The New Boca Grande: 1979-Present
Historical Overview of Boca Grande
The tide began to change and growth accelerated. Density and height restrictions on development were put into place, first by Lee County, then by an act of the State Legislature in a bill called The Gasparilla Island Act. This was necessitated because the island is divided into two counties, Lee and Charlotte. These protections were promoted by a very proactive civic association and supported by most of the population of the island.
People from different parts of the country, including Florida, began to build second homes, not only on the beach, but also on lots along canals that had been dug to attract boaters. Several condominiums were built along the beach, although no high rises. The school, which was abandoned and vandalized after closure in 1963, was restored through the efforts of local folks and the cooperation of Lee County. It is now our magnificent Community Center. A Charter School has recently been built adjacent to the Community Center to provide education for kindergarten through the fifth grade. During this period of time, the lighthouse was restored to its original condition and reactivated, and a museum was created below the light. All of these undertakings were accomplished by local effort. The depot has been restored by private interests and currently contains shops and a restaurant. A gated community was built on the old port property and a bike path now exists from 1st Street north where trains once traveled, and continues south of 1st Street to the end of the island on county-owned property adjacent to Gulf Blvd.
All of this attracts people to the island, which aids the local economy enormously. One of the things that entice people to come here, both to visit and to live, is the centralized business district which was the original design of Peter Bradley’s grand plan when he laid out the town.
In 2001 Florida Power & Light closed its deep water berthing facility at the port due to the change from oil to natural gas at the power plant in Fort Myers. After 111 years, Boca Grande is no longer an active deep-water port. The original reason for Boca Grande’s existence is now gone. The remarkable mix of trains, ships and people of all social, racial and economic echelons have disappeared.
The island will never be the same, but new residents generously donate their time and money supporting organizations and clubs that are a benefit to the quality of life and to the well-being of a renewed Gasparilla Island.
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