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‘Celebrate Cayo Costa’ brings in new and old visitors to the island

By Staff | Nov 11, 2015

There was good attendance for Celebrate Cayo Costa Nov. 7, as visitors await their boats to come in. BRIAN WIERIMA

Cayo Costa State Park just got a little bit more popular, after the Fourth Annual “Celebrate Cayo Costa State Park” Day Saturday, Nov. 7.

Mother Nature did not disappoint as the day featured one of the “best hidden jewels” in Southwest Florida, as many visitors during the day were first timers out to Cayo Costa.

“The day has been well attended in the past, except for last year, when we had torrential downpours,” said Barrier Islands Park Society Executive Director Sharon McKenzie. “It’s also lots of introductory trips for people, as well. Many come over, who have never been here, but just have heard about it. It’s a great day to showcase the island.”

The Friends of Cayo Costa organizes the day, which is run by all volunteers. The three boat services, including Captiva Cruises, Tropic Star and Kingfisher Fleet, also donated their boats, time and profits to FoCC, as well.

“It’s also a fundraising day for the Friends, and the boat tour services do a wonderful job in helping out,” McKenzie said.

Friends of Cayo Costa State Park volunteer Brian Holaway guided a historic walking tour Nov. 7. BRIAN WIERIMA

The day featured booths which had Palm Art, shell jewelry and information about the island and the Friends of Cayo Costa.

Tours were also held, including a shell walk hosted by McKenzie and a historical cemetery walk guided by FoCC volunteer Brian Holaway.

The historical walk highlighted Captain Peter Nelson, who is buried in the pioneer cemetery, and was an integral figure in helping Lee County form and was on the first County Commissioner Board.

“Captain Nelson was a bachelor from Denmark, and lived out on Cayo Costa, which had a bigger population than Sanibel and Captiva, with about 100 residents,” Holaway said. “The residents were primarily fishermen and their families, who fished primarily the mullet.”

Of course the featured area were the pristine and naturally preserved beaches of Cayo Costa. Plenty of families took advantage of the 85-degree and sunny day to enjoy the sands of Cayo Costa.

Rachel Rainbolt, CROW’s Education and Visitor Center Coordinator, brought one of CROW’s ambassadors to Celebrate Cayo Costa Day Nov. 7. BRIAN WIERIMA

A complimentary hot dog lunch was also provided by the Cayo Costa rangers, as well.

The day is also a good recruiting tool, with volunteers for all four parks being a vital cog in keeping the islands like they are.

The FoCC is based on Pine Island and is a division of the Barrier Islands Park Society, which is the official Citizens Support Organization for Cayo Costa, Gasparilla, Stump Pass, Don Pedro State Parks and Port Boca Grande Lighthouse and Museum.

All the funds which is raised by FoCC go directly to the preservation, protection and to promote what Cayo Costa has to offer.

“We always need a huge group of volunteers to help out, because the parks are very big,” McKenzie said. “There are groups which come out once a week to help clean up and do the turtle count. There are others who stay the season in a tent out on the island and provide the Tram service.”

Friends of Cayo Costa State Park volunteer Bret Clark handed out information about the group Nov. 7. BRIAN WIERIMA

To explore volunteering opportunities or to join the FoCC, go to their website at friendsofcayocosta.org.

Shell jewelry was an attraction during Celebrate Cayo Costa Day Nov. 7. BRIAN WIERIMA