Monday, December 30, 2013

III. Fort Myers Beach in Photos: Points of Interest



Bay Oaks Recreation Center opened it doors to the residents of Lee County on October 23, 1986. Bay Oaks is adjacent to Beach Elementary School and the town-owned Fort Myers Beach pool. The six-and-a-half acre park includes an 18,000 sq. ft. recreation center with 2 full-size basketball/volleyball courts, a weight room, 4 full size outdoor tennis courts, an 18 hole disc golf course and activity/meeting rooms. A public pool offers a children's pool along with a large slide and is available for lap swimmers as well. There are active teen and senior clubs (BOSS = Bay Oaks Social Seniors), as well as an after-school program.,

In 1998 Lee County entered into an inter-local agreement with the newly formed Town of Fort Myers Beach. Lee County Parks & Recreation continued to run and operate Bay Oaks Recreational Complex while the Town of Fort Myers Beach supplied half of the funding for its operational costs. An advisory board was formed to give community input and to make staff and program recommendations. Lee County government gave the Town of Fort Myers Beach ownership of the Bay Oaks Recreation Center on October 1, 2009--along with the more than $600,000 annual operating tab. Since then, it has been a learning process for the Town to administer, fund and promote Bay Oaks on its own, without Lee County. With each succeeding year, the Town becomes more proficient in managing Bay Oaks, and residents become more involved in and enthusiastic about Bay Oaks as an athletic and community center.
Entrance sign to the Bay Oaks Recreational Complex
Little League ball field, one of two ball fields at Bay Oaks
Fort Myers Beach Little League score board
Entrance to the Bay Oaks gym
The Bay Oaks gym

The Bay Oaks garden, planted and maintained by the Estero Island Garden Club
Picnic area on the Bay Oaks grounds
The interior of the Bay Oaks gym
Bay Oaks exercise room
A meeting room with a Times Square mural in the Bay Oaks gym
The swimming pool
The Bay Oaks pool
The fun slide of the Bay Oaks pool


Fort Myers Beach Elementary School is a public elementary school in Fort Myers Beach and serves students whose parents either reside or work on Ft. Myers Beach. There are approximately 130 students from kindergarten to fifth grade, and the overall student-to-teacher ratio is 12:1. The entire Beach community actively supports the school by tutoring, doing volunteer work, and fund raising.
The first Beach school opened in 1937 with 27 first, second and third grade children, with one teacher who was paid $80 monthly by the school board. The second Beach School was a two-room schoolhouse that opened in 1938 with two teachers for grades 1-6. During WWII the beach population increased rapidly. The third school built on the island opened in 1949 for grades 1-6 with 5 teachers and a principal. Today it serves K-5 with 10 teachers, a principal and support staff.
Entrance sign for Fort Myers Beach Elementary School
Gated entrance to FMB Elementary
True to our times, entrance to the school is closely monitored, and once inside, visitors’ IDs are closely checked.
 Front of the FMB Elementary School
Mural depicting a fife and drum corps on the façade of FMB Elementary School
The Fort Myers Beach Art Association is over 60 years old and offers classes, workshops and opportunities for artists to meet and paint at the working gallery. The association holds art exhibitions and programs which are open to the public and encourages art instruction of children through summer classes, and junior artists through scholarships to high school graduates. Sales of original fine art continue during regular gallery hours and during special events, such as “Paint the Beach,” a plein air painting festival where typically more than 50 artists choose and paint a scene on Fort Myers Beach.
The Fort Myers Beach Art Association building on Donora Street
The Art Association building

Artists at work inside the light and bright interior of the Art Association building
The mission of the Fort Myers Beach Fire Department is:
To combat hostile fires and treat and transport the sick and injured as well as provide multiple levels of rescue. We are a proud organization genuinely committed to providing our services, honoring our traditions and rising to any occasion where emergency services are needed.”
The Fort Myers Beach firefighters are always ready to assist the community in periods of unexpected emergencies, be it a house fire, a heart attack, or broken water main--all are within the range of routine business for this organization. The firefighters typically respond a half dozen times a day to a summons for help. The rescue squad and ambulance arrive within 3 to 6 life-saving minutes anywhere on Fort Myers Beach and environs. Each of the firefighters is a trained and certified EMT or Paramedic, and last year they answered about 2100 calls for assistance.
I have never personally needed their firefighting services, but I have needed or witnessed their emergency medical services on several occasions. When called on, the firefighters arrive very fast and take immediate charge of the situation. You feel reassured that the person having a health emergency is getting the best possible care and swift transport to the hospital. And you feel incredibly grateful that we have such a dedicated and professional group of people here on Fort Myers Beach.
The Fort Myers Beach Fire Station facing Estero Boulevard
The Fire Station with open bays and motto above the bays
Vehicles at the ready
Fire Station vehicles
The FMB Emergency Medical Services Ambulance
Nothing is as beautiful to see as this ambulance is when a loved one is having a health emergency.


In 1954, the Fort Myers Beach Library began in a tiny cottage with 1,200 donated books. On July 28, 1961, the new 2,600 square foot building opened with enough space for 15,000 books; it had been made possible through pledges of money, labor and materials. In 1965, there was a movement to establish a county library system, but the Beach Library held a referendum to find out if there was enough support to establish a library tax district for Fort Myers Beach; ever-increasing circulation and demand for services could no longer be met by fund-raisers and county assistance. Of the 977 registered freeholders, the vote was 678 for and 32 against. Emily Spencer became the first full-time professional librarian over a collection of 10,500 books and periodicals. By 1970, the library had doubled in size. In 1993, construction began on a new library building and was completed on February 28, 1994. In 2000, Leroy Hommerding was hired as Director of the Library. In 2004, the Library’s total holdings numbered 77,000 items, including 58,000 books, 7,400 videos, 5,200 audios. Staff numbered 10 with volunteers welcomed. In 2010, plans were completed for expansion of the building. By 2010, the Library experienced 23% increase in number of users in the past decade.

In 2011, construction began with a groundbreaking on April 5th. After 10 years of planning, the grand opening ceremony of the Fort Myers Beach Library took place on March 27, 2013. Adding 18,895 square feet to the existing building gave the Library a total of 34,190 square feet to house a growing collection and to handle expanded services. Adding to the existing library building opened the door to offering a wider range of resources and activities, including public meeting space, gallery and performance space, specific areas for youth, and a computer lab. While technology plays a big role in contemporary libraries, the attractiveness of the traditional environment of quiet study and reflective learning remains an important element in its design.
A view of the library in 2008
My favorite window on what used to be the far right side of the library
The expanse of the new library as seen from the far left
The expanse of the library as seen from the far right
The new addition, which includes a high/low tide clock
Chapel by the Sea 
Chapel by the Sea was the first church on the island. It was started in 1932 as a mission of the Presbyterians and officially founded one year later. The first building was constructed in 1937 with a seating capacity of 47. Today's Sanctuary holds 700. Although it is Presbyterian, the Chapel is known on the island as the community church. The church hosts "God's Table," feeding the poor and needy of the beach during the week.
The dolphin “rose window” of Chapel by the Sea


Saint Raphael's Episcopal Church
Saint Raphael's Church, located on Williams Drive, was the second church built on the island. It was founded on March 5, 1951 and the church was built in 1953. It was built as a mission style structure with handmade cinder blocks of beach sand, coquina and limestone. It features the unique awning-style stained glass windows and a chapel. The church is known for two of the oldest traditions of the island with the annual Blessing of the Fleet and the famous shrimp roll sales, dating to 1953.
Entrance to Saint Raphael’s
Church of the Ascension

The Roman Catholic Church of the Ascension was founded in 1962. The San Damiano Monastery of St. Clare, begun with three Poor Clare nuns in 1988, is also located on the church premises on Estero Boulevard. The sisters lead a simple life of prayer, contemplation, solitude and silence, following in the ways of Saints Francis and Clare.

A grotto in memory of Nell Santini Walsh from her parents, Mr and Mrs Leonard Santini
The grotto is on the grounds of Ascension parish.

The Monastery of Saint Clare

Beach United Methodist Church
The Beach United Methodist Church is on Bay Street, just behind the Beach Library. Anointing/Healing and Prayers are part of every Sunday Service.
Filigreed windows on the side of the church
Saint Peter Lutheran Church

St. Peter Lutheran Church on Estero Boulevard has Sunday worship and a ladies’ Bible study twice a month. The church considers its ministry to those who vacation or winter on the island as one of its most important ministries.
The right wing of St. Peter's
The Beach Baptist Church with its distinctive blue roof

The Beach Baptist Church on Connecticut Street is a part of the Southern Baptist Convention, but operates as an autonomous entity as it pertains to convention decisions and resolutions. There is a retreat center on the premises which welcomes groups engaged in evangelism training.

The Baptist Church entrance

Retreat Center

The Beach Theater, meeting place for Saint Raphael’s by the Sea Church

Saint Raphael’s by the Sea, an orthodox Anglican parish which separated from Saint Raphael’s Episcopalian Church, was formed in 2010. Pastor Alice Marcrum is the Rector of the church, which meets on Sundays at Beach Theater on Estero Boulevard. The church hosts the Blessing of the Shrimp Fleet, a ceremony which blesses all the boats and their crews.  


The Mango Street Market was located right on Estero Boulevard. It was wonderfully convenient, and I thought it would be there forever. Unfortunately, it was torn down in 2008, and the Farmers Market under the Matanzas Pass Bridge is open only on Friday mornings during Season (November/December through April.)
Mango Street Market was the place to go for produce and seafood
And they shipped citrus.
Bins of melons, oranges and tomatoes

You could get wooden totems there, too.




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