Bonita Springs—In July 1923, Barron Collier sealed the deal to carve his namesake Collier County from Lee County.
Collier owned over a million acres of property in southwest Florida, including land in Bonita Springs, and he might have pushed the Collier County boundary further north.
If only he had, Bonitians would be parking for free at Bonita beach today.
No such luck. Bonita Springs is on the wrong side of the line in the sand dividing Collier and Lee counties at the foot of Beach Road.
Directly south of Beach Road are hundreds of parking spots in the Collier County Barefoot Beach access lot and Barefoot Beach preserve. All are free of charge to any Collier resident, from Immokalee to North Naples.
Directly north, within Bonita Springs city limits, are 90 parking spots at Lee County’s Bonita Beach Park. There the parking fee is $2 per hour, whether you live on Nevada Street in Bonita or are visiting from Nevada.
Then there is the matter of yearly parking passes. Collier County offers an annual non-resident $50 beach-parking sticker for Collier beaches, including Naples.
Lee County offers a $60 beach-parking sticker. But there is an asterisk. It’s not valid at Bonita Beach Park. Two years ago Lee County scraped an arrangement that allowed Bonitians to purchase $10 beach-parking stickers.
In 2011 Lee County took in parking meter fees totaling $360,000 at Bonita Beach Park and the smaller “Access #1” north of Doc’s Beach House and “Access #10” parking lot at the north end of Little Hickory Island, according to information obtained from the City. A few three to five car sand strips are free, remnants of easements granted by a developer long ago.
Lee County’s decision to have all Lee residents pay to play leaves Bonita Springs as a beach community without significant free or low cost beach access. That’s unusual in southwest Florida. Sanibel charges its residents $12 per year for parking at six beaches, and at Ft. Myers Beach the annual fee is $10.60 to park at town owned beach access points.
The shortage of affordable beach access has caught the attention of Nicole Perino, Bonita Springs Parks Director. The City has only a small number of parking spots, free to all, at the north end of Little Hickory Island.
At a recent presentation on the City’s Parks facilities, Perino noted the City’s goal of seeking to expand beach access, as stated in the City’s Comprehensive Plan. The City should work with Lee County to gain control over Bonita Beach, she said. Perino continues to hear from Bonitians who purchased the discontinued $10 passes. Over 4,000 were sold.
Category: News & Features