Reflections on Island History Posted: 17 December 2008 (Submitted by UCFRD Fire Chief Richard Pepper)
This fall, Asst. Chief Kinniry and I were invited to visit Little Gasparilla Island in Charlotte County. The community is trying to form a fire department, funded by ad-valorem taxes. They have a small, developing fire department supported by donations. As with our island, back in the day, only a few people contribute from among the nearly 400 homeowners. While traveling down their sandy pathways, it struck me that this is what our island was like, twenty-some years ago. They live with overgrown, unmaintained roads; broken down golf carts, boats and cars tucked back in the woods. Large burn barrels sit in front of each house, burning trash, garbage and vegetation with no regard for neighbors. Construction crews burn and bury debris at will. Departing Little Gasparilla, I came to the immediate conclusion that our island community has become just that-a community. Not to say it's been without growing pains or controversy, but the Island's achievements are numerous.
An obvious milestone was the development of Safety Harbor Club. That era of the Island's history brought both electric power and the Volunteer Fire Department to this untamed spit of land. Slowly, over time, other refinements followed. In 1990, after
six years of donations solicited by the Friends of the Fire Department, it became apparent to the active homeowners that donated funds would not support bringing the Fire Department up to NFPA (professional-association) standards. Between November 1990 and January 1991, Islanders held a referendum vote then established the Upper Captiva Fire Protection and Rescue Service District.
Other problems still existed. The Island was a junkyard, pathways were overgrown, even unsafe. Construction debris was scattered or buried on absent owners' property. Appliances and useless vehicles were abandoned. The mess was catalyst to form the Upper Captiva Civic Association. November 1, 1992, a group of 50 or so Islanders got together at Russ and Thelma Reed's house to visit the idea of forming an association-to mitigate the collective problems of the island. Everyone there addressed what they perceived as island problems and a motion to move forward was accepted. Articles of Incorporation were signed December 26 and filed with Tallahassee on December 31, 1992. The UCCA was official.
The "Friends", with Fire District endorsement, donated funds toward road maintenance, followed by a UCCA sub-committee to continue road work.
That group became the independent Upper Captiva Road Commission. Pathway safety, maintenance and clearance is now in the hands of that all-volunteer organization.
Another milestone date, August 13, 2004, changed the island's direction. Hurricane Charley is well documented, but the aftermath continues to change the community. Shortly after the storm, we learned that the Fire District was the only island agency that could request State or Federal assistance. Later, County and some State officials strongly suggested that a "community government or panel," on file with the County Seat, would be best suited to request assistance in a declared emergency. The long process of creating a community group is about to be completed. The moral of this commentary is basic. Reflecting back on the state of Little Gasparilla, I see that the efforts of many people have shaped our island community. Unfortunately, a few folks who have planted roots here, post Hurricane Charley, are unaware of the dedication of many around them. Most residents are reaping the benefits of those who came before-without knowing of the trials and tribulations that made this island the gem it is today. Archives of island history are available, for the asking, to tell about the people who made a difference. Even if you chose not to participate in island affairs, learning what it took to form this community could help you appreciate the pioneers and their labors.
Respectfully, Richard Pepper, Fire Chief
High-Altitude Aerial Pictures of North Cap and Lee County -- All the way back to '44 !! Posted: 10 December 2008 by John Fuller
This from Kristie Anders... The clickable link at the end of this article will open a separate browser window, leading to a website which displays an amazing view of the development of not only North Captiva Island, but nearly any area of Lee County you may be curious about. Beginning in 1944, the survey flights were taken every 10 to 15 years, sometimes more often. Considering the technology of the times, "Zooming in" on the pictures reveals fairly good detail. (No, no dinasours are visible, but with a little imagination...)
It is suggested you keep this page available for the instructions below. Don't worry, you'll get the hang of it after a couple of minutes.
Step 1. Click on the link at the bottom of this article (new window opens). Step 2. Click on the year you want to see (available are 1944, 1953, 1958, 1970, 1980, 1996). Step 3. Look for and click on "Index Sheets". Step 4. Click on which area ("Index Sheet X") of Lee Co. you want to see. You have to guess which one at first. If you get an area you don't want, hit your "back" button and try a different Index Sheet -- there aren't that many. Step 5. A mosaic of pictures will appear. If you see any geography you recognize, click directly on the picture... it will zoom-in and re-center on the point you clicked. Successive clicks will zoom closer. To move, click a different spot. There is no "grab-and-drag" like on some other web-maps you may have used. Your "back" button zooms back out.