Captiva, Punta Gorda, Boca Grande and Pine Island. We arrange the day, so it is convenient for the boats to arrive and depart,” Melanie said.

The boat departures vary by location. Reservations are required by calling the Captiva Island departure at (239) 472-5300, Pine Island departure at (239) 283-0015, Punta Gorda departure at (941) 639-0969 and the Boca Grande departure at (239) 472-5300.

Tickets, which are $35 for adults and $25 for children, includes a round-trip cruise, hot dog lunch, drinks and activities. Tickets for Friends of Cayo Costa State Park members are $30 for adults and $20 for children.

“This is a cheaper rate to get out there. The regular boat trips are closer to $40. We know it is a good value for people. We would like to see people come out and enjoy the island,” Melanie said. “We are hoping for a great day with good weather and a chance to get to know people.”

Tina Brooks, a local singer and songwriter, will play during lunch, from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. The menu includes hot dogs, chips, water and soda.

A variety of vendors including the Randell Research Center and CROW will have tents set up. The Friends of Cayo Costa will also have a table showcasing some of their initiatives, how to become involved, as well as selling T-shirts.

A beach and trail walk will be offered during the celebration with one being held in the morning and the other in the afternoon. A handout with specific times will be given to attendees the day of the event.

“I did one last year and we talked about plants, some of the history of Cayo Costa,” Brian Holaway, a nature guide, said.

This year, he said they will take the little trail that leads to the pioneer cemetery. While walking that trail, wildlife will be pointed out, as well as Brian sharing information about Captain Peter Nelson, a pioneer who helped start the first school in Lee County, and later a school on Cayo Costa.

“He was the post master at Cayo Costa,” Brian said.

Such activities as shell crafts, palm weaving and demonstrations about nature related crafts will also be available.

Brian said the celebration is important because there was once a big population that gathered on Cayo Costa.

“It is good to respect and honor those people that were there before,” he said about the history of the island. I want to “let people know how special of an island it is right here in our own back yard here in Southwest Florida. It’s really a nice beautiful state park with a long rich history.”

The early pioneers of Cayo Costa arrived in the 1800s. The fishing families primarily caught mullet. In the late 1800s, Brian said the island had a bigger population than Sanibel with about 100 fishing families.

Past events held by the friends group has raised funds to help with building sheds that the park may need, as well as supply materials for the turtle patrol on Cayo Costa.

For more information about the event, visit www.friendsofcayocosta.org, or email friendsofcayocosta@gmail.com.