20/20 land to be named Larry Kiker Preserve
The near 4,000-acre Conservation 20/20 preserve in south Lee County will be named the Larry Kiker Preserve.
The $42.4 million Edison Farms purchase was the 20/20 program’s second largest in its history, and the Lee County Board of County Commissioners determined last week it was appropriate to name it after Commissioner Kiker, who represented District 3, which includes Fort Myers Beach, until his death. Kiker died in April after a four-month battle with cancer.
He was a longtime public servant and community advocate. Before his election as county commissioner, Kiker served on Beach Town Council for six years, including five as mayor.
He spearheaded the effort to reconstruct Estero Boulevard and, in 2009, he won the Outstanding Citizen Award from the Greater Fort Myers Beach Chamber of Commerce.
“I knew Larry when he moved here in the ’90s as a charter boat captain, we were pretty good friends,” said Tracey Gore, the former mayor of Fort Myers Beach who worked with Kiker on town council. “The commissioners did a nice thing naming the preserve after Larry; it’s a positive way for people to remember Larry.”
Conservation 20/20 is a voter-approved program to acquire, and preserve, environmentally sensitive lands throughout Lee County. The stewardship program is designed to protect natural areas for the benefit of present and future generations in Southwest Florida, according to the Lee County Government’s website.
Commissioners said that this preserve is an example of the type of environmentally critical land that the Conservation 20/20 Program was created to protect.
The Larry Kiker Preserve will protect a significant and diverse population of wildlife and plant communities, assist with distribution of freshwater flows in a natural wetland slough system and adjacent uplands that are part of the headwaters to the state’s first aquatic preserve, Estero Bay, officials said.
The land includes habitat for the endangered Florida panther.
The preserve also will sustain the region’s groundwater levels, which is a vital component to the area’s drinking water supply, facilitate the restoration of historic waterways in the region which will provide flood relief to those impacted from the existing system, county officials added.
“Lee County citizens have been very consistent with their direction to Lee County: purchase properties for preservation and conservation,” Kiker had said when the purchase was approved. “As a result of this strategic purchase, future generations will enjoy and benefit from this historic accomplishment, a legacy for Lee County to be proud of.”
Lee County bought the preserve on Dec. 4, 2017. Commissioners made acquiring the land a top legislative priority for two years before voting unanimously for the purchase.
“This is a beautiful honor bestowed upon Larry by the Board of County Commissioners,” said Paula Kiker, Larry Kiker’s widow. “Larry fought hard to preserve that property for the people of Lee County, and I know The Larry Kiker Preserve is a legacy that Larry would have been very proud of.”
“Having the 4,000-acre parcel within Larry’s district makes it even more special. This preserve will now live in perpetuity as a sanctuary for all Lee County residents to enjoy,” she said.