Public says no to proposed Cayo Costa name change
An overwhelming majority of people attending a public input session on a proposed name change for Cayo Costa State Park sent a very clear message: Leave the name alone.
More than a dozen area residents told officials why they felt that the name of the park should not be changed to honor former Lee County Commissioner and CIA head Porter Goss.
Presenting the proposal brought forward by Sen. Michael Bennett was Dale Adams, who had hoped to honor the work done by Goss.
“Porter Goss was instrumental in the park going from a county property to a state park and I am asking that we simply add his name and call it Porter Goss Cayo Costa State Park in his honor,” Adams said. “I think it is appropriate as Goss had been in support of costal issues and played a role in establishing the state park.”
While most agreed that Goss is deserving of recognition, they did not feel that changing the name of the state park was the answer.
Pine Island resident Robert Johnson was among those who felt the name change would be inappropriate.
“Over the years, the islands of Charlotte Harbor and Pine Island Sound have become friends and I often think of them like family members,” said Johnson.
“Changing the name of Cayo Costa would be like someone coming into my home and telling me that Uncle Joe would no longer be Uncle Joe. Renaming a family member or Cayo Costa would just be wrong.”
Several speakers approached the subject from a financial view point.
“I think our tax money would be spent better elsewhere, rather wasting it on new signs, maps and other things to change the name of the park,” said Bill Fuller.
Marty Nanning, a resident of Cayo Costa, provided a personal perspective.
“I consider myself a custodian of the island. Along with other families, we have shared a bond with the island and its history,” said Nanning. “When it comes to renaming the island to honor a person, I believe it should reflect the families who were instrumental in keeping the island pristine and not for another individual.”
In addition to her own statement, Nanning also presented Adams, the originator of the proposed name change, and legislative assistant to Sen. Michael Bennett, Crystal Fitzgerald, 30 emails from other individuals who opposed the name change.
Elaine McGloughlin was also among those who spoke.
“I have had the great privilege of working with Porter Goss and I feel he deserves recognition, however, the name change at Cayo Costa could be detrimental when it comes to brand identity,” McGloughlin said. “Brand identity for state parks is very important to the state economy and should be maintained. For example, let’s say I lived in London or Germany and was looking for a place to vacation and I decided to Google Cayo Costa. Changing the name, this park would no longer come up in a search because it would no longer exist. If that were the case, we would have lost those visitors and the revenue they bring with them. The name of Cayo Costa has been promoted around the world and should remain that way. As for Porter Goss, I would be happy to help find another vehicle where he can be recognized.”
Others reflected the historical significance of the name Cayo Costa.
“I don’t believe in changing historical names to honor a contemporary person and I feel as though most agree with me,” said Mary Kaye Stevens. “Just look at what happened with Cape Canaveral. When it was changed to Cape Kennedy, people expressed their displeasure with the change and later, the name Cape Canaveral was reinstated.”
Also attending the meeting were several members of the Paddila family, which has lived on Cayo Costa for more than six generations.
Former Cayo Costa ranger Scott Player spoke in the family’s behalf.
“I was a ranger at Cayo Costa and I understand the hardships that were endured by the first settlers there. We need to protect what we have here and to respect those people. Changing the name would be like sweeping those people under the carpet,” Player said. “I know that Porter Goss was important when it came to developing the park, but these families are the ones that deserve the recognition for keeping the island the way it is.”
After hearing the testimonies, Fitzgerald shared her opinion as to how Bennett would respond.
“It is apparent that no one here supports the proposal to change the name of the park, so, in my opinion, it is clearly evident that there will be no bill presented by Sen. Bennett to propose a name change at this time,” said Fitzgerald. “The idea for the name change was brought to the senator by Mr. Adams and this is why the senator asked for this town hall meeting, as he felt it was important to get feed back from those who would be most affected by the change, so I can assure you that this is a done deal and ends with this meeting.”