Council puts brakes on Arches
Supporters of rebuilding the iconic Arches on Fort Myers Beach were given another round of bad news Monday when the town council gave a thumbs down to their proposal to place a smaller version of the stone structure at Crescent Beach Family Park.
The effort to reconstruct the Arches, which was the introduction for many visitors to the beach for decades from San Carlos Island, had a backer in County Commissioner Cecil Pendergrass. Pendergrass supported a measure to fund the estimated $75,000 project at the county level with tourism funds. Resistance to the project from the town council led to Pendergrass pulling back his proposal Nov. 5 until the board met to discuss it. Mayor Anita Cereceda said Pendergrass was looking for input from the town council.
On Nov. 18, only Council member Rexann Hosafros said should she would support the project backed by the Restore Fort Myers Beach Arches group.
Vice Mayor Ray Murphy thought the current Arches proposal wasn’t a good idea. “It was historic and iconic to all of us for years and everything else and I get all that. It certainly is not going to go back up where it was. Personally I don’t feel it’s appropriate out there on that beach. I think somewhere else possibly. I don’t think I would support putting it out on Crescent Beach. I don’t think that’s the right place for it,” Murphy said.
“If there were to be another spot identified possibly I could get a little more excited about it. I know it’s not going to cost the town anything,” Murphy said.
Hosafros said the Restore Fort Myers Beach Arches group has worked hard on finding a location. “It’s very difficult for them to find a location,” she said. Hosafros said the Arches shouldn’t go near any roadway or entrance. She believes Crescent Beach Family Park was a “good compromise” in finding a location for the Arches. “Nobody is getting everything they want and that’s because it’s not possible to re-achieve the past.”
Council member Bruce Butcher said “I don’t know exactly know what the right thing is. If somebody is going to do it and the county is going to pay for it I think that’s the right thing. Where it needs to be, how big it needs to be, I don’t know.”
Butcher suggested possibly situating the Arches at the Lee County parking lot on San Carlos Island or near the Bay Oaks Recreation Center.
Shamp said the Arches project could go in a number of places in a smaller version. She said the county had rejected previously plans by the town for other projects in Crescent Beach Family Park, which is owned by the county.
Cereceda said the Arches is “clearly very important to everybody who lives here, and who grew up here.”
However, the mayor said “I do not believe it belongs in Crescent Beach Park.”
Cereceda said she doesn’t want the conversation to end about the Arches, but thought this could be the beginning of a conversation with the county.
In response to the statements by the town council, Restore Fort Myers Beach Arches President Steven Ray McDonald stated “we have suffered a large setback, we are greatly disappointed. We welcomed Cecil’s Pendergrass’s proposal. For their own reasons the Fort Myers Beach Council denied 4 to 1 an opportunity to recreate a historic iconic Arches in Crescent Beach Family Park at no cost to Fort Myers Beach residents. They sit in front of a mural of the Arches.
“They also discounted the opinions of our over 1100 members that greatly supported the idea. They are their constituents. We will continue to look for a place to put the Arches just as we did three weeks ago before Cecil’s gracious help was offered to our group, even if we have to purchase the property ourselves.That was always in our plan as a non-profit privately funded organization from the start.”